PRAIRIE CITY – Hikers will find a pleasant surprise along the Sumpter Valley Railroad Interpretive Trail.

The path, located eight miles east of Prairie City, leads visitors through the lush Malheur National Forest on a well-maintained gravel trail, that winds down to a switchback railroad, a replica of the original that was used from 1890-1947.

A large, rusted part of a boiler and engine used for skidding trees adds another point of interest as the trail continues, looping upward. Here, hikers can also take a look at the trail and tracks below.

Outlining the history of the railroad are a series of interpretive signs found along the path, including one about The Dixie Switchback, the most difficult grade to design. A high trestle was built to allow crossing at Dad’s Creek, and Joseph A. West created the series of switchbacks on the mountainside to ease the train’s 2,000-foot decent into the valley.

Another informative sign notes that logging was the mainstay of the railroad and transport by train, during those years, was the only way to move logs to area sawmills.

The trail is easy to find; traveling east from Prairie City, look for a brown sign that reads “Historic site 1/4 mile.”

A paved parking area to the right off the highway is roomy enough for several cars.

Visitors may want to bring along a lunch and use the sturdy picnic table located near the start of the trail.

Enjoyable for children and adults alike, the Sumpter Valley Railroad trail, at about .75 miles round trip, is a relatively easy hike you won’t want to miss.

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