The Hood River area has a plethora of bike rides available to the discerning cyclist. However, since I reside primarily in Portland, I had not explored much beyond my standard Seven Mile Hill training ride. The summer of 2016 I based myself in the area for a couple weeks and met a few bikers who kindly shared their favorite rides.
Lost Lake had been at the periphery of my knowledge for a while as it is a combination resort, campground, and recreation area in the Mt. Hood National Forest, which is an area I dearly love. Somehow I had never gotten up there. Also, since I had made my basecamp at Tucker County Park, the route to Lost Lake was straightforward and easily accessible.
According to my Strava tracking, the route described below is a little over 41 miles and includes 3700 feet of elevation gain. While this is a long climb, the average grade is probably in the 4-5% range with only short bits that exceed 8%. So, while challenging, it is not overwhelming. And at the top there is a resort and general store, so you have excellent motivation to reach the lake and take a well earned break admiring the view. The descent is a hoot, especially if you time your ride correctly so the traffic is low. Highly recommended.
GUIDEBOOKS & MAPS
- Lost Lake from Dee - Ride Oregon
- Lost Lake from Hood River – The Gorge is My Gym
- Lost Lake from Tucker County Park – CalTopo
May - November. Lost Lake is at over 3000' on the northwest side of Mt. Hood and the road is not maintained during winter. Contact Lost Lake Resort (541.386.6366) earlier in the season to ensure the road is accessible. If you can, I highly suggest doing this route early in the morning on a weekday. That gives you a far better chance of having nearly empty roads for a fun, fast descent.
There are nearly an unlimited number of starting options for biking to Lost Lake. You can start in Hood River itself and take Highway 281 towards Dee, Oregon and then jump on the aptly named Lost Lake Rd. To avoid all that highway traffic, you could start at Dee itself right where the Lost Lake Rd. begins. Parkdale is also an option as it has parking, a grocery story, and eating options.
If camping overnight, my preferred way is to start at Tucker County Park (map) as it skips the majority of Highway 281 and its traffic. It is only $20 a night and it includes running water and showers as well as easy access to the Hood River for a nice dip afterwards. If you do not intend to spend the night, Tucker Park also has a day use parking area where you can park and unload your bikes.
From Tucker County Park, it is an incredibly easy route. You head out of the park and take a sharp right to get on Highway 181 south. It will be uphill and away from Hood River, if that helps you remember which way to go.
The 6.5 miles from the park to Dee, Oregon is not the most riveting of rides. However, the road, while not the smoothest, is not highly trafficked and is well maintained. The elevation gain is rather mild, so it is a good warm up for the climbing to come.
You will see a sign before Dee indicating the right turn to Lost Lake. It goes down a short slope, crosses railroad tracks and a creek, and then you take a left and start heading up Lost Lake Rd.
Stay on Lost Lake Rd and follow the signs for 13 miles. The Gorge is My Gym has a couple of alternate routes for getting to Lost Lake and if you are feeling energetic, a side trip up to Whatum Lake may be in order. There is 2,000 of elevation gain on this part of the ride, but it is reasonably well spread out along the entire length so it never feels insurmountable.
The Lost Lake Rd. is very nicely paved and there is a surprising dearth of potholes. The views are pleasant, especially when Mt. Hood appears, though there are a few miles where you can see logging or development happening on nearby slopes. I suspect in another 25 years, parts of this area will become a small suburb of Hood River. Traffic is light on weekdays, except for random logging trucks. Weekends, depending on weather and time of year, can be busy and you must be a bit more defensive in your biking.
Lost Lake Campground and Resort has bathrooms, gorgeous views, and even a General Store where you can fill yourself with tasty treats while admiring the lake. While I have not done it myself, you could rent a canoe or kayak while up there and explore the lake a bit before heading back.
You return the way you came and speed demons will easily hit 30-40mph on the downhill sections. There are a number of curvy sections, which are great for practicing your cornering. The road is reasonably clean, but the logging trucks do drop small bits of bark so keep an eye out for debris.
If you start and finish at Tucker County Park, you could easily go for a swim in the Hood River upon finishing, which is accessible via a path at the edge of the day use picnic area or through the campground itself. Also, less than a mile further down the road is the Apple Valley Country Store, which has pies and ice cream inside with BBQ outside on nice days.