The Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail is an innovative road-to-trail conversion constructed on portions of the Historic Columbia River Highway. The trail is considered to be from milepoint 14.22 at the Sandy River Bridge near Troutdale to milepoint 88 near The Dalles.
The original 75-mile vehicular route was the first major paved highway in the Pacific Northwest and the first scenic highway constructed in the United States. Following the path of the Lewis and Clark and Oregon Trails, the highway was carefully carved out of the steep cliffs of the south bank of the Columbia River between 1913 and 1922.
The road connected travelers with magnificent overlooks offering views of the Columbia River Gorge and five waterfalls, including Multnomah Falls (the most visited natural site in Oregon). It also connected Portland to the settlements of Cascade Locks, Hood River, Mosier, and The Dalles. During construction of Interstate 84 in the 1950s, this engineering marvel was segmented and partially destroyed, leaving only small scenic loops at both ends.
Today, the Oregon Department of Transportation is working to restore and resurrect the demolished segments as a multiuse recreational trail, enabling bikers and hikers to experience the old highway's dramatic vistas and restored historic bridges, tunnels, guardrails and beautifully arched rock masonry walls.
There are currently three sections of the trail open exclusively for bike/pedestrian use, totaling just over 13 miles:
- The eastern most section of the bike/pedestrian-use-only route stretches between the cities of Mosier and Hood River and is approximately 5 miles. This section runs through a forest of fir and pine trees, as well as two restored tunnels.
- Between Hood River and Cascade Locks is a 2-mile section between Starvation Creek State Park (renowned for its waterfall) and Viento State Park, where camping is available.
- Starting in Cascade Locks, there is a 6.5-mile section which ends in the John B. Yeon State Scenic Corridor. Wildflowers and ferns line this section, and stunning views of the Bonneville Dam feature prominently.
Parking for the eastern portion of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail can be found in Mosier on Rock Creek Road and east of Hood River at the end of Old Columbia River Drive.
For the middle section of trail, parking is available at Starvation Creek State Park and Viento State Park.
To access the western segment of the trail, park at the foot of the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks.