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Swale Canyon section of the Klickitat Trail is CLOSED for the Summer season.  The section affected is from the Wahkiakus trailhead to Harms Road trailhead.  It is closed due to the potential hazard of either a person getting trapped in Swale Canyon during a fire, or of a person causing a fire there. This annual temporary closure is based upon Washington State Dept of Natural Resources fire hazard ratings for Klickitat County.  Currently, the rating is “High”.

As always, Swale Canyon will be opened again in the Fall when the hazard returns to “Moderate”, which usually happens mid-October.

The other 18 miles of the Trail always stay open all year around.  This includes the 2.5 mile section West of Wahkiakus, where it is very nice along the Klickitat River.  Also open is the 2.5 mile section East of Harms Road, which goes through rolling farm land. The Klickitat Trail, a non-motorized multiple use trail, follows the first 31 miles of an old railroad corridor that once linked the towns of Lyle and Goldendale.

Biking the trail can be an exhilarating experience.  The scenery is incredible, but in many places the trail is also incredibly rough. The trail surface is quite variable. The following information relates to trail runners as well.

  • 70% is mixed rocks and dirt but with a clear route through
  • 15% is nice dirt
  • 10% is RR ballast
  • 5% is rolled gravel
Nice smooth rolled pea gravel is just in two short sections:
from Lyle to Fisher Hill bridge (about 1.7 miles) and in the town of Klickitat (0.5 miles).
No sections are paved, just the trailhead at Lyle. Mostly the trail is dry rather than mud holes, except a day or two after rain. Some sections are grassy or smooth dirt like a single track.
Many sections are mixed rock, dirt and plants; but the vegetation is cleared away from the path. A couple sections are almost pure railroad ballast, which is the 3 or 4 inch rock that is packed around the rail and ties on a railroad. But the ballast rock is kind of packed down, so it is not too bad.  There may be 2 or 3 miles max of that. There are no sections that are nasty jumbled bigger rocks, or eroded dirt piles, etc.
Remember, it is a railroad bed, so there is a very uniform and gentle grade throughout. If you want to do a through run, notice that just east of the town of Klickitat the RR Trestle is washed out.  Be sure to see our directions under the heading Wahkiakus on our map. You have to leave the Trail, go to SR 142 and run 3 miles on the paved road to get into Klickitat. From there, the trail goes right on through to Lyle.
Following are some biking tips will greatly enhance your biking experience on the Klickitat Trail. For more handy tips and general information for having a fun ride, see Bob Hansen’s article, Biking the Klickitat Trail

Swale Canyon Ride

Biking Tips for the Klickitat Trail

redstarExpect to take 3 to 5 hours to bike the entire trail.

redstar    Front suspension for your bike HIGHLY recommended.

redstar  Carry at least 3 liters of water on a hot day. You can refill water bottles in the town of Klickitat.

redstar  Slime in your inner tubes will help prevent flats.

redstar  Carry a tire repair kit. Yellow-star thistle burrs and Goat Head thorns (aka Puncturevine) are notorious for puncturing tires.

redstar  Bikers need to exit the trail at Schilling Road, and re-connect in the town of Klickitat via SR 142.

redstar  Carry extra food, sun screen and a first aid kit.

redstar  Beware of ticks, poison oak and rattlesnakes. Lime Disease is in the area, check for ticks!

redstar  There is currently NO predictable cell phone coverage on the trail, especially in remote Swale Canyon.

redstar  The only way in or out of Swale Canyon is at the trailheads.

redstar  Stay on the trail. Private property abuts the trail in most places.

Photo: Ashleigh Coyner