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Nowhere else is there a rail trail that starts in a remote, beautiful tributary canyon, winds along a nationally designated Wild & Scenic River, and finishes in one of the nation’s only National Scenic Areas.
Located in southern Washington State, in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge, the Klickitat Trail follows the first 31 miles of an old railroad corridor linking the towns of Lyle and Goldendale.
What Will I See?
- Ground nesting birds, Western Meadowlarks and quite a few Northern Harriers. Northern goshawk, bald eagle, golden eagle, and wild turkey can also be found in the area.
- Western Grey Squirrel and threatened plants Lomatium Suksdorfii and Ranunculus reconditus.
- The Klickitat River is the natural habitat of the steelhead trout, Chinook salmon, and coho salmon.
- Dramatic and unique geologic landscapes can also be seen. Steep columnar basalt cliffs are visible from the trail near Wahkiacus. And about a mile from the Lyle Trailhead is an area known as the "Narrows" where the river squeezes through the basalt flows.
- The trail in winter brings a landscape of quiet solitude and offers the chance to cross-country ski or enjoy unique ice formations along the cliffs. Spring delivers green-draped hills with a profusion of wildflowers. The landscape turns to shades of beige and brown by early summer. By fall the oaks and maples are putting on a last burst of color in the cool crisp air.
About This Destination
In 1903, the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railroad built the original railroad linking Lyle and Goldendale, Wash., to transport crops, lumber and livestock. Passenger service existed for several years during the 1920s between Portland, Oregon, and Goldendale, Washington. Lumber was king and the railroad was an important part of its transport until the 1980s.
It was abandoned in 1992 following the decline of the lumber mill in the town of Klickitat and the mill in Goldendale. The railroad right-of-way was purchased in 1993 by the national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. Ownership of the rail line was transferred to Washington State Parks in 1994. In 2003, local supporters of the trail formed the Klickitat Trail Conservancy (KTC).
In 2007-2008, the U.S. Forest Service completed its trail management and development plan which includes a partnership with the Klickitat Trail Conservancy and Washington State Parks. This is the plan under which all three organizations are currently working and now manage the trail cooperatively.
What Should I Know?
Amenities: No camping, hunting or building of fires allowed.
Operating Hours: This multi-use trail is ideal for a variety of recreational uses throughout the seasons. Swale Canyon is closed seasonally due to fire danger, usually mid-June to mid-October.
Reservations: Not necessary.
Think safety: There is a lot of poison oak along the edges of the trail, and there are plenty of ticks and some rattlesnakes. Cell phones do not work in some areas. Always bring water.
Accessibility: The hike is flat, but the path is rocky in places. The entire Swale Canyon hike is difficult, 13 miles (6+ hours)
Other info: Ancient traditions continue near the trail. The Klickitat River is one of only two Native American dip-net fisheries in the Columbia River Basin. Pets must be on a leash at all times. No removing, or disturbing plant life or other natural or historic resources.