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Catherine Creek-Rowland Basin Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Lupine on Sunflower Hill, Catherine Creek (bobcat)
Catherine Creek Arch, Sunflower Hill, Catherine Creek (bobcat)
Bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva), Catherine Creek (bobcat)
Upper Labyrinth Trail, Rowland Basin (bobcat)
Looking to Rowland Wall, Desert Parsley Trail, Rowland Basin (bobcat)
Rowland Pinnacle, Rowland Basin (bobcat)
The loop route up Sunflower Hill and above the Rowland Basin (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Catherine Creek TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Rowland Basin Viewpoint
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 4.9 miles
  • High point: 1,300 feet
  • Elevation gain: 1320 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All year: best time is spring
  • Family Friendly: Yes, for older children
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: On Sunflower Hill


Hike Description

Catherine Creek and Coyote Wall have become increasingly popular with hikers and mountain bikers, and the springtime months are especially busy, with parking lots filling early. To avoid most of the crowds, try the area between the two above the Rowland Basin. You’ll still get views to the Catherine Creek Arch, the variety of habitat and wildflowers is greater, and the views are just as sweeping. The downside is that, once you have left Sunflower Hill, you will have frequent brushes with poison oak: know how to recognize it, wash the areas that have been touched immediately, wash your clothes as soon as you get home, and think twice about bringing your dog.

After you pass through the main gate, you’ll see two roads. Take FR 015, which heads up a grassy slope to the left. Camas, saxifrage, and shooting stars bloom here in early spring, while cluster lilies, sand clover, and brodiaea come out later. The road bed passes through a copse of oak and Oregon ash and reaches the unmarked Rowland Wall-Bitterroot Trail Junction.

Go right here to pass a camas swale which forms a pretty pond in early spring. The trail rises in ponderosa pine grassland to offer the first of many views of the Catherine Creek Arch from the oak-lined rim of the canyon. Continue hiking up along this rocky scarp, where lupine, death-camas, and the beautiful bitterroot bloom in mid-spring. Swing left into a ponderosa pine parkland, dropping in and out of lush camas swales. As you head up on the more open slope of Sunflower Hill (It gets this name from the brilliant display of balsamroot that travelers across the river used to remark upon; then the cattle were grazed here and now few balsamroot plants remain), you’ll get more expansive views to Mount Hood as well as the Rowena Gap, McCall Point, Sevenmile Hill, and the Columbia Hills to the east. Come to the powerline corridor at a pylon, and follow this up the open hillside, first getting views across the Rowland Basin to the Labyrinth. Pass the unsigned Bitterroot-Rowland Wall North Tie Trail Junction at a small clump of balsamroot before the maintenance track swings towards the east side of the hill and then ascends to the Atwood Road-Bitterroot Trail Junction.

Go left here and descend gently across the face of Sunflower Hill, getting views down the Rowland Wall to the Rowland Pinnacle. Enter shady oak woods carpeted with poison oak; lupine and chocolate lilies blooming trailside. Cross trickling Rowland Creek, and note the transition from oaks to Douglas-firs. The road bed rises to the Atwood Road-Shoestring Trail Junction, where you keep right to stay on Atwood Road. Enter a ponderosa pine/white oak parkland, and then cross an open grassy slope with expansive views to the vineyards and cherry orchards of Mosier. The trail drops into oak/Douglas-fir forest to cross a seasonal creek. Reach an open slope again, and look right for lilac bushes that bloom in mid-spring. Behind the lilacs are the ruins of an old homestead, where daffodils and German irises were planted. Then come to the signposted Atwood Road-Upper Labyrinth Trail Junction.

Go left here on the Upper Labyrinth Trail #4424 (known formerly as the Hidden Valley Trail). Traverse the grassy slope, and then make two wide loops down, getting views up the Columbia River to Memaloose Island and beyond. Wind down in and out of an oak copse to reach the Rowland Basin Viewpoint, a worthy pit stop on a sunny day that offers vistas from the Labyrinth to the Rowland Wall and beyond. From here, the trail hooks west from the viewpoint and traverses down to the Labyrinth-Upper Labyrinth-Desert Parsley Trail Junction, where you can get a view to Mount Hood.

Make a left here to traverse the slope above the Rowland Basin on the Desert Parsley Trail. Enter a tongue of oaks, and then cross a grassy slope before heading into more oaks and crossing a creek. Hike across a hillside of Columbia desert parsley and into a larger oak wood to meet the Desert Parsley-Shoestring Trail Junction. Go right here to loop down – look off to the left for a curious square stone structure overgrown by vegetation. Exit the oaks at a grassy slope, and get a head-on view of Mount Hood. The trail makes two switchbacks down around an old apple tree with a magnificent skirt of poison oak. Then enter oak/ponderosa forest to wind down into a jumbled field of talus. Look for pits, windbreaks, and old walls here attesting to an ancient human presence: This site (called the Rowland Basin Site) is on the National Register of Historic Places. Join an old road bed at the base of the Rowland Wall, and reach the Desert Parsley-Raptor-Rowland Wall South Tie Trail Junction.

Go left here (Keeping on the road will take you out to the highway, but this short section is closed from February 1st to July 15th because of nesting peregrine falcons). Hike up a scree slope, getting views left to the nearby Rowland Pinnacle. At the top of the rim you’ll come to the Rowland Wall-Rowland Wall South Tie Trail Junction and also enjoy more views across Rowland Lake and Mosier to Mount Hood.

Keep right at the junction, and descend the rim of Rowland Wall through scattered ponderosa pines, some of which have been killed or damaged by an infestation of California five-spined bark beetle (Ips paraconfusus). The trail is often rubbly and loose as you alternate rocky descents with lush camas swales. Reach a rocky flat with a population of scabland wild buckwheat and beautiful bitterroot, the latter blooming in late April/May. Pass through more green seeps, and then veer away from the rimrock towards a boggy expanse that is lit up by yellow monkey flower in the spring. Bitterroot blooms on the exposed rock, and there’s a vernal pool that issues from a bubbling spring here (The pool dries up by early May). The trail joins FR 015 and comes to the unsigned Rowland Wall-Bitterroot Trail Junction to close the loop. Make a right on the road bed to return to the trailhead.


Regulations, facilities, etc

  • $2 toll for the Hood River Bridge
  • Dogs must be on leash all year
  • Port-a-potty at trailhead

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • none

More Links


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.

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