What’s to Love: The Mosier Tunnels are locate just outside Mosier, Oregon and are a couple of exits east of Hood River, Oregon. Located high up on bluff, they are part of what used to be the old Columbia Gorge highway. This roadway is now closed to cars for an impressive 4.7 miles, which will bring you all the way back to Hood River. This is a perfect destination for a family bike ride, especially when combined with so many other destinations nearby.
If you want to know more about the tunnels and access, I recommend Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon. The book gives a short historical description with a detailed description of the route. We only rode from Mosier about 1 mile up the route, which was actually plenty considering it was all uphill.
Aesthetically, the ride is hard to beat. The roadway itself is smooth as silk, and there are gorgeous views wherever you look. Passing through the old tunnels is a lot of fun, and kids will enjoy this part of the ride. The two lookouts you’ll encounter (one pictured to the left) offer stunning panoramic views of the Columbia River.
Caveats: This is not a good spot for beginning riders, training wheels, or push bikes. On the other hand, if you have kids who don’t mind riding in a bike seat, trailer, or pedaling a trailer bike, than this ride is probably for you!
The sun exposure is intense! It felt 10 degrees warmer while on the road. If you’re riding on a sunny day, make sure you bring plenty of water. If you decide to hike the route, bring a sun hat and sunscreen.
Make sure you bring your checkbook or some cash – it’s $5.00 for a day-use permit. Sullivan’s book claims that there is a machine where you can use your credit card. Didn’t see it. We were at the Mark O’ Hatfield Trailhead East.
Website: Oregon State Parks has a nice piece on the trail.
Distance from Portland: Exit 69 off 84 East from Portland. Here is a really cool map of the area.
Recommended Ages: Not the best area for young kids who are riding without training wheels. There is too much uphill at the beginning. I think the best age is 3 and younger, because you have to cart them in some way. And, kids 10 and older will have fun with this ride. If you have teens, I think they would enjoy the ride as well.
Parental Stress Factor: Depends on the skill of your bikers and how they are experiencing the ride (i.e., trailer bike, Burley cart, pedal bike, etc.). Watching young riders on their first big (and long) hill can be a bit nerve racking to say the least. I certainly wouldn’t rate it low stress with my current situation!
Physical Difficulty: If you ride as described in this article, it’s definitely a strenuous, 1-mile climb. My 7-year old would have probably been fine with other kid-riders, but he was definitely getting frustrated quickly. I had to tow him up most of the mile, which was quite surprising (and difficult!) at the time.
Family Fun Factor: If all the marbles fall into place, and it’s a good fit for your crew, this is one of the best places for a family ride! It’s a closed, well-maintained, wide roadway where kids can really cut loose. Plus, there are so many other opportunities in the area for family fun (see Insider Info).
Pet Friendly: Dogs are allowed on a leash, but in my opinion, this is not the best place for a dog, even on a leash. It’s all paved, there is no water whatsoever, and the sun exposure is too much for a dog.
Weather Considerations: Open year round, but certainly the best time is on a sunny day where you can really take in the views. I wouldn’t do the ride on a cloudy day. Just try to avoid riding when it’s super hot or at the hottest time of the day.
Insider Info: If your family doesn’t want to do the entire 9.4 miles, I recommend biking uphill (not too bad) for about one mile from the Mosier-side (Hatfield East parking area). After a mile, you’ll want to stop at an overlook for a nice break. For most families, this might be the best place to turnaround and head back to the trailhead. You’ll get a mile all downhill, which is perfect practice for a kid to work on their breaking and bike handling at higher speeds.
Family Tips: Keep an eye on young riders! While mainly a fun ride for most people, there were definitely hard-core bikers there trying to put in the miles. Some flew by us going very fast. Another rider kept saying “On your left!” over and over again when I was having trouble getting my 3-year old out of the way. She was in the right and remained calm; however, it was enough to stress me out a bit.
Make sure you use the bathroom at the trailhead before heading out on your ride. No water or bathrooms along the route!
Other Posts of Interest...
Tips for Biking with Kids on July 1st, 2008
Smith & Bybee Wetlands on February 22nd, 2010
Lumberyard Indoor Bike Park on May 8th, 2012