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Klickitat Trail - Klickitat River

Walk pleasantly beside the nationally-designated Wild and Scenic Klickitat River along the old railroad bed that once went from the Columbia River town of Lyle to Goldendale. Enjoy the golden hills, the swift-flowing river that is a favorite of kayakers and spring wildflowers that begin bursting forth as early as February.

This first section of the 31-mile Klickitat Trail is a rails-to-trails conversion from Lyle to Warwick (on the Lyle-Centerville Highway), with several access points along the way. The Klickitat River section runs 10 miles upriver from Lyle to the hamlet of Pitt paralleling the river the entire way. This is a multi-use trail, so expect to see bicyclists and equestrians along the way. Also, due to its proximity to private land, please stay to the trail, obey all signs and keep dogs leashed.

From the new trailhead in Lyle, the first 1.6 miles to the Fisher Hill Bridge are easy walking on a paved trail. Take time to admire the new decking on the railway trestle. After the Fisher Hill Bridge, the trail is no longer paved as hikers embark on the more wild section of the trail. State Route 142 also parallels the river on the opposite side, but it is a fairly quiet stretch of road and does not impede on your hike too much. Instead, watch for kayakers maneuvering through the whitewater below. If you have only one car, find a nice place to lunch in this stretch and return to Lyle.

If you have two cars, you'll want to do this as a one-way trip - and even better in reverse, going downstream from Pitt to Lyle. As you near Pitt, the trail gets closer to the river again. Houses appear on both sides of the river. Eventually you'll pop out. Cross the highway to a small parking lot with a privy.

The Klickitat Trail continues until a major bridge wash-out just east of the town of Klickitat. It then picks up again on the other side - a fabulous section through Swale Canyon. This trail is a partnership between the Klickitat Trail Conservancy, Washington State Parks and the US Forest Service.
Driving Directions:

Drive SR 14 east from Vancouver about 70 miles to the town of Lyle. Park just east of the Klickitat River Bridge on the north side of SR 14 at the Klickitat Trail trailhead, marked by a sign and a privy.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 11 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Klickitat Trail - Klickitat River — Apr 27, 2013 — Bob and Barb
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
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We started at the Lyle TH and hiked to MP 4. The lilac bushes were blooming and fragrant near the st...
We started at the Lyle TH and hiked to MP 4. The lilac bushes were blooming and fragrant near the start of the trail. The yellow desert parsley bloom was fading, but there were beautiful bouquets of lupine, popcorn flowers, balsamroot,and miner's lettuce. Many of the leaves of the miner's lettuce were a beautiful shade of gold giving them a hint of fall color. At 1.6 miles you cross the river on a beautiful, newly restored trestle. The area here at the Fisher Hill Road Bridge is especially beautiful early in the spring when the yellow desert parsley are in full bloom. Today the blossoms were mostly faded. A cascading creek entering the river here adds to the beauty. As you continue north with the river on your right you walk along the river with high oak covered hills to your left. A new restroom is located at the fish hatchery at about 1.8 miles. Here a native American was working on his net across the river. There is an occupied osprey nest along the river just beyond the fish hatchery. We had lunch beside the river in the shade of an oak tree. This is an easy and pleasant hike above and along the beautiful Klickitat River.
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Klickitat Trail - Klickitat River — Apr 20, 2013 — Blisters
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Water on trail
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We walked from Lyle to just past the 5 mile marker and back. Great day for a walk. Lots of wildflo...
We walked from Lyle to just past the 5 mile marker and back. Great day for a walk. Lots of wildflowers, blue sky, and wind. Some snakes on the trail just north of Lyle sunning themselves on the gravel. Excellent trail conditions with only a few muddy spots. This is also a biking trail but there's plenty of room in most places for both hikers and bikers. There is a very nice parking lot with bathrooms in Lyle. Another potty up the trail at the fish hatchery? fish counting? place.
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Klickitat Trail - Klickitat River — Mar 21, 2012 — Sunrise Creek
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
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An unusual late snowstorm blanketed the eastern Columbia River Gorge under several inches of wet sno...
An unusual late snowstorm blanketed the eastern Columbia River Gorge under several inches of wet snow down to about 500 feet elevation. The rare buttercups we were supposed to be monitoring were snug under 3"-4" of snow, so we headed to the Klickitat Rail Trail's Wahkiacus to Suburbia segment for a hike instead.

This segment of the trail begins at the Wahkiacus trailhead at the intersection of Horseshoe Bend Road and Schiller Road. From here, hikes go upstream up Swale Canyon or down river past the mineral springs to the missing trestle across the Klickitat River across from Suburbia. (Suburbia consists of a handful of houses clustered beside SR 142.)

We headed out on the former railroad bed in steady mixed rain and snow. The trail mostly was open enough for us to use umbrellas.

Most of the hike was on the east bank of the Klickitat River, which was running full and fast with runoff. In places, the river was chewing into the bank that supports the trail.

In about 1.25 miles, the trail enters a broad, rocky beach dotted with Oregon white oak trees. Some rusted pipes and old concrete are the last remnants of a dry ice factory that once operated here, using the naturally carbonated mineral water that bubbles to the surface in springs on both sides of the river.

