Deschutes River Trail: Columbia River to Harris Island

easy 65 reviews

Deschutes River Trail: Columbia River to Harris Island is a 22.2 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Wasco, Oregon that features a river and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs and horses are also able to use this trail.

Distance: 22.2 miles Elevation Gain: 1,040 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dog friendly

kid friendly

camping

hiking

horseback riding

mountain biking

nature trips

walking

bike touring

bird watching

running

rails trails

river

views

wild flowers

wildlife

no shade

The hike follows an old rail bed from the Columbia River up the Deschutes River (part of the rails-to-trails system). This is just the beginning of the Oregon Desert so bring fresh water. Trail is flat. There will be dirt bike riders, fishermen and white water rafters. Along the river there are trees and green in the flats. Not far from the rivers edge is sage brush and cliffs. The area is close to Celilo Village, the tiny fishing community called Oregon's oldest town. Salvage archeological digs prior to the completion of The Dalles Dam confirmed that Indian people had continuously occupied the village site for at least 11,000 years. Multi-use trail for hiking, mountain biking, walking.

As a late fall hike, the Weather is perfect for a comfortable day. The late fall colors and light make for spectacular views and panoramas. Bothe ends of this old railroad bed are a great hike, but the Souther end near Macs Canyon is tough for bikes. The old bridge trestles are the only real terrain deviations. From the State park on the Columbia River. Travel is flat and Smooth, great for bicycles.

backpacking
bugs
5 months ago

(bikepacking) Struggled to find somewhere to camp after 8 miles when the sun set. It's a gravel road but the lack of any substantial climbing makes it fun, in a relaxing way. It's the perfect place to test bikepacking gear. The trains going by are cool. One came through after sundown. The bugs are bad, hundreds of gnats snuck into my tent when opening the doors. They love lights. The ants are enormous, the biggest I've ever seen. This is the perfect place to try riding at night, too, because the road is so easy. The stars were out and that was probably my favorite part. Two women on road bikes said they were camping on the trail without a tent, only a tarp, because they forgot their tent. I wonder how bad they were bitten I totally recommend this trail though. It seems like it would be a cinch on a fully rigid bike, but I still liked having my trail bike instead, to make the ride more comfortable. I could've left my sawyer behind, all the refill points look sketchy. Instead pack 3-4 liters per person and maybe a sawyer mini for emergencies. I bet an out-and-back day trip would be fun on any bike, even a mountain bike, because there are side trails that seem rideable, and the scenery.

Nice trail, but lacking in variety. Pretty much what you see for the first mile is what you will see for the rest of the hike. Very nice view if the river. The train will come chuggin along occasionally...which I think is cool, but you may find it noisy and annoying. You will see a lot of bikes and people with dogs. there are a few little side trails that will put you next to the river which is quite pleasant to splash around in on a hot day...

hiking
no shade
8 months ago

easy trail with nice views but no shade for dogs so warmer days is tough on the pooch. saw some nice flowers along the way and a deer. I took the middle elevation hiking trail on the way back to camp which had more real hike to it and no mountain bikes.

hiking
8 months ago

Gravel road that follows the river. Few spots to get down to the river to fish up to mile 2.5, otherwise you make your own way down.

hiking
no shade
10 months ago

My recording is "day two" of a two day through-hike that started at Mack's Canyon Campground. Weather was pretty nice - lows in the 50s and highs in the Mid 70s. A breeze keep it from feeling too hot. Trail from Harris to the Lower Deschutes State park is in much better condition overall than the stretch from Macks Canyon to Harris. Very little shade. Many of the trees near the water survived the fire, and other than some burnt trees, it doesn't look much different. There are not as many water sources coming off the canyon in this stretch, so I filled from the river twice (only carried 1 ltr at a stretch). I suspect that most of those sources will be dry by June. Water seemed too high and turbid to be good for fishing. Lots of miner's lettuce and stinging nettle in the wetter areas if you get hungry! No mosquitos, no ticks, no snakes observed, no packrobbers (mice / chipmonks etc) observed. Saw a rabbit, a marmot, and lots of birds (ducks, geese, seagulls, etc). but no deer / elk observed but lots of sign (I suspect they are mostly nocturnal). I heard turkeys at 5:30 am at Harris Ranch.

backpacking
10 months ago

Beautiful hike to Harris Ranch for an overnight trip in early April. Definately the fire of 2018 charred the landscape, but wild flowers and grasses were in the rebound. All structures at Harris Ranch are no more due to the fire. Lots of camping along riverside, though my guess is that it gets crowded with rafters later in the season. State Park only allows fires in a metal container and bring in your own firewood, so we just chose to not have a fire. It made sense, as firewood is limited at the campsites and the area needs to regrow.

Wed Dec 05 2018

Really beautiful along the river! This area did recently get scorched, unfortunately. But vegetation is growing back and the landscape is still gorgeous.

Sun Sep 16 2018

This will be a great trail to hike again in a season or two, but recent wildfires have made much of the hike ash covered and unattractive. Wait till spring 2019 at the earliest.

