KAHLOTUS — In my never-ending quest to find things to do to make driving around Eastern Washington more interesting, I recently stumbled upon a pretty good one.
Less than 1/2 mile from the main drag in Kahlotus — a tiny town on Highway 260 — is an old train tunnel. A tunnel that anyone is allowed to hike through.
The Devils Canyon Tunnel (Tunnel No. 16) was part of the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway which was completed between Portland and Spokane in 1908. It is 2,220 feet long and the line was abandoned in 1987.
In 1991, Washington State Parks acquired the line and established the Columbia Plateau Trail State Park along the route.
After reading about all of this in a guide book one of my editors gave to me, my wife and I decided we had to stop and see this place.
So, on Super Bowl Sunday, we were headed to Spokane to watch the game with my parents and we decided to take the detour through Kahlotus to check this out.
The tunnel took a little while to find, as the pullout looks more like an old road. If you come into town from the west on 260, then you turn right onto Pasco-Kahlotus Road and when the road starts to climb the hill, there is a pullout to your left.
You can’t see the tunnel from this vantage point, but there is a trail directly east of the pullout that leads you down a steep grade to the railroad bed.
Walking on the path is not the best and I would recommend wearing sturdy shoes, as the large, crushed rocks make the going difficult. Our dog did not enjoy it at all, and attempted to scale the hillside periodically.
After a short walk around a bend, going through tall cliffs that were cut by the railroad company, you come upon the tunnel. The other end of the tunnel is visible and there is plenty of evidence of past pedestrians, as plenty of people have spray-painted the area.
If you go in the winter, as we did, be prepared with warm clothes, as it was easily 10 degrees colder inside than outside. It is also damp and there is water dripping places, which added to the spooky effects.
We only went a couple hundred feet inside, before my claustrophobia forced us to turn around. I was hoping to get all the way through, because I read that there are trestles on the other side of the tunnel and good views of the canyon. Perhaps next time.
Anyway, it is still fun to imagine the sounds of trains while in the tunnel and to stop and smell the history. We even found an old railroad spike, which we left behind for the next traveler.
So, the next time you are on your way to Palouse Falls or just decide to go off the beaten path a bit, be sure and stop for a quick look at the abandoned tunnel in Kahlotus.
While it’s not a hike in the traditional sense, you could still get some good exercise. And if you are claustrophobic like me, you could always follow the rail bed the other way and enjoy the nice scenery around Kahlotus.