The Columbia River Gorge comes alive with autumn colors during September, October and into early November as deciduous trees of every stripe put on a natural fireworks display amid the waterfalls and forest.
From bigleaf maples to oaks, the trees with the best colors range from the lush western sections of the gorge to the more remote, dry eastern regions – including here in Klickitat County. One of our favorites is the Klickitat Trail.
People who indulge their pastime of watching birds—big, big birds—flock to the Klickitat Trail near Lyle every winter to view bald eagles that gather from across the Pacific Northwest. As many as 60 bald eagles have been seen from the trail at the lower end of the Klickitat River, near its confluence with the Columbia River. Biologists say the bald eagles arrive in December to feast on salmon and waterfowl and are gone by March.
Spawning salmon and dusty fall colors highlight this Washington rail-to-trail hike along the Klickitat River. The hike is packed with oak trees and grassland that provides a dry, dusty contrast to the Willamette Valley.
The trail is 31 miles total, but there are two recommended options. The easiest to hike and access is the Lyle Trailhead (in the small town of Lyle, Wash.). From the trailhead, hike upstream along the river as far as your legs will take you, though the farther you go, the better. Fisher Hill Bridge, at mile four, is a good goal.
A second option is beginning at the more remote (and more scenic) Swale Canyon, which opens for foot travel in October. It’s closed because of fire danger mid-June to October. A wide gravel path begins on the dry high Columbia River Plateau and drops into a beautiful, deep, remote canyon along Swale Creek.
The trail begins on Harms Road and continues 12 miles one-way to Wahkiacus Trail Access on a fairly easy downhill path. Hike as far as your legs will take you and turn back around.
Lyle trailhead: Turn left onto Highway 142, very briefly, to a trailhead on the left (coordinates: 45.69668, -121.29019).
Harms Road trailhead: From Lyle, take the Lyle-Centerville Highway for about 15 miles. Turn left on Harms Road. Drive north a half a mile and park just north of the bridge. There is a portable toilet at the trailhead (coordinates: 45.723836,-121.030826).