Motorcycling in the Columbia River Gorge

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Motorcycling in the Gorge

Doing it right in the Northwest's world class motorcycling destination 

The Gorge and its surrounding areas make for a world-class riding area. But it's not as if foreigners are flocking here to ride it. Little has been written about riding in the area, and today it still remains a region well under radar in comparison to other places like Switzerland and New Zealand.

My first adventure into the Gorge by motorcycle came in the year 2000 when I arrived by way of SR-14 coming in from the west side in the late afternoon. The sun was illuminating everything with an orange glow and it reminded me of the first time I went to Yosemite in California. When I reached North Bonneville I watched a deer jump a barbed wire fence. Many people have tried to change the way things are in the Gorge, but the deer made a good point - nature will always find a way around what man has done.

As a motorcyclist, there are several things to keep in mind when you ride here.

The Legal Stuff

Washington and Oregon both require you have a current endorsement on your driver's license to operate a motorcycle. They also require you wear a helmet when you ride. In addition, Oregon requires you carry proof of insurance specific to your motorcycle.


Being that this area lies smack dab in the middle of the Cascades and comes with several climate types, the Gorge is always whipping up it's own weather brew. Even in the summer a beautiful warm day can turn into a wind guster complete with rain and hail in a short amount of time. Always pack several layers of clothing and always bring rain gear.

Grated Bridges

There are two notorious grated bridges in the Gorge – the Bridge of the Gods and the Hood River bridge. Keep at or below the posted speed limit as you cross and you'll greatly reduce your chances of an incident. If the wind is up, ride with extra caution and don't cross if you're not comfortable doing so. My own experience has shown that Avon Tyres Azaro Sport Touring treads are the least squirrelly on grated bridges in comparison to other brands such as Michelin and Dunlop.

The grated bridges also carry a toll in either direction. While small, it's a pain in the butt reaching into your pocket for a few coins each time you cross. Plan to place a few in easier-to-reach places like your tank bag.

The bridges at The Dalles (US-197) and Goldendale (US-97) are paved.


Motorcycle camping isn't nearly as popular in the Northwest as it is with our Canadian neighbors to the north. However, if you're on a budget and don't mind sleeping in the great outdoors it's a fine alternative to a spendy hotel or cheap motel.

But there's one thing that must be remembered about the Gorge before laying your body down at the end of the day – there are trains here that run 24 hours a day! Pretty much anywhere you camp in the Gorge you will hear trains. Bring ear plugs (I hope you're wearing them whenever you ride already) and use them at bedtime.

The other alternative is to camp up yonder at a myriad of campgrounds that can be accessed in both Washington and Oregon. Areas such as the Wind River, Hood River and Trout Lake area all sport several campgrounds each away from the roar of the trains.


There are motels in the key cities throughout the Gorge including Stevenson, Hood River, Cascade Locks and The Dalles. Getting into one on a weekday or non-summer weekend is never too tough. However, in the summer the region hosts a plethora of activities and rooms go fast, so it's best to plan ahead and make advance reservations.

Hotels and Resorts

There are several hotels and resorts in the area if you're looking to pamper yourself when you're not in the saddle. For a bit of historical charm, consider the Hood River Hotel in Hood River or The Edgefield in Troutdale. For a spa sensation check out the Bonneville Hot Springs Resort in North Bonneville, or the Carson Hot Springs Resort in Carson. If you like Yosemite's Awahnee Hotel, check out Skamania Lodge in Stevenson for a modern day version.

Dining Out

There's no shortage of good food in the Gorge. Each major population center comes complete with its share of inexpensive, mid-priced and expensive eateries. Restaurants come and go so it's almost pointless to list them in a guide such as this. Consult the local Gorge guides you can find at most gas stations and visitor centers for what's available at the moment.

Biking & Hiking

There are quite a few places to go hiking in the Gorge. A cable lock and some hiking shoes are the ingredients you need to lock down your riding gear and climb a wonder such as Beacon Rock or Dog Mountain. PacSafe makes a high-quality cable lock that's eight feet long and can be strung through your pants, jacket and helmet to insure it's there when you return.

This story has been excerpted from the just released book, The Sound RIDER! Guide to Motorcycling in the Columbia River Gorge . To order your copy CLICK HERE.

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