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Answers to frequently asked questions

Swale Canyon:
Each year the Swale Canyon section of the Klickitat Trail from Wahkiakus to Harms Rd. closes temporarily for the fire season from mid-June to approximately mid-October. This is because the fire danger is high and Swale Canyon is a potential fire trap. There is no reasonable way out of the Canyon except the ends, which are 13 miles apart. Washington Dept. of Natural Resources makes the determinations.  The 13-mile Swale Canyon section from Wahkiakus to Harms Rd is not near to any road at all.  Cell phones don’t work there.  It is remote. You need to set up a car shuttle if you want to do the 13 miles just one way. Visit DNR fire danger page to monitor by county (be sure to focus on Klickitat County). When the fire danger rating reaches “High”, this signals the closure of the Swale Canyon section of the Klickitat Trail. Except for Swale Canyon, all other sections are open for your recreational pleasure.

There is no camping on the Klickitat Trail, which is a Washington State Park. Very set management requirements are in place for camping in State Parks, and the Klickitat Trail has not been set up for that yet. Maybe someday.
About two miles east of the town of Klickitat, between SR142 and the River is a campground with a pit toilet called Klickitat Mineral Springs campground (aka the Ice House County campground). It is on the other side of the River from the Trail. Another camp spot is called Turkey Hole campground 5 miles up from the Lyle Trailhead on SR 142 also on the other side of the River from the Trail. There may be user fees. Wishbone campground is a private campground about a mile west of Lyle. There are several B-n-B’s in the area, a hotel in Lyle (Lyle Hotel), and a motel in Klickitat.

You don’t need a permit to park at the Lyle Trailhead, but you cannot park there overnight or camp there. Most Washington State Parks require a Discover Pass but the Klickitat Trail does not because KTC donates  hundreds of hours of volunteer time to help maintain the Trail all year around. As a State Park, it closes at dusk.

Photo: Darryl Lloyd

Trail Surface:
Quite variable. Nice smooth rolled pea gravel in just two short sections: from Lyle to Fisher Hill bridge for about 1.7 miles; and in the town of Klickitat for just .5 miles. Except the trailhead at Lyle, no sections are paved. Many sections are mixed rock, dirt and plants; but 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. It is a railroad bed, so there is a very uniform and gentle grade throughout.

  • 70% is mixed rocks and dirt
  • 15% is nice dirt
  • 10% is RR ballast
  • 5% is rolled gravel

Allowed on trail, but must be leashed at all times.

Can I fly a drone at state parks, including the Klickitat Trail? Yes, on a limited basis and only with a permit. Permits are required for each instance of their use. A non-refundable application fee of $25 is due upon submission of a permit. 60 days in advance is recommended for permit application. Additional fees may be assessed.

For more information about the use of remote controlled aircraft as regulated within State Parks see WAC 352-32-130 (5) and WAC 352.37.170 (3), which allows for the flying of remote controlled aircraft with written permission of the director or designee.

Navigating the Trail:
You can ride or hike all 31 miles. Be aware there is a three-mile stretch where you will not be on the Trail but on a county road, SR 142. Be sure to visit the website sections on Directions, Map, and Access Points for detailed assistance.

Going South:
The Trestle is out at Suburbia, east of Klickitat, so you have to go around. When you get to Wahkiakus, you must go onto the Horseshoe Bend Rd. and cross the Klickitat River going west to access SR 142 and then go south into the town of Klickitat.

Going North:
You can ride or hike the first 13 miles up from Lyle continuously on the easy-to-follow Trail. To continue, in the town of Klickitat, you will leave the Trail and follow the paved road SR 142, which is the main road from Lyle through Klickitat and on to Goldendale. You will take it for about 3 miles. Careful, there are no shoulders to this road. But there is not a whole lot of traffic either. Look for a right hand turn off SR142 called Horseshoe Bend Road. There is a bridge right over the Klickitat River. Look carefully at the directions on our map for finding the Wahkiakus trailhead. That is where you are headed. It is not far from where you left SR142, maybe a half mile. But there are several turns.

Ebikes are not considered motor vehicles under Washington RCW title 46, so the agency has elected to also treat them not as motor vehicles for the purposes of our trail codes.   So yes, ebikes are allowed.  There is no speed limit for hikers, bicycles, runners, joggers, or horses. Be sure to observe Trail right of way signage posted at the Lyle trailhead.

The month of January is traditionally prime time for large numbers of eagles, found usually in the lower two miles of the Klickitat River down to the mouth. Often they are on the sandbar where the Klickitat River flows into the Columbia.

We do not know of any shuttle services, but suggest you try calling Canyon Market, the grocery store in Klickitat at 509-369-4400. They may know of someone in Klickitat who would help you shuttle.  

Click here to read past issues of KTC’s Trail Notes Newsletter

Learn more about Irvin Mitchell’s generous contribution to KTC

Additional topics still in development…
Horses on Trail
Wheelchair Access
Klickitat Trail Run