If you like fabulous mountain views, reliably sunny weather, and the opportunity to ride cross-country and/or explore a nice network of forest roads, you’ll want to give Grayback Mountain and the Klickitat Wildlife Area a try.
Located about 27 miles west of Goldendale, Grayback Mountain and the Klickitat Wildlife Area feature open forest and grasslands strewn with seasonal wildflowers.
There are no single-track trails here, but cross-country travel is easy and you’ll find plenty of good riding on the area’s gravel and dirt roads. Here are some examples of fun rides in the area:
Klickitat Wildlife Area: You can explore the portion of the wildlife area that lies above Klickitat Canyon by following cow trails and a few access roads. It’s impossible to get lost here, and you’ll have several nice views of Mt. Adams.
Sheep Canyon Loop: The spectacular 10-mile Sheep Canyon Loop explores the south and west flanks of Grayback Mountain.
You’ll parallel the rim of Klickitat Canyon across open grasslands, ride through pretty forest of ponderosa pines, oaks, and Douglas-firs, and enjoy stunning views of Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood from multiple vantage points.
Grayback Mountain Loop: This 15-mile round trip climbs Grayback Mountain, a 3,750-foot butte with a treeless summit that offers a breathtaking view of Klickitat Canyon, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Rainier. It’s truly impressive. And when you follow the loop back down, a stop at the historic Kaiders Camp is a must.
Getting to the Klickitat Wildlife Area and the Grayback Mountain Trails: From Hwy. 97 in Goldendale, follow Hwy. 142 west for 11.7 miles and turn right on Glenwood Hwy. Follow it for 5.6 miles, and between mileposts 19 and 18 you’ll see the unsigned Grayback Road going off to the right. Immediately turn left and drive through a barbed-wire gate. If the barbed-wire gate is closed, that means cattle are grazing in the area, so please close the gate after you drive through it. You’ll find dispersed campsites all along the next 0.6 mile of this road.
Fees: Discover Pass required
Season: May 1 through December 15
Camping Facilities: The Klickitat Wildlife Area allows dispersed camping with horses. The campground has outhouses, stock water from a stock tank (or a pond, if the stock tank isn’t running), and trees for highlining.
More Information: The Grayback Mountain trails are covered in more detail in Riding Southwest Washington Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2016).
Reprinted with permission from Back Country Horsemen of Washington’s Trailhead NewsMagazine, Sept./Oct. 2016.