Vertiginous basalt canyons, windswept prairies, rolling oak and pine forests—an ever-changing landscape is the one constant along the Klickitat Trail. The rugged 31-mile biking and hiking path following an old railroad bed links the towns of Lyle and Warwick, Wash., in the heart of the Columbia Gorge.
Heading north from Lyle, the dirt and gravel trail parallels the Klickitat River as it rushes and tumbles from Mount Adams to the Columbia River. The path skirts swaths of wildflowers and tribal fishing sites where members of the Yakima Nation dip pole nets into the swirling waters to catch salmon and steelhead.
Ten miles in, the trail begins a 13-mile ascent through the remote and starkly beautiful Swale Canyon. Here, marmots, deer, and the occasional bobcat join travelers on the high desert trek. The journey ends on the grassy flatlands of the Goldendale plateau, where views of the Columbia Hills compete with sightings of falcons and golden eagles.
Ambitious cyclists can cover the entire length in half a day. Hikers take on smaller segments from five access points; the closest to Portland is the Lyle trailhead, 70 miles from the city. klickitat-trail.org .
Photography by Greg Vaughn 
This article was first published in September 2008. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.