Mineral Springs Spa, constructed in 1890, was the first attempt to turn a profit from the springs. Another health resort opened in 1902, but neither business lasted long. In 1908, the Klickitat Mineral Springs soft drink bottling plant opened. Sugar syrups were added to the naturally carbonated water to create different flavored drinks. The soft drinks were taken to market on the Lyle-Goldendale Railroad; that railbed is now the Klickitat Trail.

A larger bottling plant was constructed in 1928 when the business won a contract with Safeway. Unfortunately, the beverage did not hold its "fizz" on the store shelf, and when the Great Depression hit, the business failed.

In 1931, a new business appeared, using the very pure carbon dioxide gas responsible for the water's bubbles to create dry ice, which was a new commercial product in the 1930s. The business thrived during World War II. The dry ice business continued successfully at this location until 1957, when the plant was moved to Kennewick.

After watching the mineral water bubbling out of the pipe (with some of the group tasting it), we continued on to the missing trestle at Suburbia. Future plans for this trail include constructing a new hiker/horse/bicycle bridge across the Klickitat River at this point. Due to high water, the sandy beach just downstream of the missing trestle, always a good lunch spot, was mostly under water.

We turned around and headed back. The rain/snow had tapered off and the clouds lifted a bit so we could see snow on the ridges all around us. Despite the weather, we enjoyed a good day on the trail, as always.

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Klickitat Rail Trail - Klickitat River — Feb 27, 2012 — Sunrise Creek
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Blowdowns
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The first signs of Spring have arrived at the Klickitat Rail Trail. We found some early-blooming flo...
The first signs of Spring have arrived at the Klickitat Rail Trail. We found some early-blooming flowers and trees, sunshine and scenic river vistas.

Meeting at the Lyle trailhead, we decided to drive up SR 142 to the trailhead at the community of Pitt to start our hike. From Pitt, we hiked south towards Lyle on an in-and-out route for a total of about 7.25 miles.

This section of trail is within the Klickitat River's Wild and Scenic River corridor.

The trail is well-signed and milepost markers now show your distance from Lyle. Some trees have fallen across the trail this winter, but they can be navigated. It is important to stay on the the trail since at some places the right-of-way is only 30 feet wide from the center line.

For the first mile south from Pitt, the trail passes a handful of houses before becoming more wild and getting closer to the river. Oregon White Oak and Ponderosa Pine trees line the trail. We found early flowers on open slopes and rock outcrops, including Grass Widow, Scale Pod, Salt-&-Pepper Desert Parsley, Columbia Desert Parsley, Pungent Desert Parsley, Northwestern Saxifrage and Gold Stars.

We got a look at a rare Western Gray Squirrel and we saw several Mule Deer on the ridges above the Klickitat River. We saw several Bald Eagles, a Golden Eagle, Red-tailed Hawks, a Cooper's Hawk, Lewis' Woodpeckers, Common Mergansers, Canada Geese, Dippers and other birds.
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Catherine Creek, Klickitat Rail Trail - Klickitat River — Jan 07, 2012 — Sunrise Creek
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
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Wildflowers and Wildlife are the highlights in the eastern Columbia River Gorge right now. We spotte...
Wildflowers and Wildlife are the highlights in the eastern Columbia River Gorge right now. We spotted the first Grass Widow of 2012 in bloom along the paved trail at Catherine Creek on Saturday, January 7. It was a lone flower but it will soon be joined by others.

The date is in sync with the timing of previous years for first Grass Widow sightings; we were specifically hunting for the first bloom. Salt-&-Pepper Desert Parsley, Canby's Desert Parsley and buttercups are on the verge of beginning their bloom cycles, too, in the eastern Gorge.

After hiking the 1.5-mile paved trail, we drove east about 3 miles to Klickitat-Balfour Park at the mouth of the Klickitat River to check on the status of bald eagles. This park is a little-known but premier spot to observe bald eagles when coho salmon are spawning in tributary creeks just upstream of the mouth of the river.

The parking lot overlooks the sandbars at the mouth of the Klickitat, which bald eagles use as a loafing site. Depending on time of day, the number of loafing birds can vary from few to many.

A short trail in the park goes to a wildlife viewpoint where we ate lunch while being entertained by bald eagles. Although the creek does not have enough flow for the salmon to go up it yet (and we did not observe any salmon in the pool at its mouth), we did count 18 adult and juvenile eagles perched in trees visible from the viewpoint.

Since courtship is underway, the adults were doing a local of vocalizing to one another, which biologists think is a bonding mechanism. This was the greatest amount of bald eagle "chatter" that I had ever heard.

After lunch, we drove across the river and parked at the Lyle trailhead for the Klickitat Rail Trail. We hiked 1.5 miles upstream to the high trestle at Fisher Hill and back. Along the way, we observed many more bald eagles flying up and down river and perched in trees along the canyon.
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DSCN4427 Klickitat River view from trail 10-6-07 em.jpg
Klickitat River as viewed from the Klickitat Trail. Photo by Susan Saul
South Cascades -- Columbia Gorge
Washington State Parks, Columbia Hills State Park
Roundtrip 10.5 miles
Elevation Gain 200 ft
Highest Point 350 ft
Fall foliage
User info
Dogs allowed on leash
May encounter pack animals
May encounter mountains bikes
Guidebooks & Maps
Day Hiking Columbia River Gorge (Mountaineers Books, Craig Romano)

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