Pump up your bike tires, lace up your hiking boots and set out on Washington’s southernmost rail-trail.
The Klickitat Trail runs 31 miles through stunning Columbia River Gorge country between Lyle and the Goldendale plateau. As it leaves the Columbia to follow the Klickitat River, the gentle trail leads cyclists, hikers, birders and, in some places, equestrians through dramatic Swale Canyon.
The canyon, carpeted with desert parsley, has oak and pine forests, and in spring, the hillsides bloom with lupine and balsamroot. Several spots along bubbling Swale Creek make idyllic lunch stops. East of Swale Canyon, visitors see rustic farms, open fields and occasional grazing cows.
This trail will appeal to railroad buffs, as it runs along the historic rail bed of the Spokane, Portland, Seattle Railway (SP&S). Later owned by Burlington Northern, this part of the rail line was sold in 1993 to the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy, which, in turn, gifted the trail to State Parks in 1994.
Whether you’re on foot or two wheels, you’ll find inspiration and a solid workout on this exquisite stretch of trail.
The Klickitat Trail is accessible by the following five official trailheads:
Lyle (State Road 14 and SR142)
Turn north on SR142 on the east side of the Klickitat River at the west end of town. The trailhead is on the left. From the trailhead, proceed north parallel to SR142. The surface is improved for 1.5 miles to the Fisher Hill Trestle. While this segment is open to horse use, most local equestrians recommend horse use from Pitt south to the Fisher Hill Trestle and back for about a 16 mile round trip.
Park across the street from the row of houses adjacent to this access. Going west, pass through or around the double gates to get to the trail. Going northeast, simply walk the gravel road base just south of the highway for 100 yards until the trail curves left under the cliff. This area is a popular drift boat takeout during salmon and steel head seasons as well as with local equestrian users of the trail.
The community park abuts the trail one block south and across SR142 from the gas station. The trailhead is the location of the former railroad station in town. Going south from here is the current option. The trail north is currently unusable to the bridge out in Suburbia just north of town.
Information kiosk, picnic tables and a vintage Burlington Northern Railroad caboose are convenient features adjacent to the trail in Klickitat. Shade and a small county park next to the Canyon Market make a nice starting or ending place for a trip on the lower 13 miles of the trail.
In August 1993, the Burlington Northern Railroad Company sold its rights to this portion of their rail corridor to the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy, a non-profit organization dedicated to converting vacated rail lines to public use trails. The corridor was railbanked under the National Trails System Act. The Conservancy took title to the rail corridor in March 1994, and in April 1994, the organization gifted the trail to State Parks.