PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Friends of the Columbia Gorge, a group dedicated to protecting and preserving the scenic area, has a goal to construct a 200-mile loop trail network that would encircle a massive stretch of the Columbia River. Thanks to recent grants, it’s one step closer to achieving this feat. 

The initiative is called Gorge Towns to Trails and if completed, it would create a world-class trekking network connecting communities around the Columbia River Gorge. 

In its March Newsletter, Friends of the Columbia Gorge announced the Oregon State Parks Recreational Trails Program had decided to fund the Mt. Ulka Trail Project, a huge step toward making the Gorge Towns to Trails vision a reality. 

The Mt. Ulka Trail Project will connect the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum with The Dalles Riverfront Trail. 

The Oregon State Parks Recreational Trails Program will contribute just under $132,000 for the project and Friends of the Columbia Gorge will give a 20% match. 

The Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office also awarded a large grant to Friends of the Columbia Gorge. This grant, worth $250,000 will support the creation of final designs for the Cape Horn Preserve in Skamania County. 

When developed, the preserve will include hiking trails, picnicking and public spaces, educational features and viewpoints of the river. 

The Gorge Towns to Trails network would create a continuous hiking trail that begins in Washougal, goes east along the Gorge past Dallesport before crossing the river to Oregon and winding west to Troutdale. 

Efforts for the project began in 2021. Friends of the Columbia Gorge believe it will boost small towns’ recreational economies and make popular trailheads less congested by introducing people to less-visited areas of the gorge. 

Since the project launched, Gorge Towns to Trails has made progress. The group says 45% of the trail miles are already in place and 80% of the necessary land corridor miles have been secured.