Author Topic: Lower Columbia - Washington or Oregon Side?  (Read 2865 times)

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Offline jamawani

Lower Columbia - Washington or Oregon Side?
« on: January 17, 2021, 09:08:23 pm »
On my first cross-country tour back in 1987, I started out at Fort Stevens State Park in Oregon -
Then rode US 30 to Westport, crossed the Columbia on the Cathlamet Ferry -
Then cycled WA Hwy 4 along the river's edge to Longview.
It was exhilarating - first day of the first big tour.

Since then I have ridden both sides of the river many times -
And I'm planning a trip this year starting in June.
But, more than likely, I will be doing the exact opposite of my first trip.
I'll ride from Cape Disappointment on the Washington side, catch the ferry,
Then pedal the Oregon side thru Clatskanie towards Rainier.

The ferry is the last one on the Columbia below Grand Coulee - a treat.
(The Longview Bridge is another story - it will take years off your life.)
But doing one side and switching to the other is always nice.
I'm curious how others view the route choices.

West of the Ferry:

Oregon - US 30 is so-so, at best. Fairly heavy traffic, but good shoulders.
There's one overlook, but otherwise not many river views.
Some big hills to climb. A number of stretches of alternate old highway.

Washington - Hwy 401 & Hwy 4 are sweet. Light traffic, but narrower shoulders.
Hwy 401 runs right on the edge of the river east of the Astoria Bridge with huge views.
Hwy 4 even less traffic with back roads thru Grays River Valley.
Spectacular camping at Skamokawa on the river & a ride thru the refuge to Cathlamet.

East of the Ferry:

Oregon - Again, US 30 is so-so. Even more traffic. Good shoulders.
But you can avoid most of US 30 with back roads - either the old highway -
Better yet, ride out to the river on dike roads and wind your way to Clatskanie.
Then there is the old highway via Beaver Falls and Hudson Park all the way to Rainier.

Washington - Hwy 4 is pretty narrow, but has amazing Columbia views most of the way.
There's camping at the County Line Park. Longview is meh.
If you're heading north to Castle Rock, you can bypass Longview on back roads.

<<<>>>

Getting to Portland is another story - and may impact your second segment choice.
On the Washington side, the Old Pacific Hwy is often squeezed right up against I-5.
Plus, there is a missing segment where you have to climb over a big ridge on county roads.

But, US 30 on the Oregon side is no cup of tea either. Even more traffic.
There are good shoulders and a couple of short old road segments. But it's mostly US 30.
Apiary Road from Hudson Park & connections will take you almost to St. Helens.
Or you can head all the way over to Pittsburg and ride the Crown Zee trail to Scappoose.

Is there ever the 100% perfect route?

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Lower Columbia - Washington or Oregon Side?
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2021, 09:54:12 pm »
West do the Washington side, ferry over to Oregon, backroads to Clatskanie then backroads to Veronia.  From there, take bike paths and back roads to Portland.  Prefect route comes and goes.  One day it may be absolutely great do a killer tailwind, perfect weather, etc. and the next it is raining and you keep running over glass.  But generally, as long as the route is has something of interest or joy, I am fine with it.

Tailwinds, John

P.S. I am planning on going from Atlanta to Charleston in May (hopefully). May get up to your neck of the woods in late summer for a Buffalo (WY that is) to La Crosse jaunt.

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Lower Columbia - Washington or Oregon Side?
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2021, 06:16:51 pm »
West do the Washington side, ferry over to Oregon, backroads to Clatskanie then backroads to Vernonia.  From there, take bike paths and back roads to Portland.  Perfect route comes and goes. 

What John said. This route is what the new Cycling The Pacific Coast book by Bill Thorness recommends. It's a lot better than 26 or 30, the two ways the old Kirkendall/Spring version used. There will be three climbs: 47 out of Clatskanie, the summit on Banks-Vernonia Trail (not so bad since it's a rail-trail) and going over the West Hills into Portland. Most Portland people will skip riding through the Tualatin Valley and catch the MAX light rail from Hillsboro into Portland.

An alternate is to catch the Crown-Zellerbach Trail from the "town" of Pittsburg, a few miles north of Vernonia on 47. It's another rail trail, but is unpaved and still a bit rough in spots. It'll drop you off in Scappoose. Then you can take 30 the rest of the way into town. The trail is nice, riding on 30 from Scappoose to Portland not so.

Below is a pic of the route map the Thorness book uses.