Sun Aug 12 2018

I loved hiking this trail. it is scarred by the Substation fire, but it was very interesting and very do-able. My chihuahua and I went 8 miles total. The trail we chose was on an old rail bed which made the route out easy with not much elevation difference. The fire really changed the way this trail looks...but I found it very interesting. Take water and snacks...watch for rattlesnakes. There are composting toilets available along the trail. The river is beautiful and very inviting this time of year. We returned via the trail that follows right near the river. As for the trail, I recommend the Deschutes Canyon trail.

backpacking
Sat Jun 30 2018

I did an out and back to mile 12 as a slow and easy backpacking trip. WATCH OUT FOR SNAKES!!! Came across a few rattlers and had some nerve racking experiences with em. Just keep and eye out and you will be fine. It’s just easy to get distracted by the beautiful rolling hills. One luxury is the amount of outhouses along the trail, and fully stocked. The ranch house at mile 12 has officially collapsed and is no longer standing. The rail car at around mile 5 or 6 is still in great condition (so let’s keep it that way!) Other than those few things the trail itself was a piece of cake, miles were easy with hardly any elevation. The heat is probably the only thing to slow you down, so start as early in the day as possible, and take breaks as needed, or go swimming!

mountain biking
Tue Jun 12 2018

Biked and my ass was sore for a week but great views the entire way. I'll hike along river trail next time and enjoy more shade.

hiking
Sun Mar 18 2018

Beautiful trail, today it was a quiet and peaceful day, almost no other people arround. We only met some fishermen, and a bunch of teenagers enjoying nature within their tents.

Tue Jan 16 2018

grate

hiking
Sat Jul 15 2017

Went up the river trail about 2 miles, then took a steep trail up to the Middle Trail, and followed that about another mile. Came back all the way on the Middle Trail. Saw several bikers up on the bike road above me. Views North and South of Deschutes River quite nice. Always windy. Flowers near gone, but blackberries abound!!

hiking
Fri Jun 23 2017

Decent trail. Not much wildlife

walking
Sun Apr 23 2017

Love this trail! One of my dogs favs! Following the river trail is the best in my opinion. When my husband comes along he always has his fishing pole to throw in a line while the dog and I mosey on down the trail. Also is never too crowed, and when you do pass people they are always the friendliest! I try and take the dog to this one at least once a week!

hiking
Fri Feb 24 2017

Started along the river and cut up to the higher trail to make a nice loop with some great views. I would have gone out even farther if I didn't get such a late start.

hiking
Thu Aug 25 2016

Trail is a mixture of runners, people with dogs, and mountain bikers. It's a dirt trail that is mostly flat. Walking along the river was really pretty but to/from was just okay. Keep track of which paths you've taken because it isn't marked at all. Overall pretty, close to Bend, and very dog friendly!

backpacking
Mon Jun 20 2016

Great hike. Looking forward to biking this next time.

Sun Apr 03 2016

Nice central Oregon hike, great for your mountain bike ride.

fishing
Tue Aug 18 2015

This is one of my favorite hikes simply because it includes some great fishing. And its just amazing scenery.

hiking
Wed Jan 28 2015

If someone had told us last year that we would be attempting an overnight backpack adventure in January, I would have laughed hysterically. It usually pours rain in January, which makes for less than ideal camping conditions. But this has been a warm and dry winter so far so we decided to take advantage of that and do an early season overnight on the Lower Deschutes. We had planned to camp at the same place we camped at last year with our friend David (about 3.5 miles in from the trailhead). But it was a gorgeous day and last year, we had visited an abandoned boxcar at around mile 6 and decided on the spur of the moment to camp near it instead. Rivière des Chutes, the name given to the river by 19th-century fur traders, means 'River of the Falls.' It is perfectly named, as we saw many rapids along its length and its sound lulled us to sleep. The views of the Deschutes River Canyon, especially when the sky is covered with stars during a waxing moon phase, made every little ache, pain and worry worth the trip. The trains go by every couple of hours, which can sound rather loud, but we were miles from anyone and completely alone. It was very awe-inspiring.

fishing
Sat Jan 24 2015

Beautiful hike, and great fishing. Don't forget your tackle.

mountain biking
Wed Aug 13 2014

This is a good beginner trail to get brand new mountain bikers used to riding on non-asphalt roads. The path itself is fairly flat with only a a couple of climbs that aren't very long. The road itself is a dirt road with sections that are occasionally gravel-filled or rock-filled. These areas are do not occur very often. I rode 11.2 miles along this trail going in and it ends up at the Harris Ranch, an abandoned ranch home that offers a lot of great picture-taking opportunities. You can turn around from the trailhead at any time, but I highly recommend you try to make the 11.2 miles and get to the ranch before turning around. A restroom exists at roughly Mile 6 or 7 if you need one. I used this trail to introduce my wife to mountain biking which she loved.

hiking
Tue Apr 08 2014

This riverside hike offers some great views of both the river and the canyon it has carved. There is nothing to difficult about it, although you have a choice to either follow the nice and flat, well graveled, rail trail, or taking some of the side paths that are smaller and weave up and down, beside the river, etc. We saw many bikers on the trail, although they were restricted to the staightforward the graveled rail trail. In the springtime their are wild flowers, which adds some nice color to the desert landscape. If you are like me, you will also enjoy seeing trains weave down the canyon on the other side of the river. My suggestion would be spend the day hiking as far as you would like, double back, and spend the night at the campground where you can listen to the sound of the river and trains throughout the night.

hiking
Sat Jul 13 2013

Camping at the park, did a day excursion with 2 year old 8 year old and dog. Took the "middle" trail with hopes of looping back for the river trail on the way back. Unfortunately there are no markings for when they join up ( many down trails to the river man made can be deceiving) reached the bike trail and had to double back. Worth it though. Off the river trail be Rattlesnake rapids there is a great sandy beach area to cool your feet! Recommend this trail but it is loose rocks and fall offs in certain areas so tiny hikers should be backpacked!

hiking
Thu Apr 26 2012

Nice easy hike along the river. Also popular with mountain bikers. Can be a loop up the west hill to a natural spring. Lots of wildlife and beautiful spring flowers.

mountain biking
Wed Jul 20 2011

Easy ride with awesome picturesque views!

Load More