Monday, August 24, 2009

ride to the Multnomah Falls

Sorry this isn't a post by Kao. I'm sure most of you enjoy Kao's posts a lot more than mine as Kao's posts are short and sweet, but mine (probably) tend to be long and boring. Kao has been busy with other things, but I'm sure she will write here again soon.

On this past Sunday, I went on what was by far the most scenic ride as far as I can remember. I have gone to some very scenic places on occasion, but I can't remember a time when I have done so riding my bike. This is due mostly (so I thought) to the fact that I don't live near enough to such places to be able to ride my bike there and when I travel, I don't take my bike with me, so I usually end up getting there by car or train.

ride to Multnomah Falls
(view of Columbia River from Rooster Rock Rd.)

So, I was more than pleasantly surprised when I went on this ride to the Multnomah Falls that a view like this above picture was waiting for me along the way.

This was something I had been wanting to do ever since I noticed the "ride to Colmbia River Gorge" listing in the Pedalpalooza calendar of events. At the time, I contemplated taking part in it, but thought it was maybe a bit beyond my abilities at that time as I hadn't ridden anywhere as far as they were going, but it had been in the back of my mind all Summer. I thought now as we are nearing the end of August and I have been riding longer distances lately, so I thought I was ready and this was a good time to go for it.

The major obstacle in getting to the Historic Columbia River Highway is that there is about 10 miles (it feels much longer) of sprawl outside of central Portland before you get there. I did >an entire ride in this sprawl before and I didn't wish to do it again anytime soon, so I took the Max (light rail train) from Rose Quarter to Cleveland Avenue to bypass most of that sprawl.

View Larger Map

I'll go through my ride in detail just in case anyone reading this might want to try it. I looked for some information online the night before and I found some here, but some of the names of places didn't seem to match up when I looked it up on Google maps and it seemed the beginning part of it could be simpler if I took a different route.

From the Cleveland Ave. Max station, I rode North on Cleveland Ave. to Stark Street. Once you get to Stark Street, all you need is to follow it to the Sandy River Bridge, cross it and turn right onto the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Highway.

View Larger Map

I'm not sure if the route suggested by Portland office of Transportation is more bike friendly as I didn't ride it, but I think my way is way simpler to remember and it didn't seem to bad (on a Sunday at least).

Once you're on the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Highway, all you need to do is follow directions which are very clearly displayed, so there is little chance of getting lost. This is no Sunday stroll though. There is plenty of climbing as you can see in this elevation profile below.

The first climb up through the town of Corbett and up to Crown Point is mostly gradual, so it's not so difficult, but it's plenty long(about 6 or 7 miles). When you've made it to Crown Point, this is the view you will see.

ride to Multnomah Falls

Well, the view from the previous view point at Rooster Rock Rd. is maybe more breath taking. If you look closely, the building you see on the cliff on the right, that is where Crown Point is.

ride to Multnomah Falls

After Crown Point comes somewhat a steep downhill. It was steep and twisty enough that it slowed cars down and I was going downhill at about the same speed as them. It was easy enough to go down the hill, but the thought of having to come back up it later was a bit scary. After the descent, it's sort of rolling terrain mostly downward to the Multnomah Falls. I think the Pedalpalooza ride went a bit further (maybe to the Bonneville Dam?) and I felt I could ride further, but I decided to stop there as I knew I had to go back where I'd just rode and climbing up this side of Crown Point will be much tougher. I was ready for a break and some sightseeing seemed like fun.

ride to Multnomah Falls

So, this is the Multnomah Falls. Pretty impressive, isn't it? I had no idea what the Multnomah Falls was about. I thought it was maybe a man-made thing in the river, so I was pleasantly surprised to see this. I guess it's technically two falls made up of the upper and lower falls. You can hike up to the bridge you see in the picture above and see the fall up and close. I didn't do so, but I took this picture of Special K with the fall as my souvenir.

ride to Multnomah Falls

I walked around the area a bit, but other than the falls, all I found was a gift shop and a parking lot on the other side of the road. I wanted to find a relaxing spot to sit down, and the plastic patio furniture next to the gift shop didn't exactly seem quite enticing, so I got back on my bike and rode back about a quarter of a mile to the Wahkeena Falls which had a picnic area adjacent to it. I went straight to the picnic area and found a picnic table. It wasn't too crowded, so I didn't feel bad about taking a whole table to myself.

