Miles: 65ish (depending on your route)
Elevation gain: 6000’ish (depending on your route)
Good on a windy day? Not bad at all. Just don’t return on Dee Highway – come down the east side.
Like any ride, there are multiple ways to ride this one. Just make sure you come prepared with lots of water and strong legs. There’s no water until mile 45, and there’s over 4500′ of climbing by then. Come prepared with more than two bottles, or bring iodine or a filter.
Now that you’re scared, know that this is one of the most amazing rides near Hood River. Sure, Vista Ridge is a brutal climb, but the views are amazing, the single-lane forest road is nearly empty of traffic, and the forested steep climb stays cool and pleasant. Ride it and be happy. Ride it an earn whatever you want for dinner. And desert. Mmm. Ice cream. I love ice cream.
Take any route out of Hood River to the Dee Highway. Follow it to the turn to Dee, and go up Lost Lake Road. Ride past the Lake Branch / Wahtum Lake turn, and continue up Lost Lake Road. Take a left on the paved road signed “Lolo Pass / Vista Ridge”. Climb a steep, long hill through beautiful shady forest on paved single lane forest road. You’ll really want to drink from all the beautiful streams. Don’t do it. Just enjoy the beauty.
Under the power lines, take the left fork toward Vista Ridge. Climb. Climb more. Climb more. After about 8 miles, the road levels out. Continue straight, for a long, mellow slightly downhill section. After three more short climbs, you’ll top out. Make sure you look behind you on the third climb for a stellar view of Mt. Hood.
Descend Red Hill Road. At the bottom, take a left on the Old Parkdale Road for a shorter route home. Or go right to Baseline Road to Parkdale for a snack and refill of water.
Follow Baseline out of Parkdale, and take a left on Cooper Spur Road. You’ll hit highway 35. Normally I’d suggest staying off highways, but the 2013 paving project made this the most stellar stretch of pavement in the county. Ride it. You can follow 35 all the way back to your car in Hood River, or you can go right at the end of the amazing blacktop, behind the sawmill, and follow Booth Hill Road back to 35. Cross 35 and follow Straight Hill Road to Odell. Go right when you see Odell, take a left on Sunday Drive, cross 35 again, follow Neal Creek Road to Thomson to Fir Mountain to Eastside to Highline. After the steep highline descent, take a left down the China Gorge Curves, giving you a fine finish to your car.
Pure radness, truly. What a ride!