PDX Runs: Historic Columbia River Highway
The Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail invites you to enjoy a wide, paved 8.5-mile out-and-back run alongside your buddies who prefer to shoot the breeze from a bike seat. This old highway is closed to vehicular traffic now and is lined by lush forests that part to reveal views of the rocky Gorge cliffs over the river.
You work against a slight incline for the first few miles of the run, almost until you get to the twin tunnels about three miles in, although some stretches are flat.
What are these tunnels? They were carved into the mountainside in 1921 and then abandoned in the '50s for a road at lower risk of avalanches and slides. You don’t need to be worried about those calamities: A catchment area for rocks was added before the paved route and tunnels were opened to pedestrians in 2000.
There are a few panoramic viewpoints along this route. My favorite was a small beaten path just past the tunnels that led to a fenced area and a picnic table. You can see across the mighty Columbia to Coyote Wall (have you run there yet?) and the rolling, basalt hills nearby.
The Historic Columbia River State Highway is bike- and stroller-friendly, although you might get tired of pushing strollers up the long hills. My only wish would be to make this path longer.
Directions:Take I-84 east from Portland to exit 64 (Mt Hood Hwy). Turn right after the exit to head south on Hwy 35. A quarter-mile later (at a giant panda statue outside a Chinese restaurant), turn left onto Old Columbia River Drive. Old Columbia River Drive will wind uphill and dead-end at the trailhead parking gate after 1.6 miles.
Julie Baker is a former collegiate swimmer who runs for the Portland Running Company Race Team. She lives in Portland with her husband and two small children. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.