This is a detailed but incomplete trip report about a mountain bike outing on the Klickitat Trail through the lower part of the Swale Canyon and from Klickitat to Lyle along the scenic Klickitat River. Numbers in [brackets] refer to the 20 photos submitted with this report. This trail had not received a trip report since 2004, yet many positive changes have taken place since. Due to logistic limitations, I could not ride the entire 31-mile length of the trail one-way from Warwick or Harms Road to Lyle (or do the 45-mile loop), so this report covers only two segments, adding up to only little more than half of the total length. The trail is described here in the easier direction, going downhill, although the grade is modest and the elevation difference is only 770 ft. The upper segment is in Swale Canyon, starting the description at an arbitrary point where I turned around at a trestle across Swale Creek  about 4 mi. upcreek from the trail head at Wahkiacus/Horseshoe Bend. The remaining 8 miles along Swale Creek from here will have to be explored on a later trip. For this time, for this description, let's assume that this trestle is mile zero, N45.78428, W121.07109 on my GPS. On the USGS map this place is marked as 768T but the GPS gave the elevation as 874 ft. The trestle 21 where I turned around does not have any decking, but the ties are spaced close enough together that it is easy to walk across. At 0.5 mi., N45.78890, W121.06304, a short section of trestle has been inundated by a washout with rocks but it is easy to walk around. There are several back country residences with lots of trash strewn around on either side of the trail and residents use the old RR grade as access road. That vehicle traffic actually helps a bit in compacting the trail surface for the first 3.5 mi. east of the Wahkiacus trail head, which otherwise (upcreek of the residences) is very rough with occasional rockslides requiring one to dismount and walk. At 1.5 mi. (N45.80073, W121.05900) is a trestle crossing a tributary . At 3.4 mi. is a wooden bridge over a tributary that has been placed a few years ago. At 4.1 mi. (N45.82327, W121.09856, 338 ft. elev.) is the Horseshoe Bend/Wahkiacus trail head  with parking, a bulletin board  and a portable toilet . The trail between here and the missing bridge at the community of Klickitat is rarely used and was not explored on this trip. It seems to be quite overgrown. A sign reads "DEAD END Suburbia Bridge out. Bypass this section if continuing through to Klickitat". Actually, it would have been interesting to explore the remains of the mineral springs and a former dry ice factory. (For more information about Klickitat Mineral Springs history, see http://www.walkaboutmag.com/19footpaths.html.)
Instead, we drove on SR 142 the three miles to the town of Klickitat and resumed the bike ride downstream from here. We looked at the pillars of the lost bridge  where hopefully in the not too distant future a new trail bridge will connect the segments of the trail. At the former "downtown" train station is now a bulletin board (N45.81766, W121.15180, elev. 459 ft.) and plenty of parking and that is where we continued riding the trail by mountain bike all the way to Lyle, 13.3 scenic but very rocky and humpe-di-bump miles that shake you up (in particular if you don't have a shock absorber on your fork). This is slow riding. Occasional rock slides or wet sections had to be walked through, pushing the bike. The first section of trail through "town" has nice crushed rock (but also some broken glass), but that quickly changes back to ballast and grass as soon as the trail crosses SR 142 at the entrance of town  (0.2 mi., N45.81375, W121.16189). At 1.2 mi, shortly before Skookum Flat Rd., for ~0.1 mi., the trail is next to road and nonexistent. It is better to use the road until Skookum Flat (1.4 mi., N45.80700, W121.17560) and then continue on the trail. At 2.2 mi. (N45.80107, W121.18861) is a nice waterfall and from here on the trail runs next to the river for most of the stretch to Lyle. Before reaching a trail access point and parking at Pitt, the trail passes through a brushy area where it is best to walk instead of ride. At 3 mi. (N45.79488, W121.19892, 438 ft. elev. is a parking area and a portable toilet opposite a few houses at a place marked Pitt on the map where you can make a "Pit stop" at the Pitt Portapotty. The trail crosses SR 142 (next to a highway bridge over the river) and continues on the other side as Fishon Rd. for a few yards past two gates . Once the rider or hiker has committed to this section of trail, there is no exit until one reaches Fisher Hill bridge, 10 miles downstream. A small creek is crossed on a new board bridge with a hand rail  (N45.79517, W121.20352). A little bit further a farmer is starting an orchard and gates and fences are supposed to keep the deer out. Just beyond the orchard at 4.2 mi. (N45.78274, W121.21012) a new concrete bridge  crosses the creek pouring out of Logging Camp Canyon that otherwise would be difficult to cross. At 5 mi. (N45.77293, W121.21478, 264 ft. elev.) the river has taken a bite out of the RR bed . A sign SAFETY BYPASS  points to a detour around the missing section of trail. At 6 mi. the USGS topo map shows a former foot bridge across the river, but only a steel cable remains of it. The next five miles are the most scenic part of the trail , where the valley narrows and in a few places there is just enough space for the road, the river and the railroad. In the fall, indian fishermen spear or net salmon out of the river . At 10 mi. we encounter the only 3-mile marker. Shortly beyond is a construction project (Lyle Falls Fish Passage). At 12 mi. is the newly decked Fisher Hill trestle  above a road bridge  with spectacular views into the canyon where Klickitat River is churning its way through the basalt cliffs (N45.70341, W121.27833). The next 1.6 mi. is pure luxury. The Forest Service/Washington State Parks has widened the RR grade to a freeway  with smooth crushed rock surface where it goes through Klickitat County Park. The trail width is three times wider than it has to be and all that extra beautiful crushed rock would have been much better used to improve the trail upstream of Fisher Hill Bridge! At 13.3 mi. (N45.70341, W121.27833, 140 ft. elev.) the trail ends at the new and improved trail head next to Highway 14/142 junction, with a permanent toilet (or seasonal portable toilet) , parking lot and view point  looking out over the Klickitat River. A new bulletin board is there but nothing was posted on it yet as of April 2011. The sign at the entrance is waiting to be installed, the mounting bracket is already there.
I have looked for mountain bike rentals but there don't seem to be any along the trail (yet). The nearest bicycle dealer is in White Salmon and another one on the Oregon side of the Columbia.
We owe this trail to the dedicated effort of a group of volunteers in the Klickitat Trail Conservancy. Thank you! For further information (seasonal closures, photos and maps), see: www.klickitat-trail.org. The lower 16 miles of trail are managed by the U.S. Forest Service, and the upper 15 miles are managed by Washington State Parks.