Offline jamawani

Re: Lower Columbia - Washington or Oregon Side?
« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2021, 08:44:59 pm »
I think I'm gonna beg, borrow, or buy me a boat ride
from St Helens to north Sauvie Island.
Then ride down the west side dike along the Multnomah Channel.
Kinda crazy, but it sure beats US 30, eh?

(I've hitched across the Mississippi and other big rivers before.)

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Lower Columbia - Washington or Oregon Side?
« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2021, 09:52:17 pm »
I think I'm gonna beg, borrow, or buy me a boat ride
from St Helens to north Sauvie Island.
You know you can just pedal to Collins Beach if that is what you are after.  ;)

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Lower Columbia - Washington or Oregon Side?
« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2021, 09:53:50 pm »
I think I'm gonna beg, borrow, or buy me a boat ride
from St Helens to north Sauvie Island.
Then ride down the west side dike along the Multnomah Channel.
Kinda crazy, but it sure beats US 30, eh?

(I've hitched across the Mississippi and other big rivers before.)

Cool if you can pull it off. But does the "back" way not appeal to you?

Offline jamawani

Re: Lower Columbia - Washington or Oregon Side?
« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2021, 10:39:53 pm »
I'm thinking even more "back" than Vernonia - -
Via Beaver Falls on the Old Highway, then Apiary & Meissner Roads.
Paved county roads vs. Oregon Hwy 47 - - even quieter.
Of course, there's no old growth left in Columbia County - -
And you are likely to see a big, new clear-cut on any back road.
(They tend to leave a screen of trees along main highways, nowadays.)

Also, doing Clatskanie-Mist-Pittsburg-Scappoose
Means crossing the Nehalem divide at 1300 ft. twice.
Apiary-Meissner Rds skirt the divide topping out once at 1200.

Offline Ty0604

Re: Lower Columbia - Washington or Oregon Side?
« Reply #7 on: January 25, 2021, 09:13:23 pm »
In 2016 when I rode Oregon to Maine I started in Portland and rode local bikeways to Cascade Locks where I crossed the Bridge of the Gods into Washington. From there I went through Goldendale, Toppenish, TriCities and Walla Walla before crossing into Idaho.

The only weird thing I can remember was the set of stairs on the Columbia Gorge Bikeway that I had to lug my bike down.

Happy riding!
« Last Edit: January 25, 2021, 10:06:46 pm by PNWRider92 »
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Offline jamawani

Re: Lower Columbia - Washington or Oregon Side?
« Reply #8 on: January 25, 2021, 09:37:58 pm »
Yes, the steep staircase on a bike trail. True genius.
I doubt the person designing that ever roade a bike.

PS - They have an $80 zillion plan to redo the stairs.
Mega concrete structure with concrete columns and retaining walls.
Why not a Trex composite ramp like they have at the beach parks?
Or wood.

Offline Ty0604

Re: Lower Columbia - Washington or Oregon Side?
« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2021, 10:06:17 pm »
Yes, the steep staircase on a bike trail. True genius.
I doubt the person designing that ever roade a bike.

PS - They have an $80 zillion plan to redo the stairs.
Mega concrete structure with concrete columns and retaining walls.
Why not a Trex composite ramp like they have at the beach parks?
Or wood.

It's a 40 foot drop from the top of the stairs down! Apparently the state said there weren't any ADA requirements when the stairs were built in 1995 but others say the ADA requirements became mandatory in 1992. I've seen a few lawsuits filed due to that.

I also read they considered a ramp but due to visual issues they rejected it.

I don't remember the approach to the stairs but I wonder if anyone wasn't aware of them and went down them. That could be fatal.
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Offline Ty0604

Re: Lower Columbia - Washington or Oregon Side?
« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2021, 10:16:53 pm »
Photo of stairs mentioned above.

Photo taken by Laurel Kadas (Willamette Week)
Instagram: tyjames0604

WI—>WA—>CO

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Lower Columbia - Washington or Oregon Side?
« Reply #11 on: January 25, 2021, 11:11:03 pm »
PS - They have an $80 zillion plan to redo the stairs.
Mega concrete structure with concrete columns and retaining walls.
Why not a Trex composite ramp like they have at the beach parks?
Or wood.

Since it's part of the Historic Columbia River Highway Trail, certain aesthetic concerns have to be addressed. This leads to the new design.

As for wood, well, wood tends to be slippery when wet, and it gets pretty wet here...