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Catherine Creek - Universal Access Trail

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Catherine Creek is an area of unique natural beauty and is of great botanical significance. Over ninety species of wildflowers can be found in the area, from grass widow, which blankets the ground as early as February, to western ladies' tresses, which may bloom into July.

The Catherine Creek Universal Access Trail offers dramatic views of the Columbia River and Mount Hood. Weather on this south-facing drainage is much sunnier and drier than the western Gorge and can be quite windy. Dress appropriately, and be aware that you will encounter no restrooms, water, or garbage facilities.

The paved, universal access trail offers two levels of difficulty for wheelchairs. The short 0.25-mile "easy" route will take you to a viewpoint overlooking Catherine Creek Falls. The "moderate" routes form loop opportunities up to 1.25 miles in length through open grasslands, vernal ponds, and oak woodlands.

That's right--this pretty forest area offers a unique experience in Washington: a walk in a natural hardwood deciduous forest. You'll find a lovely old oak forest stand on the slope above Catherine Creek, as well as great gardens of spring wildflowers. The trails are well maintained and easy, making this a wonderful place to bring novice hikers or other folks not used to hiking: The well-graded trails make this a literal walk in the park. At both ends of the gentle loop, enjoy great views from established viewpoints.
Driving Directions:

From Bingen, drive east 4.6 miles on State Route 14 to milepost 71 and the junction on the left with County Road 1230. Turn left onto County Road 1230 and follow it 1.4 miles to the Catherine Creek parking lot on the north side of the road. The Catherine Creek Universal Access Trail is located at the east end of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. NW Forest Pass required.

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

Recent Trip Reports

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There are 20 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Catherine Creek - Natural Arch, Catherine Creek - Universal Access Trail — May 27, 2012 — Susan Elderkin
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
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A loop trip suitable for the whole family. We had three generations with us for this 2.7 mile loop. ...
A loop trip suitable for the whole family. We had three generations with us for this 2.7 mile loop. We started at the Catherine Creek trailhead, staying on the right-hand trail as it went up along Catherine Creek through a little canyon.

The trail here is actually an old road, so it is pleasant to walk side-by-side, admiring the white oaks. But what is that shiny three-leafed plant alongside of the trail? That, kids, is poison oak! Lots of it. This is a perfect laboratory for learning how to identify and avoid this plant.

We were very excited about visiting the natural arch, but were disappointed to find that the agency had placed a fence around it. We didn't look closely, but there didn't seem to be a good view of it from below - just the arch with a cliff wall behind it.

Past the arch, it is about a half mile to the junction where you can loop back up on the ridge above the arch. Take the trail to the right and leave the road-walk behind. This is where the views get good, along with the wildflowers. We had missed the desert parsley, but were fascinated by its "fall" foliage. Pretty white bitter-root were poking up everywhere too.

From the top of the ridge you can see sweeping views of the Gorge - you are really high up here, as this trail starts from the old highway and not Hwy 14. The area above the arch is also fenced off, and there is no vantage to look at it here either.

The trail drops hikers off on the road on the east side of Catherine Creek. Cross the bridge, watching for vehicles, and return to the parking lot.

For some extra fun, take the short (<1 mile) ADA loop trail on the south side of the road for more views and, right now, lots of poppies in bloom.
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Catherine Creek — May 27, 2012 — Sean P.
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
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We did the hike described as "The Labyrinth" in Day Hiking - Columbia River Gorge. The weather on a ...
We did the hike described as "The Labyrinth" in Day Hiking - Columbia River Gorge. The weather on a Sunday afternoon was sunny and windy.

Everyone must have decided that this was a morning hike, because we didn't encounter anyone else on the trail once we left the old highway. We followed the sometimes-steep trail through basalt formations up to the junction with Atwood Road. Although there are many junctions, the correct path is never hard to identify (pick the better-used trail). At Atwood Road, though, the return route suggested by the guidebook is the lesser-used trail.

The next section is not so much fun, as it is a narrow, overgrown path along a steep hillside. Once the trail crosses a creek and returns to the woods, it quickly improves and is fine all the way to the road. Do note that there is a closed section near the Indian pits, which we took to be the basalt formations from there down to the lake. Walking back to the car via the road is not as bad as it sounds, as the road follows the lake shore and provides good opportunities to view the birds that spend their days there.

Although there were some wildflowers in the grassy areas, the basalt formations and views were the highlight of the trip. The floral display along the paved trail down the road is much more impressive than anything on this hike. We saw a deer and various raptors (including both hawks and a peregrine falcon) but no snakes. Poison oak is a concern in the wooded areas, so wear long pants and stay on the trail.
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Catherine Creek, Coyote Wall — Apr 24, 2012 — Cascadian Kim
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
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In anticipation of my first Cascadian hike of the year as designated leader, I didn't get a wink of ...
In anticipation of my first Cascadian hike of the year as designated leader, I didn't get a wink of sleep the night before this trip... worried about the forecasted chance of rain and typical 30 mph wind gusts in the Columbia Gorge. I was fretting about the various routes from the Catherine Creek trailhead to the Coyote Wall, wondering which path would provide the appropriate distance, the best scenery, challenging elevation, and grandest views. As I had only trekked to the Wall once before, my memory was a bit foggy about certain intersections on the trail... and as leader, I worried I'd drag my hiking companions on "the never ending journey", wandering around the hillsides in search of our goal.

