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Klickitat Canyon Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Gravel bar on the Klickitat River (bobcat)
Western tiger swallowtails (Papilio rutulus), Company Haul Road (bobcat)
Third gate, Company Haul Road, Klickitat River (bobcat)
Velvet lupine (Lupinus leucophyllus), Company Haul Road, Klickitat River (bobcat)
The hike along the lower section of the Company Haul Road, Klickitat Canyon (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Company Haul Road TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Mile 22 Backwater
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 6.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 100 feet
  • High Point: 645 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No
Poison Oak
Snakes
Ticks

Contents

Hike Description

The Klickitat River is the longest undammed river in the state of Washington, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been noticeably altered by the hand of man. A logging railroad was built along the west bank of the river at the beginning of the 20th century; in the 1950s, a lumber company converted the tracks into a two-lane paved private haul road. The southern section of the haul road ran right next to Highway 142, but the northern sections ran up the remote Klickitat Canyon. After the Champion Lumber Company closed its mill in Klickitat in 1994, the road was abandoned but still usable. However, the February 1996 winter storm caused the raging Klickitat to alter its banks and take out sections of the route. The public, mainly fishermen, still accessed these reaches of the Klickitat via the old route, however. In 2007, the Columbia Land Trust purchased the largest section of the road and, in partnership with the Yakama Nation’s fisheries program, began a full-fledged restoration to bring back salmon spawning habitat. Most of the asphalt road bed has been ripped up, culverts removed, and the banks restored to remove the straightjacket that contained the river. In Fall 2014, access was again open to the public although the restoration makes the central section of the canyon more difficult to reach.

Note that the first two miles of this hike are still on the old paved highway, so you might want to bring a bike and then leave it at the first gate as the track gets rocky and rough after that.

For the first 1.2 miles of this hike, you’ll be walking along a two-lane paved road. The Klickitat River runs to your right, and the basalt cliffs on your left are dripping copiously. Look in the ditch here for specimens of broad-leaf arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia) with their arum-like leaves. Ponderosa pines and white oaks vegetate the parklands above, while white alders line the river bank. At a large pullout area on your right, you’ll get the first good access to the shore just below a rocky islet. Where powerlines run overhead, Highway 142 turns away from the Klickitat and runs up the Little Klickitat on the opposite shore, and the haul road is now the only (former) vehicle corridor along the main river.

Round a bend in the river where pungent desert parsley lines the road. The Klickitat flows fast and deep here and soon you reach a Pavement Ends sign. Drop off the road here to a lovely ponderosa/oak bench along the river. Velvet lupine blooms here in mid-spring and small birds flit through the trees. Rejoin the haul road at a gate.

From now on, you will be on a rehabilitated part of the old road track. This section may become quite overgrown in future years, but for now the tread is open and winds between logs that have been dragged here. The former pavement has been broken up and trucked out as the first part of the process to restore the original flow of the Klickitat. The road bed splits, with the left fork leading up to a quarry. Keep right, and descend to the river level (This section may become inundated at times of high water). Look for butterflies, especially swallowtails, along the sandy shore here. Negotiate a small logjam and continue on a rough track to reach the third gate at some basalt cliffs. Enter the Douglas-fir zone, while across the river you can view the grassy slopes and oak woodlands of the Klickitat State Wildlife Area. Pass by a shady oak/ponderosa flat and come to the fourth gate. The track continues a little farther to a restored backwater, a good turnaround point.

If you want to continue farther, you’ll have to wade the backwater, which has a soft muddy bottom: it’s about another mile and a half to Beeks Canyon.


Maps

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • $1.00 toll for the Hood River Bridge
  • Stay on the road alignment; respect all private property signs.
  • No camping.

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • none

More Links


Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.