David Melody photo/Klickitat Trail Conservancy
The Klickitat Trail is a 31-mile trail linking the eastern Columbia River Gorge towns of Lyle and Goldendale in Washington.
Like Banks-Vernonia, Springwater, and Crown-Zellerbach, it’s an old rail line converted to a public trail. Originally constructed about 100 years ago to transport crops, lumber, and livestock, the line was decommissioned in the early 1990s and now serves to transport a decidely more “active culture”: runners, hikers, mountain bikers, horseback riders, and birders (the area is home to a significant number of bald eagles).
The flat trail closely parallels the wild and scenic Klickitat River for the first 13 miles; this stretch is the most “runnable” with a surface that varies from smooth gravel to moderately rocky.
Beyond this point, above the tiny hamlet of Klickitat, there’s a three-mile gap in the trail (bridge out!) before the next trailhead, where it veers away from the river and continues its journey through Swale Canyon.
The Swale Canyon segment is much wilder and more remote. The surface here is made up of heavy rock ballast, suitable for a gentle hike but difficult for running. (This segment also closes during fire season, July 15–October 15.)
For a complete description of the trail and its access points, please visit www.klickitat-trail.org.
Directions: The trailhead in Lyle is a convenient starting point, being closest to the Portland area and having restrooms and a nice parking area. Follow I-84 east to Hood River and take Exit 64 for the bridge to White Salmon, Washington ($1 toll). Once across the bridge turn right (east) on WA-14 and drive approximately 11 miles to Lyle. This low-elevation trail can be accessed year-round, though snowfall during winter is not uncommon.