Gorge Towns to Trails

From waterfalls to wineries, a trekking vision for the Columbia Gorge

Gorge Towns to Trails
Hikers enjoying the view from the Lyle Cherry Orchard, WA (photographer: Debbie Asakawa)

Imagine a loop trail around the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area benefitting wildlife, hikers, and Gorge communities.


Picture yourself lacing up your boots for a Gorge hike--except this time, the day hike with great views and wildflowers becomes a multi-day adventure trekking from temperate rainforests into sagebrush grasslands. Step by step, you discover never seen waterfalls and viewpoints tucked deep into the recesses of the Gorge and stop at wineries and orchards as you fully immerse yourself in the Gorge’s five distinct ecological zones. At the end of each day’s hike, rather than heading home, you’re rewarded with great local food, wine or hand-crafted beer, and a night’s rest at a comfy bed and breakfast, lodge, or hotel. What was a day hike to remember becomes an unforgettable multi-day journey.
 

Gorge Towns to Trails is the only Gorge-wide project to benefit habitat, recreation, and economic development. The project's goals are:

  • Create new trails, opening hidden vistas and waterfalls to Gorge recreation users;
  • Protect more lands to benefit wildlife;
  • Support Gorge communities by connecting trails to towns; and
  • Encourage sustainable recreation through alternative transportation options
The ultimate vision for Gorge Towns to Trails is a 200-mile trail system wrapping around the Columbia Gorge, connecting small towns, farms, wineries, and wild areas together. The vision for a Gorge loop trail and trails connecting into communities is imbedded in the National Scenic Area's Management Plan as two of the highest recreation objectives of the plan.
 
With towns typically five to fifteen miles apart and separated by largely undeveloped areas, the project offers opportunities to protect undeveloped areas and create a European-style trekking model unachievable in most parts of the United States. Creating a 200-mile loop trail around the Gorge requires land (either publicly owned or held by land trusts) and trails. Nearly 80% of the necessary land corridor miles are already secured and 46% of the trail miles needed are in place. Friends of the Columbia Gorge launched its vision by focusing on three segments totaling 66 miles and benefiting seven Gorge communities: Washougal to Stevenson, Hood River to The Dalles, and the Lyle Cherry Orchard. Within these areas, 93% of the land corridors are secured and 35% of the trail miles are in place.

Gorge Towns to Trails addresses a long-held frustration among Gorge businesses. With its close proximity to Portland, most Gorge hikers visit for the day and never enter the communities. Gorge Towns to Trails creates a new paradigm: hikers taking extended multi-day journeys, lodging in Gorge communities and sampling the best of the Gorge: fresh fish from the Columbia River, fruits from its world-renowned Hood River Valley, wine from one of the Gorge’s 19 wineries and beer from any of its 18 local breweries. Such a trail system could move the Gorge beyond a day-use recreation area to a multi-day destination spot for national and international travelers.
 

Current Project Status

Update Fall 2016: Community leaders and citizens gathered on Sept. 23 to dedicate the new Washougal Waterfront Park and Trail; celebrating a big investment connecting Washougal to the Columbia River and into the bigger vision of Gorge Towns to Trails. Read the Camas-Washougal Post's coverage of the dedication.

At the dedication, Friends' Gorge Towns to Trails Project Manager Renee Tkach (pictured at left) praised the partnership between local government and citizens' groups: “I want to challenge all of you to keep this momentum alive. By working together, we are stronger in building something bigger than a regional attraction -- an international destination drawing visitors to Washougal and surrounding communities, leaving not just a boot print but an economic footprint.”

Read article written by Friends' Executive Director Kevin Gorman about how this trail is significant to the Gorge Towns to Trails vision.

Photo by Mitch Hammontree

Update Summer 2016: On-the-ground progress has been made with the first two-mile “town to trail” segment completed in Mosier (read Travel Oregon's profile of the trail and how it connects with Mosier). A planning process in Lyle is underway and significant support from the community and Washington Department of Natural Resources has been generated despite a small vocal group of detractors. A key acquisition was made (Mt. Ulka) that secures a 12-mile land connection between Memaloose and the The Dalles Discovery Center & Museum.


The Project

The Project

View Gorge Towns to Trails map and learn more about the three current campaign areas

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Experience Gorge Towns to Trails Now

Experience Gorge Towns to Trails Now

You don’t have to wait until Gorge Towns to Trails is complete to experience it now.

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Become a Supporter, Partner, & Business Member

Become a Supporter, Partner, & Business Member

Join our growing list of supporters, partners, and business members.

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The Mosier Connection

The Mosier Connection

Watch a video and learn the history of the first completed trail segment of Gorge Towns to Trails project.

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Strange Bedfellows Make Trail Dreams Come True
The Compass Viewpoint on the new Washougal Waterfront Park trail. (photographer: Mitch Hammontree)

Strange Bedfellows Make Trail Dreams Come True

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Executive Director Kevin Gorman on the unlikely alliance that forged a terrific new Gorge trail. Read More