ride to Multnomah Falls

Lunch time! with a sandwich, plum, some sweets, peanuts and coffee.
In my "racing" days, I would've never carried this much food with me as it would weigh me down, but these days, I don't care about the weight so much as being able to enjoy food after some riding. And it always tastes so good after a "bit" of exercise. I even read the book I brought with me "The Long Emergency" for a bit after lunch. It's a book about what will happen in the upcoming future when the world's supply of oil start to run out. The author James Howard Kunstler predicts that we will not be able to carry on as we do today driving cars everywhere, transporting goods globally, etc. As I read this book, I look around and see people carrying large amount of food they couldn't eat all of, back to their cars and I think this kind of scenery which is perfectly normal today may become a thing of the past if and when the Long Emergency comes.

After the break, I went to the other side of the road and checked out the Wahkeena Falls.

ride to Multnomah Falls

It's not a huge fall over a cliff like the Multnomah, but this was a very charming fall in the woods. (ed. I've noticed here that if I had gone further up a bit, I would've seen a bigger water fall)

After that last bit of sightseeing, it was time to ride back and up over the Crown Point.

ride to Multnomah Falls

As you can see the road is well covered with trees and a lot of it has old stone fences with moss growing over it. It's definitely a very pleasant place to ride a bike. The only thing is that there is quite a bit of climbing. I don't know how it is for others, but I sort of enjoy it. You can get into a comfortable gear and get into a good rhythm if the gradient is steady, but this climb was longer than anything I'd ridden for some time, so by the end of it, I was having a hard time keeping going. I eventually made it over Crown Point and after that was mostly downhill although it didn't seem all that easy. This was an area with lots of farms and I spotted a man selling corn on the side of the road. He was selling corn 5 for $1. It was such a bargain and I missed the Sunday farmers market for this ride, so I got 5 corn on the cob which was about all I could fit into my pannier bag.

ride to Multnomah Falls

It seemed still quite a ways from there back down and to the Max station in Gresham. And the Max ride was much more crowded and not quite relaxing. After the 40 minute ride on the Max, I had like a 7 minute ride home from there, but my legs felt totally wooden and it was hard to pedal. I'm glad I didn't go further than the Multnomah Falls, as I would've been even more tired if I did that. The ride was supposed to be 18 miles each way which adds up to 36 miles there and back, but it really felt like a lot more. It's hard to believe I used to ride 30 miles on a daily basis back in college. I left a little before 11am and got home after 5pm, so I was out there for like 6 hours. If I subtract the Max trips and the lunch break, it's still about 4 hours and I think that's about as much biking as I can or want to do in a single day for now. It was a great ride though with the most beautiful scenery I've biked through since I've moved here to Portland. It maybe a bit challenging, but you don't necessarily have to ride all of it like me. You can drive up the highway and just ride a part of it. I am not a car enthusiast and I think people should drive much less in general, but it's a beautiful place to ride and if you are not confident about being able to ride the whole distance, I think it's worth it to drive to a point and ride it.

I definitely recommend checking out the ride if you come to Portland and want to
venture out of the city a bit or if you live in Portland, but haven't ridden there yet.


  1. We were going to do the same ride this weekend, but I'm trying to shake the last bit of a cold still, and was having a hard time taking a deep breath without having a coughing fit, so I knew the climbing around Crown Point would be even more challenging. Soon though! Thanks for the ride report.

  2. Are you the jj with the fantastic Sweetpea?

    Too bad you weren't able to get out there this weekend. The weather was just about perfect.
    Thanks for reading this post. I try to make it short and concise, but it always ends up being so long.

  3. that's me :) and yeah, i'm still sad we weren't able to make it out there. i'm finally over the cold though, so hopefully soon.

    and don't worry about short/concise posts - theyr'e always lovely to read!

  4. That Sweetpea is really cool. It's really one of the best looking bikes I've seen online.

    I hope you get to ride to the Gorge soon.
    I will take it easier this weekend, but I hope I get to ride out there at least one more time before the Summer ends.