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Coyote Wall Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Hikers on Coyote Wall (bobcat)
Waterfalls on the Little Maui Trail (bobcat)
Looking up the wall (Steve Hart)
Horned lark (Eremophila alpestris) at Coyote Wall (bobcat)
Yellow Bells in March (Steve Hart)
Looking east from the Little Moab Trail (bobcat)
Route of the Coyote Wall Hike (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Coyote Wall TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Coyote Wall Upper Viewpoint
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Lollipop loop
  • Distance: 7.8 miles
  • High point: 1,895 feet
  • Elevation gain: 1775 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Year round
  • Family Friendly: Yes, but take care at the cliffs
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes
Falling
Poison Oak
Snakes
Ticks

Contents

Hike Description

The great quintet of hikes on the Washington side of the Gorge includes Hamilton Mountain, Table Mountain, Dog Mountain, Catherine Creek and Coyote Wall. The latter is the most recent addition to the popularity index although Coyote Wall has been a mecca for mountain bikers going back over three decades now. Hikers discovered it in the 1990s and began to arrive in droves on the unofficial trails around and on the massive syncline of columnar basalt. They came for the expansive views, the grassy slopes and oak woodlands, and to enjoy, in season, the dazzling display of wildflowers - as well as endure the odd tick and rattlesnake. For better or worse, the "trailhead" on Courtney Road filled up by 10:00 a.m. on a balmy spring weekend morning. Mountain bikers zipped in and out and were given much freedom by private landowners; hikers soon picked up on the new destination and increased crowding at the trailhead as well as concerns about impact on the ecosystems here led to the current Forest Service plan to regulate the area. Thus, although a brand new trailhead was constructed above Locke Lake, access to the "Coyote Canyon" area and its trails has been closed and official trail construction was completed in the Coyote Wall area in 2017. The loop described here takes you up along the western edge of the Labyrinth, over to the magnificent syncline wall, and then up along it into oak/Douglas-fir woods to do a short loop back and drop down the rim once more. Coming down Coyote Wall, taking in expansive vistas every step of the way, is the just reward for slogging all the way up. Dogs must be on leash, year-round on some trails and for half the year on others. There are ground-nesting birds in this area.

Descriptions of the Forest Service's plan for the area can be found under these links:


This hike begins at the new Coyote Wall Trailhead. The old Coyote Canyon Trail is to the right here but DO NOT venture up it as you will stray onto private land. Continue straight on the paved road surface, which is old Highway 8, the main highway up the Washington side of the Gorge in an earlier era. To your right, you'll see Locke Lake and also pass several boulders that have fallen from the wall on to the roadway. It's pretty obvious why they relocated the highway away from the cliffs! The old road rounds the end of the wall and continues straight east. The wall here is a good place to find pungent desert-parsley and prairie stars early in the season. About 0.6 miles from the trailhead, you'll come to a trail junction which is marked by some wooden boxes at a break in a fence.

Turn left on the dirt path and head up the hill. Once you're up on the first set of rocks, go right at the Old Ranch Road-Little Maui Trail Lower Junction and head up to cross a road track and then a plank footbridge over a stream. You are now on the Little Maui biker's trail. Look for poison oak and big root among the rocks on this western edge of the Labyrinth scab land, gouged and exposed by the Missoula (Bretz) Floods. The trail loops up alongside tumbling Little Maui Creek, which has a couple of small waterfalls. Listen for the chirping of frogs. Spreading maples shade the stream, but keep an eye (and ear) out for rattlesnakes here. Rise to a bench harboring a seasonal pool behind a line of oaks. Keep up the east bank of the stream under a low, spreading maple and loop up through a narrow defile. Cross the stream at a beautiful oak and, where the trail splits the Old Ranch Road-Little Maui Trail Upper Junction, keep right and walk on a track dampened by a seep and blooming with grass widows in early spring. With a fence on your right, keep straight past the Old Ranch Road-Little Moab Trail Junction sign to the Coyote Wall and get your first views from the top of the ramparts.

Turn back to a gap in the fence at the Coyote Wall-Old Ranch Road Trail Junction, where you'll meet an old four-wheel-drive road. Above the fence, keep heading left until you reach the wall. Hike up the edge of the precipice, taking short detours to admire the view. Watch vultures riding thermals up from below. Start walking uphill, and cross under a set of powerlines and pass through a couple more fences on an old jeep track. Above these fences you will notice looping mountain bike tracks cutting across the road every 20-30 feet. Take a left onto the track to get up to the edge of the cliffs. You'll pass a small memorial plaque for a biker who died in a tragic accident when he accidentally went over the edge of the cliff. To your right, you'll see the junction with the Coyote Wall Traverse Trail #4427. You'll pass the spot where the old jeep road that traverses the Burns Farm property briefly switchbacks. Soon after this, you'll reach the top of the biker's downhill run, marked by a large ponderosa pine; this is the Coyote Wall Upper Viewpoint. This viewpoint, marked "McMahon" on topo maps, is a good turn around point for those wanting a shorter day. A couple of bleached ponderosa skeletons and a few copses of poison oak rimmed by blooming buttercups also mark the spot.

If you have the energy for an extra little loop, continue past the ponderosa on a trail and come to a junction. Go left on the narrow Crybaby Trail, which runs through copses of stunted oak right at the edge of the cliffs. The Crybaby offers great views back down the Coyote Canyon and it's often a great place to watch large birds floating on the breeze. Pass the Crybaby-Wizard Trail Junction (The Wizard Trail descends into now-forbidden territory) and continue along the steep slope on the narrowest section of the Crybaby, built for mountain bikers with nerves of steel. The Crybaby Trail is less than a half mile long and it ends with a 30 foot scramble up to the Atwood Road-Crybaby Trail Junction.

Go right here and head down Atwood Road in shady forest to the Atwood Road-Coyote Wall Trail Junction. Go right and pass a battery of Forest Service signs before reaching a junction, where you go left to to return to your starting place for this little loop, the Coyote Wall Upper Viewpoint. Descend along the rim the way you came to the Coyote Wall-Old Ranch Road Trail Junction. Take a right here to the unsigned Coyote Wall Viewpoint and then keep heading down along the rim on a path known as the Little Moab Trail.

Keep descending the rim until the trail veers east above a recessed bench on the wall. Drop down among scattered ponderosas. Listen for the chimings of meadowlarks. Saxifrage, cryptantha and blue-eyed Mary bloom in the meadows. Skirt the rim of this bench and then head east to pick up a jeep track, coming to a four-way junction in the midst of a rocky outcrop. Make a right and descend to the old highway. Return to the Coyote Wall Trailhead by strolling west long the foot of the basalt cliffs.


Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Columbia Gorge East #432S
  • Adventure Maps: Hood River, Oregon, Trail Map
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

  • Share trails with mountain bikers
  • Dogs on leash December 1st to June 30th
  • $1 toll at Hood River Bridge

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

Note that many of the guidebooks below include directions for trails that can no longer be accessed

  • 70 Virtual Hikes of the Columbia River Gorge by Northwest Hiker
  • Curious Gorge by Scott Cook
  • Day Hikes in the Columbia Gorge by Don J. Scarmuzzi
  • Day Hiking: Columbia River Gorge by Craig Romano
  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • Take a Hike: Portland by Barbara I. Bond
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Best Outdoor Adventures Near Portland, Oregon by Adam Sawyer
  • Columbia Gorge Getaways by Laura O. Foster

Links


Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.