330 Miles of the Gorge Backcountry
Photos and words by Gabe Tiller
The Gorge Backcountry route is a 330-mile loop leaving Portland which encompasses lesser known vistas and lightly trafficked asphalt and dirt ribbons through lush forests, river canyons, and rocky escarpments both north and south of the mighty Columbia River.
With the recent fires dominating a lot of the talk about Oregon and the Outdoors recently I wanted to stitch all these pieces together and head out to show that there’s still a lot of green out there. We lost 30,000 acres of incredible forest around many of the Gorge’s most popular landscapes but it’s my hope that this very visible forest fire can spark much-needed discussions about fire suppression and an increasingly volatile climate. And hopefully, people will start picking up maps and start exploring places new to them. On my four day trip, I saw zero other touring cyclists and only a few joy riders on Rowena’s curves. The Gorge and surrounding mountains are vast and opportunities for riding new country are everywhere if you start poking around. I rode an early iteration of this route when I was first starting to get into gravel touring back in 2012, but since then have discovered—and ridden—a slew of new amazing tracks in and around the Gorge.
The Gorge Backcountry route is focused on quiet paved roads but entertains some mellow gravel roads and a few loosely cobbled white-knuckle miles as well. It is comprised of winding verdant forest tunnels, impossibly straight prairie lanes, and chunder gates with dominating views of Mount Hood. The route is a compilation of the best of what northwest Oregon and southwest Washington have to offer an adventurous cyclist.
I rode my REN Cycles titanium Waypoint with a Swift Industries Ozette, Porcelain Rocket half framebag, and Porcelain Rocket Albert seatbag. I’ve logged a lot of road and dirt miles on this bike over the last year, but this was my first bikepacking trip with it. Somewhat surprisingly, loading it down didn’t change a thing. It never felt sluggish, off balance, or like it was slowing me down. (my legs on the other hand…) It’s outfitted with a SON dynamo hub and Luxos U which kept me pedaling in the twilight and all my electronics charged. The Compass 38c Barlow Pass tires ended up being a little under gunned for how rough I remember Gunsight Ridge being, but they rallied through the 2,000′ beating without issue. Usually, I’m packing for more remote mountain bike routes, so I was surprised just how minimal I could strip down my kit for a straightforward road tour. Sleeping bag, pad, and clothes in the seatbag, tent in the framebag, and tools, stove, snacks, food, 1st Aid, electronics, and gummy worms in the Ozette.
See the ambassador route on Ride With GPS.
Learn more about the titanium Waypoint at REN Cycles.