A lot of people took up bread baking during quarantine, but Nick and I decided to rekindle our childhood love for biking.
This trail is perfect for those who are just taking up biking and want a workout, but not too hard of one, of course. Because let’s be real… biking hurts when you first start. A lot. Unless you have a super-duper soft seat.
The wide paved path, multiple viewpoints, landscape and tunnels make this biking adventure well worth it.
This can be a 9.48-mile roundtrip bike ride or a 10.48 mile if you decide to go to Rock Creek Beach in Mosier. We biked down to the beach so those directions will be included as well.
There is no shortage of serious, long-distance bikers out here. Spandex and thousands of dollars bikes with clip-ins are everywhere. It can become easy to feel out of place, but you aren’t! I rode in shorts, Nikes and a tank top. Nick wore basketball shorts, Nikes and a tank. Our outfits, my sale bike (mine) and Nick’s fixed gear road bike didn’t stop us from completing this. Our bottoms were a bit sore since we don’t wear padded shorts, but they aren’t required to enjoy a bike ride, as you can see.
- It does get busy out here, but there is space due to mileage
- Don’t go too fast down the hills and tunnels because there are others on this trail as well
- Let people know when you are passing them from behind
- If your dog accompanies you, make sure they are on a leash
- If it is hot out be sure to bring lots of water
- Rangers have seen deer, cougars, bears, bad eagles and osprey eagles around here
- There ascends and descends, it is not a flat trail by any means
- There is a pay station at the trailhead if you don’t have a pass. It requires an Oregon State Park Pass
- You can also start from Mark Hatfield East Trailhead in Mosier, Oregon and go backwards
- Mosier Tunnels are 4 miles from Mark Hatfield West Trailhead and three-quarters of a mile from the Mark Hatfield East Trailhead
- Built in 1920-1921 as a section of the “Kings of Roads” and connected to The Dalles
- America’s first scenic byway and Oregon’s first asphalt road
- Built to go through a high rock point
- Inspired by a motorway in Switzerland called Axenstrasse
- Originally two tunnels
- East tunnel: 288 feet
- West tunnel: 81 feet
- Rockfalls became such a hazard that they installed timber lining, but it didn’t help too much
- The tunnels were enlarged in 1938
- Tunnels were abandoned and filled with rock when Highway 84 was built in 1954
- Work to reopen tunnels started up in 1995
- Rocks were removed and the road was rebuilt and repaved
- Reopened completely in 2000
- New tunnel is cut through 350’ of basalt
- Tunnels have stone arched openings with views of the Columbia River Gorge
- Milepost 72: has names of people trapped in the tunnel during a 1921 snowstorm
- ‘Tunnel reopening thaws out history’ (2000) from The Lewiston Tribune
Twin Tunnels Catchment Structure
- Response to 15’+ of fallen rock on old road
- New catchment structure: 700’ long
- New catchment structure cost: $2+ million
- Purpose is to catch falling rocks and avoid the paved path/trail
- Catchment structure is on top of the tunnel and made of foam and pea gravel
- Designed to catch a 5,000-pound rock falling from 200 feet
The route will gradually climb and veer to the right immediately. There is a view of the river on the left for a short moment before a forest full of big-leaf maples, oaks and Douglas-firs surround the paved path.
A seasonal trickling waterfall and picnic table will soon pop up before the path drops. After this point on a clear day, you’ll be able to catch glimpses of Páhto (Mount Adams) through the trees on the left. When the path begins to ascend look for a large rock formation—but look quickly because there are lots of trees blocking the view! At the top of the hill, a small gravel path leads to the left for views of meadows, a pond and the Columbia Gorge. Back on the paved path, you will get views of the Columbia River before heading back into the forest. Ride down another hill through the trees, then up another. At the top of the hill there is a spacious viewpoint on the left.
A bit further down you will reach the Twin Tunnels Catchment Structure and Mosier Tunnels. Keep an eye out through here as it is narrow, and some bicyclists like to bike fast through the middle with no regard to oncoming bikers. You’ll bike through the (concrete) Twin Tunnels Catchment Structure first then the (wood lining) Mosier Tunnels. There is a small, fenced opening in between the tunnels with a view of the river.
Inside the Mosier Tunnels there are 2 windows that provide a view of the Columbia Gorge. At one point this was open to the public, but a tragic accident proved more safety was needed and bars were installed. At stone mile post 72 you can find a message scratched into the rock from the 1921 snowstorm group. Please do not vandalize these tunnels.
Outside of the tunnel you will lose elevation. A paved path on the left leads to a viewpoint with Eighteenmile Island and cliffs of the Columbia Gorge along the Washington state side. Head back to the main trail, make a left turn (east) and continue to go downhill for the rest of the way. You’ll soon notice a different smell in the air from the ponderosa pine trees. Burned trees, lava rock patches, basalt ramparts and a wooden fence now line the path. The Mark Hatfield East Trailhead and parking lot is straight ahead. If you’d like, you can turn around here for a total roundtrip of 9.48 miles.
To visit Rock Beach, bike another half mile to Mosier on Rock Creek Road (turn left). There will be a path on the left side of the road that leads underneath Highway 84 and straight to the beach. Here you’ll have access to the Columbia River. You can also continue straight on Rock Creek Road and hit downtown Mosier. You can get ice cream, smoothies and food here—but don’t eat too much since you have to bike 4.5+ miles back to the car!
Drive through Troutdale, past Multnomah Falls and Cascade Locks to exit 64 (Highway 35, White Salmon, Government Camp). Take a right off the highway and then another right at the light. Drive up the road until you hit a 4-way stop sign. Take a left and head towards the Historic Highway State Park. Drive 1.2 miles and the trailhead parking lot will pop up on the left.
- Drive time and mileage from Portland, Oregon: 1 hour 10ish minutes, 65.2 miles
- Drive time and mileage from Vancouver, Washington: 1 hour 10ish minutes (I-84) or 1 hour 20ish minutes (SR 14), 64.7 miles (SR 14) or 68 miles (I-84)