All for not - my worries! First of all, the eight hikers who met in the Yakima parking lot at 7:30am were ready for adventure! Everyone was eager to hit the trail, seven of whom had never been to the Catherine Creek area EVER. When I mentioned the various routes available, and my disclaimer about possible wandering, one of the gentlemen calmed my nerves by saying, "Part of the fun is the trail-finding!" Phew! This was the attitude I needed!

We left Yakima in blue skies and entered the Columbia Gorge in the same. Temperatures were expected to reach 70 and the forecasted winds were keeping both my hands firmly on the steering wheel as we drove down Hwy 14 towards Rowland Lake. We parked at the Catherine Creek Trailhead and were immediately welcomed by the winds. Everyone grabbed their windbreakers and gear and we headed up Road 15 to the left. Never was there a threat of rain! All day we claimed the sun! It was awesome...

This route crosses grassy, rocky, swampy (at times) terrain riddled with all sorts of wildflowers - too many to name. And of course, the views are remarkable... especially on a mostly sunny day like this one!

The trail follows a cliff as it gains elevation; the path is very rocky, but easy to see. Poison oak begins to present itself - and it is PLENTIFUL!!! I regretted wearing short pants, as I had the added chore of watching not to brush up against the poison plant. The trail leaves the cliff area, dips into a canyon, crosses a creek, then climbs again through oak and pine. It's delightful to walk through the forest filtered with sunlight... and the path begins to shake off all the rocks to reveal an easy dirt trail. Continuing on, you pass through the most wonderful meadows, dotted with tiny yellow and white blooms. The meadows are mostly open, with an occasional lonely pine or oak tree... and with the vast river view as a backdrop, you can't help but claim each lonely tree as "Your new favorite tree." I do, anyway.

A narrow, faint trail cuts off into an oak thicket to the right (headed north) BEFORE you reach a large intersection with a Burns Farm sign posted. Follow it to the right until you reach the first left. At the T in this road, on the right, there is an old oak with a giant hole at eye level - it's distinctive enough - you can't miss it. It points to the road headed west.

Cross the last and grandest meadow leading to the destination. Here, we were pleasantly surprised that the winds from earlier had died down. We were able to walk along the wall, sit comfortably and eat our lunches, and enjoyed the perfect weather conditions all the while! The breezes were hardly a bother. Mt. Hood, hidden when we first arrived at the Wall, showed herself in full glory before we packed up and left! It was the best dessert we could have had!

We wandered about a bit, then simply retraced our steps, and were reminded of the ups and downs, some steep, slippery sections and the rocky descent near the end. Take care on these rocky slopes, as they are steep and feet and legs are tired at this point in your journey.

All told... it was 4.5 hours of great fun! We had left the trailhead at 10am and arrived back to our vehicles at 2:30pm. My troop was pleasantly tired; one gal commented the adventure was a "10" in her book. That was music to my ears! Next time I won't fret so much about leading such an adventure. I will try-out some of the other trails in the area... as they look promising too!

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Catherine Creek — Apr 15, 2012 — cbarnes199
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
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We had a great day hiking this trail. The weather was just right. Spring means not too hot or cold....
We had a great day hiking this trail. The weather was just right. Spring means not too hot or cold. Nice to hike with just shirtsleeves. We saw an amazing amount of wildflowers. They are all blooming but I guess will be gone soon so go now.

This is an easy hike.

We did see a baby rattlesnake so be aware of that. Also we had to brush several tics off our dogs. Luckily they are short hair and pretty tic resistant but longer hair dogs and people need to be aware.

Overall just a fantastic hike. Limited time only the wildflowers... :)
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Catherine Creek — Feb 18, 2012 — happyhonu
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Water on trail
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As we got closer to the Catherine Creek Trail, the rain subsided and was completely gone. It had ra...
As we got closer to the Catherine Creek Trail, the rain subsided and was completely gone. It had rained there earlier and made the pictures of the few grass widows shimmer in the light from the overcast sky. Hiked the lower, paved trail and sighted many grass widows. Not much else but the widows made it worth it. There will be more soon. Also took the homestead trail past the arch and were disappointed to see all the trees cut down at the top of the hill (for the power lines). We usually see the big clover there and ball waterleaf plants. Probably not any more! We noticed they chopped down the trees and left the poison oak! Still a great hike and should be well worth it in about a month or so. Also stopped for a quick picture of Dog Creek waterfall in the rain.
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Catherine Creek- Sunrise Creek.jpg
Catherine Creek. Photo by Sunrise Creek.
Location
South Cascades -- Columbia Gorge
Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
Statistics
Roundtrip 1.5 miles
Elevation Gain 120 ft
Features
Rivers
Wildflowers/Meadows
Mountain views
User info
Good for kids
Northwest Forest Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
Best Desert Hikes: Washington (Bauer & Nelson - Mountaineers Books)
Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Hood River

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

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