Mailbag -- Hood to Coast
This isn't exactly about Portland to Seattle, but I was wondering if you know of a good route to take from Mt. Hood (Rhododendron/Welches area) to Astoria and avoiding Highways 26 and 30 as much as possible.
A friend of mine is turning 60 this summer and he wants to go from his cabin on Hood to the beach following the path of the water, specifically the Sandy River drainage to the Columbia and then out to the coast.
You've come to the right place, Paul. To get from the mountain to Portland without getting on highway 26, the Barlow Trail Century route is a great starting point. You can use it in toto, or you can use bits of it to get off the mountain, and then follow the Sandy River more closely. Below is a map of the Barlow Century route, which I wrote up seperately here. Click on any map to take you to the route on the Gmaps Pedometer, where you will be able to zoom in and move around:
From Zig Zag, go north on Lolo Pass Road, and then turn left onto Barlow Trail Road. Alternatively, you can get onto the route from Brightwood Loop Road and Brightwood Bridge Road. You've got a big climb over the Devil's Backbone on Marmot Road, and then a descent to Roslyn Lake.
From there you and your friend have a choice: you can track the Sandy on the east side, following Ten Eyck north to Bull Run Road, to Gordon Creek Road, to Hurlburt Road. This will then put you on the HCRH at Springdale, and you can enjoy a quick descent all the way down to the mouth of the Sandy. Be warned: Ten Eyck, Bull Run, and Gordon Creek roads are extremely hilly -- they drop into and climb out of the Sandy River gorge several times. But they are also very beautiful roads.
Your other alternative is to track the Sandy on the west side. From Roslyn Lake, just stay on the Barlow Century route down to Dodge Park, and then up the other side. From there, you can continue on the Barlow Century route through Boring and onto the Springwater Trail into Gresham, or you can track the Sandy more closely by staying on Lusted, turning onto Hosner, then Oxbow, then 302nd, then Kerslake, and down Stark Street to the Sandy River. The climbs aren't as tough on this route, but you don't spend quite as much time on the Sandy.
Wherever you end up, it's not hard to get into downtown Portland. If you go to Gresham, just take the Springwater. If you go all the way to the mouth of the Sandy, then Marine Drive makes a lot of sense. You'll probably want to go further than just downtown Portland on your first day, though, as it's still a hundred miles and change to Astoria, and that "and change" can be a killer.
To get to Astoria from Portland while avoiding Highway 30, your first step is to get to Vernonia. Alas, Vernonia is over the hills from the Columbia, and so you're not really taking Columbia river grade down to the sea, but your compensation comes from the fact that once you get to Vernonia, you get on 202 all the way into Astoria, and 202 follows the Nehalem River grade until Jewell. The Nehalem River is actually really cool -- it starts out in the coast range flowing east, but doesn't flow into the Willamette; instead, it then turns north, and carves a valley through the coast range that goes west, south, and then west into the ocean near, well, Nehalem. The ride from Vernonia to the coast is also blessed with extremely light traffic and very reasonable grades.
Personally, I like the route above very much. It doesn't completely avoid highway 30, though, going from downtown Portland to Scappoose on that road, before taking the Scappoose-Vernonia Road over the hills. It is written up in more detail here. But there are two other ways to get into Vernonia: Highway 47 and Timber Road. Both start in Forest Grove, and of the two Timber Road is far superior.
If you decide to go by way of Forest Grove, here's how to pedal out there: pedal up to the Oregon Zoo from downtown by way of Fairview and Kingston. Take Canyon Ct up to Sylvan, and then the bike bypass past the cemetery, cross the bridge and take a right down to the bike path. Take the bike path down to Wilshire, take Wilshire to Park, and Park down to Cedar Hills Blvd. Left on Cedar Hills to Jenkins, right on Jenkins, Jenkins becomes Baseline, which will take you all the way into downtown Hillsboro. From Hillsboro, take Highway 8 to Forest Grove.
If you're going by way of Timber, continue on Highway 8 through Gales Creek until it meets up with Highway 6. Then take 6 a few miles west to Timber Junction, and turn onto Timber Road. Take Timber Road through Timber, cross Highway 26, and then continue on to Vernonia. If you want to go by way of Highway 47, it's pretty self-explanatory.
If you are hell-bent on staying as close to the Columbia as possible without going on Highway 30, you can take my Washington-side route to Longview and then take SR 4 from Longview to the mouth of the Columbia. I would advise against this, though, as SR 4 is extremely narrow and winding between Longview and Cathlamet, and fairly heavily trafficked.
If you would like more detail on the Forest Grove or Longview options, just let me know, and I'll do a Gmap for you. Write back, and let us know how the ride goes!