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Tracy Hill Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

View to Memaloose Island from west Tracy Hill (bobcat)
Stream, Tracy Hill (bobcat)
Poet's shooting star (Dodecatheon poeticum), Tracy Hill (bobcat)
Pinnacles and oaks, Catherine Creek Canyon (bobcat)
Common camas (Camassia quamash), Tracy Hill (bobcat)
The route on unofficial trails, Tracy Hill (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Tracy Hill TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Bathtub Spring
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 6.1 miles round trip
  • High point: 1,840 feet
  • Elevation gain: 1715 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Year round; spring is best
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No
Poison Oak
Snakes
Ticks

Contents

Hike Description

Catherine Creek is another one of those immensely popular east Gorge destinations that was slowly discovered by the hiking masses after it became public land. Originally the Lauterbach Ranch, the property, which extends from Tracy Hill west to the Labyrinth, was purchased by the Trust for Public Land in 1985. In 1986, the Scenic Area was established and the next year, the Forest Service purchased the land from TPL in keeping with its goal to expand public holdings within the CRGNSA. At first, only a few botanizers explored these slopes: the area has greater floral diversity than places like Dog Mountain because of the unusual scabland nature of the slopes below 1,200 feet, which were scoured repeatedly by the Bretz (Missoula) Floods (15,300 – 12,700 years ago). Higher level grasslands were heavily grazed in the past and are still recovering their botanical richness. This hike begins at the easternmost trailhead in the area: Forest Service plans call for a realignment of some of the tread, but any new trail will lead up the slope of Tracy Hill in a similar direction. For the return, some easy route finding is necessary, so keep yourself well-oriented.

Hike past the gate on an old jeep track, FR 1230-030, on a grassy slope with scattered ponderosa pines. Tracy Creek runs to your left. Spring into summer, there will be many blooms down here, with bitterroot on rocky benches, shooting stars and bog saxifrage in wet areas, and grass widow, prairie star, yellow bells, and blue-eyed Mary in the meadows. Look also for several species of desert parsley. Pass under a powerline and hike along a fence line. The track briefly becomes a footpath and then swings left under a second powerline. Then, turn uphill and walk along a fenceline for a brief stretch. Where the track forks, keep right to stay above Tracy Creek. Dip into a small gully near the rim of the Major Creek valley, and then wind up an open slope. You’ll get a magnificent view of Mount Hood and also across the river to McCall Point, Rowena Dell, and Sevenmile Hill. Pass a small copse of oaks with a memorial plaque. The spine of the Columbia Hills is in full view now, as is the promontory of Crates Point on the Oregon side of the river. Continue rising next to a woodland of Oregon white oak and Douglas-fir, and pass the junction with another trail. Drop into an oak forest with a poison oak understory. Hike up a slope, disturbing a warren of California ground squirrels as you exit the woods. Traverse the slope, with Mount Hood full ahead and grass widows blooming at your feet in early spring. A plank crosses Tracy Creek where it spills out of an old cattle pond, the latter fed by Bathtub Spring, which is hidden behind a clump of vegetation.

You can divert cross-country up to the oaks above and, keeping to the left of the main oak wood, pass through oak copses to reach an opening near the crest of the hill. A vehicle track heads into the woods from here and rises gently to reach the national forest boundary line.

Return straight down the vehicle track to the east-west trail coming from the cattle pond at Bathtub Spring. Continue hiking west, passing above two ponderosa pines surrounded by their offspring. Drop down the west slope of Tracy Hill on benches with copses of grand old oak trees. Pass a rocky viewpoint and suitable lunch spot before picking up an obvious tread leading southeast past little basalt outcroppings on the grassy slope above Catherine Creek. Continue to pass clusters of oak trees as you head down; across the creek is a dark, east-facing Douglas-fir woodland. Now enter an oak forest with a thick understory of poison oak. Exit the forest and look up to your left at a rim of basalt faces and pinnacles. Veer left and reach a power line pylon. The trail then turns right under the power lines and comes to the Catherine Creek Arch-Catherine Creek Pinnacles Trail Junction. Go right on this more obvious track in a ponderosa pine/oak parkland: Lewis' woodpeckers are very active in this area. Under powerlines, reach a signpost at the Catherine Creek Arch-Eastside Trail Junction, and bear right.

This often boggy section of trail rises to the western slope of Tracy Hill through seeps and patches of April-blooming camas. The path steers down along the basalt rim of Catherine Creek's small canyon, passing a section that is peeling off, but offers a great viewpoint. You’ll pass the Catherine Creek Arch on the east side of a pole and rail fence, so will not be able to make out much of the structure. From the end of the fence, however, you can step over to the rim and get a view down to the old corral and Catherine Creek itself. Continue hiking down the open scabland slope, stepping in and out of a narrow gully that funnels a rushing brook. Keep descending to arrive above Old Highway 8.

Here the trail splits: those parked at the Catherine Creek Trailhead drop down to the highway and walk the highway back to their vehicles; for the Tracy Hill Trailhead, walk parallel to an old fence line and then go over to the road for the last 200 yards back to your car.


Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Columbia River Gorge - East #432S (partial)

Regulations or restrictions, etc

  • Dogs on leash in Catherine Creek Arch area

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain

More 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.