Chinook Trail group looks to attract hikers to Columbia River Gorge

The Chinook Trail Association is learning that the mantra “if you build it, they will come” isn’t so simple.

After working for 27 years to create a 300-mile hiking loop through the Columbia River Gorge, the organization needs to let more hikers know that the trail system is ready to use, the board president during the trail association’s annual meeting in Vancouver.

The trail system is more or less connected, and some hikers already have tested the loop, which encircles the Gorge from the Portland-Vancouver metro area to Maryhill. Supporters hope that the Chinook Trail will become a worldwide hiking destination similar to the Pacific Crest Trail, which it intersects, and that the Chinook Trail will bring hikers through the wineries and small-town restaurants and lodges in the Gorge.

The demand for hiking trails is there, Gala Miller of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest told the association’s meeting. The Chinook Trail passes through the Gifford Pinchot forest, which draws more than one million visitors annually to its 1,500 miles of trails, 4,000 miles of forest roads and more than 200 recreation sites, including campgrounds, she said.

“Three million people live within a two-hour drive from the (Gifford Pinchot) forest,” said Miller, who works as a community engagement coordinator for the U.S. Forest Service. The Chinook Trail will continue to improve over the years.

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