Syncline may be a bit far away for the after work crowd, but on the weekends, especially during the wet winter months, these trails are a fantastic DRY option for mountain bikers who like to go up and love to come down! You have the option of riding up a winding double-track trail with beautiful open views of the grand Columbia River OR choosing the challenging single-track option. Either way, once you arrive at the top of Syncline, head to the right (away from the big brown house on the hill) and ride down a fun, rocky single-track trail.
What Makes It Great
The climb is somewhat strenuous and starts out on grassy plains through on a trail that is fairly hard-packed. It starts on the Maui trail, but soon you end up on a Jeep trail. This area has some interesting rock formations like volcanic rock cliffs that can add a technical challenge. Once you get to the house at the top of the hill, go down the Hidden Canyon Trail, which is a narrow dirt path on a slope above a small waterway.
As you ride up the trail near the top, you will come across beautiful old orchard trees and bluffs with tall pines. In the Spring and Summer there are wildflowers throughout this area which make the view of the gorge even better. The gorge views from here are remarkable, as the climb is about 2000 feet above the river. If you go west to make a loop it gets really steep so be careful.
Riding down through this narrow single-track is a blast as you cut through skinny trees and open pastures. The Syncline is a basalt cliff outcropping, which makes it geologically interesting as well. It is open and clear of snow throughout the year, which is one of the reasons it is so popular among Portland riders.
Who is Going to Love It
This trail is absolutely beautiful and provides the rider with sweeping views of the gorge. The ride up toward the top is fairly challenging, which is why it is not recommended for less experienced riders. Intermediate or experienced riders will enjoy the challenge of the climb and the steep descent that has several options for getting down and can be twisty and tight. There are lots of trail options of varying difficulty, which makes it accessible for riders of varying levels of experience. The Syncline is also great for trail runners, but be they must be willing to jump out of a biker's way!
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Portland, take I-84 east to exit 64 for Mount Hood Highway toward OR-35 or White Salmon. Turn left onto Button Bridge Road. Continue on the Hood River Bridge and turn right onto WA-14 E. Go 3 miles east of Bingen and park at the base of Courtney Road and ride east for 1/3 miles. At the base of the cliffs, start up the zig zag trail that climbs up to the left.
WARNING: during May/June the Poison Oak starts blooming along most of the single-track trails at Syncline, so stick to the autumn and early months for this majestic spot.