The Klickitat Trail was one I set off to explore a few years ago, the weather turned nasty and I didn’t complete the loop. This summer I revisited it to connect the dots and modify the route. It’s a well known trail that stems from an old railway connecting towns in Washington in the 1900’s, used for transportation of goods down to the Columbia river.
Summary : A single day multi surface loop around the Klickitat Washington area. Changing terrain in multiple landscapes lead to gorge views and winding river roads make for a superb yet difficult route with a mellow finish back to the start.
Mileage: 64 Miles
Elevation Gain 4,200ft
Elevation profile – Loop
Terrain: 60% road 40% Gravel, (Rugged gravel for 10miles).
Ride Route: here Ridewithgps
Services: Towns at miles 36 and 50
Bicycle: Cyclocross or MTB
This ride starts in The Dalles, I really love starting rides here as it’s a old town with something inexplicably charming due to the fact it feels like it’s still in a bygone age. Easy parking and local coffee shops for a good kickoff and pubs make a great finish point.
Crossing The Dalles bridge into Washington and ascending the Dalles Mt Rd which is gorgeous as it goes up with amazing views over the Columbia river, Hood River and Mt. Hood and the entire Oregon side. Settle in for the 9 miles and light gravel as the road ascends 2000ft, but the twisting turns and amazing views takes your mind off the climb.
Planning Note, winds can be pretty ferocious around the gorge and The Dalles, best check the wind directions and intensity before heading out.
From the crest of Dalles Mt Rd, take a breather before you drop down the other side of the hill, fast winding gravel that looks over to Goldendale, Centervile and Klickitat. Great views of Mt. Adam’s can be had here and Rainier sometimes also. The roads line up with the start of the Klickitat trail which winds along the Swale river. It should be noted that the Klicktat trail is fairly rough, and when I say rough it goes from light gravel to shale flat rock chips for small sections. Certainly tolerable on a cross bike with 33c tyres but ultimately a fatter tyre would be nicer. A mountain bike would be perfect on this part, but because of the mixed terrain with further road riding we chose a cyclocross bike with gravel tires.
Signposted well along the route with many gated areas, the start of the Klickitat trail – note: the gravel surface can get rough at times.
Drygrasses of late season (here late August) as you enter the canyon cut out for rail tracks.
A typical maintained and rideable railroad bridge, a few of these wind back and forth over Swale Creek. (this time it was dry in late August, after a hot Summer).
After ten or so miles the canyon area ends near the town of Wahkiacus, the trail jumps out onto the road, a welcome break from the vibration of gravel and rocks. (If you wish the trail does continue out to a peninsular along the river, but there is no connection across the river , so it’s an out and back). We chose to take the road and ride along the West side of the river. From here it’s only a few miles down the smooth top road into the actual town of Klickitat alongside the beautiful Klickitat river, the local store – Canyon Market is extra cyclist friendly, letting you fill your water bottles up at the soda machine.
In the actual town of Klickitat, the trail picks up again and continues south down towards Lyle. We decided to ride the road for a while – 142 south bound, a low traffic undulating and winding road that follows the Klickitat River for some beutiful views.
Klickitat River Overlook, just off to the side of the road at mile 46.5 – Looking towards Lyle
As you get closer to Lyle the ravine gets tighter and tighter, you can see many fishing platforms for the dip net fishing used to catch Salmon and Steelhead.
At this point, mile 47 – we jumped back onto the Klickitat Trail for a final few miles into Lyle. A short stop at the Klickitat trailhead in Lyle for water (marked on the map) and it’s a short brisk ride down HW14 back into The Dalles.
Looking back after crossing to the Oregon side, the view of the hills just explore. Pretty amazing to think you have just been riding around those ridges. In this photo you can also see the unique flagstones at the base of the bridge which gives The Dalles it’s french originated name.
Isn’t swale canyon technically closed during fire season? Just something to consider if people want to do this loop.
it’s worth checking before you go. There is no typically. I have been when it was closed and there is a road detour loop around it, that is not bad.