Imagine a loop trail around the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area benefitting wildlife, hikers, and Gorge communities.
With many areas still closed by the 2017 Eagle Creek fire, now is the time to rethink how we manage the Gorge’s 100-year-old trail system and address challenges with existing transportation systems, such as traffic congestion along the Historic Columbia River Highway. Since the fire, Friends has been working with Gorge community leaders to engage state and federal agencies and explore new approaches to age-old problems. From advising on highway congestion studies to aiding efforts to secure federal support to construct a new pedestrian lane on the Bridge of the Gods, we are working to build new systems that disperse hikers, encourage transit use and bring additional dollars to local communities.
Gorge Towns to Trails is a vision for a destination trekking network encircling the Columbia Gorge, connecting communities, rural areas, and wilderness trails. Included in that vision is the creation of new trails beyond heavily impacted visitor areas and a car-free transportation system to Gorge trailheads.
Picture yourself exploring magnificent landscapes on a multi-day trekking adventure—not in the distant Alps, but in the Columbia River Gorge. Along the way, marvel at waterfalls; ascend to clifftop viewpoints; trek deeply forested, century-old trails; pluck apples, cherries or pears from an orchard; or dip into a river. At day’s end savor local food, wine and beer, take a hot shower and enjoy the comfortable bed awaiting you in a historic Gorge town or rural inn.
The 200-mile trail network will benefit the three million visitors who travel from around the planet to experience the Columbia Gorge. It also benefits wildlife, as newly acquired properties in the Gorge connect to existing trails and natural areas, creating larger corridors and habitats for fish, birds and mammals.
Equally vital to the Gorge Towns to Trails vision is its positive economic benefits for Gorge communities. It addresses a long-held frustration among Gorge towns and businesses: most hikers, coming from the nearby Portland region, visit a natural area and return home, without stopping for a meal, visiting locally owned businesses, or staying for an overnight exploration.
In 2017, Gorge Towns to Trails made significant progress toward the vision of a completed trail network as we focused on filling gaps to connect existing trails in:
- Washougal to North Bonneville to Stevenson, WA, to Cascade Locks, OR
- Hood River to Mosier to The Dalles, OR
- Lyle to Lyle Cherry Orchard, WA
In 2016-2017, four properties totaling 242.7 acres were acquired through the Preserve the Wonder campaign, closing trail gaps in Washington. For these three sections, 93 percent of the land corridors are now secured and 35 percent of the trail miles are in place. These eight Gorge communities will benefit from increased economic activity when the segments are complete. The Washougal-to-Cascade Locks corridor is the closest to the goal; it is one mile from completion.
Since it began in 2011 as a Friends-led vision, support for Gorge Towns to Trails has grown, as we have developed partnerships with Gorge communities. In 2017, Gorge Towns to Trails took a huge leap forward when it became a statewide priority for Oregon as one of the state’s signature trails in the Oregon Outdoor Recreation Initiative. This 15-year vision focuses on providing visitors with world-class recreation experiences and infrastructure, among other goals. Friends Executive Director Kevin Gorman was on the leadership team Travel Oregon convened to formulate the initiative. Learn more in a five-minute video (click "play icon" at the top of this page to view) produced by Travel Oregon, the Angell Family Foundation, and Mayer Reed.
Developing car-free transportation to increasingly congested Gorge trailheads is one of the priorities for Gorge Towns to Trails. We are a supporting partner with West End Transit and Dog Mountain Shuttle in Washington, and the Columbia Gorge Express in Oregon. Learn more about car-free travel in the Gorge.
Gorge Towns to Trails fulfills two of the highest recreation objectives in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Management Plan: a loop trail and trails connecting into communities.
Gorge Towns to Trails in the News
- Grant McComie is a Portland journalist specializing in the places of the Pacific Northwest. Check out this three-minute Grant's Getaways segment about Gorge Towns to Trails featuring Mosier Plateau and Mosier businesses.
- Bonneville Trails Foundation, a trails advocacy group, is partnering with Friends to create trails heading west, north and east from North Bonneville, Washington’s urban trail network. Learn more about this work and about "Discovering Bigfoots on North Bonneville trails," published in the Camas-Washougal Post Record.
Experience Gorge Towns to Trails Now
You don’t have to wait until Gorge Towns to Trails is complete to experience it now.Learn How
The Mosier Connection
Watch a video and learn the history of the first completed trail segment of Gorge Towns to Trails project.Learn More
View Gorge Towns to Trails map and learn more about the three current campaign areasLearn More
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