Klickitat Rail Trail

  • Level: Easy to Moderate Beginner Level: Doable, turn around whenever you feel like it!
  • Length: +/- 7.8 miles
  • Elevation: +/- 270 ft. gain
  • Type: Out and back
  • Open: all year (but read below)
  • Permit: n/a, $2 for bridge crossings
  • Drive time from Portland: 1h30m
  • Google map: n/a, I-84E to Hood River Bridge (exit 64). Turn right on 14 for 12.8 miles to Lyle. Turn left on Centerville Hwy for 0.4 mile, fork left to stay on the hwy and continue 14.5 miles. Turn left on gravel Harms Road for 0.5 miles to the trailhead on the left, just after green metal bridge
  • Features: spring flowers, rimrock cliffs, grasslands, butterflies, great bird watching and wildlife: marmots, snakes, deer, etc

Portland life hack: sometimes, just an hour east, the sun is shining! I did this on a gross day in Portland, but out here it was over seventy degrees and sunny.

This trail is tucked away far enough from the Gorge that most people don’t even know about it, but it’s such a gem. A personal favorite, for sure. In its entirety, the actual trail is 31 miles of old railbed turned into a hiking trail. Awesome! I can’t vouch for anything past about 3.9 miles in, though. Probably a good one for mountain bikes. Along the way are lovely little alters other hikers have made from bones, old railroad bits, glass, rocks and so on. You never know what you might see! Rimrock canyons, grasslands, spring flowers like crazy and tons of wildlife. I’ve seen marmots! You will likely see deer and garter snakes and possibly rattlers, so be cautious. It’s said to be closed from October to June, but I’ve also seen it listed as open all year. The gate was locked this last time (November) due to wildfires, though I saw no evidence of any and it seemed like mostly a precautionary measure. The gate was easy to climb over and I only vaguely felt like I might be doing the wrong thing. I imagine there’s snow in winter. Another word of caution: it is super exposed to the sun. Even on 70+ degree days, I’ve felt like I was frying a little at times. Bring tons of water.

It’s super flat, a great one to traipse around with friends and anyone who wants an easier stroll. There are no intersecting trails and you can turn around whenever you want. Walk past the green (possibly locked) gate and over the 140-foot trestle/bridge over Swale Creek. Stay on the path for as long as you choose! My usual route: after about 1.3 miles, cross another short bridge (the second bridge of the trail) over a side wash and in another 0.6 mile cross a third curving bridge where you’ll begin to see ponderosa pines and oaks. The canyon narrows here. After two more miles, the creek on the left widens into bedrock pools (pictured below). Explore for a bit and return the way you came for a good 7.8 miles total.

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Brie on the first trestle just after the green gate.

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One of the best alters and pretty close to the beginning.
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The third bridge (trestle) at about the 1.9 mile mark. Turn around here for a 3.8 mile trail or continue on for 2 miles to the bedrock pools! The canyon begins to narrow here.
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The bedrock pools at about 3.9 miles or so. Turn around here for a 7.8 mile trek.
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Bedrock pools
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This was new! Keep your eyes peeled.
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On the way to the trailhead. It was a rainy, nasty day in Portland, but out here… this!

I keep finding myself in the desert. #itakethelongway

A post shared by Jenny Bruso (@unlikelyhikers) (@jennybruso) on

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2 thoughts on “Klickitat Rail Trail

  1. Jenny, that very first photo — unreal! I’m so glad you updated so much today and am so excited to read all the new posts — inspiration for my upcoming week of vacation. Thanks as always for all that you do and say. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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