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Catherine Creek Arch Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

The arch, Catherine Creek (bobcat)
The Catherine Creek Bridge (Steve Hart)
An abandoned corral (Steve Hart)
Bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva), Catherine Creek (bobcat)
The new (2019) footbridge over Catherine Creek (bobcat)
The loop route around the Catherine Creek Arch (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Catherine Creek TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Catherine Creek Arch
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 3.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 500 feet
  • High point: 615 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Year round, best Mar-May
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes


Hike Description

There are a number of pleasant strolls in the Catherine Creek area: this one visits the Catherine Creek Arch, an old corral, and ponderosa pine parklands offering views to the Columbia River and a display of wildflowers in the spring. A new (2019) footbridge and a section of trail built by the Washington Trails Association allows you to complete a loop without walking on Highway 14. 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). Now, Catherine Creek is a very popular destination, especially in the spring, so it's a good idea to get here early on weekends to have the place a little to yourself.

From the Catherine Creek Trailhead, hike on a closed road (Atwood Road, signed FR 020), toward the northeast. About 80 yards from the gate, you'll keep left at the junction with the new Catherine Creek Loop Trail. The road soon drops down to Catherine Creek as it bubbles through a small oak forest. The graveled road continues upstream for a bit to a junction with another closed road, this one signed FR 021, a.k.a. the Catherine Creek Arch Trail. Follow the road as it crosses the creek on a small bouncy bridge made of small logs and plywood. This trail heads up the east side of the creek next to large wall of columnar basalt.

You'll soon come to an abandoned corral filled with miner's lettuce that blooms in April. The rock arch looms over the corral high above a talus slope made of fallen rock. In times past, visitors could scramble up and through the arch to the bench above, but now it is fenced off by pole and rail to protect it as a significant cultural site for Native Americans. Past the corral, on your left, are the collapsed remains of a shed: rattlesnakes take cover under the planks here, so be careful if you're poking about! The road leaves the valley and passes the Catherine Creek Arch-Catherine Creek Pinnacles Trail Junction to veer right in a ponderosa pine/oak parkland. Under powerlines, reach a signpost at the Catherine Creek Arch-Eastside Trail Junction, and make a right.

This often boggy section of the loop trail rises to the western slope of Tracy Hill to a junction with the Catherine Creek Loop Trail. Make a right to pass 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. Look south for a great view of Mount Hood, and search along the rocky rim for the beautiful bitterroot, which blooms here around the the beginning of May. Continue hiking down the open scabland slope, stepping in and out of a narrow gully that funnels a rushing brook. At a junction, keep right to descend into Catherine Creek's ravine and cross a sturdy new footbridge installed in 2019. Pass a copse of ponderosa pines to arrive at the Catherine Creek Loop Trail-Atwood Road Junction not far from the trailhead.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Columbia River 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

  • Dogs must be on leash
  • $2 toll at Hood River Bridge

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Best Hikes With Kids: Western Washington by Susan Elderkin
  • Oregon & Washington: 50 Hikes With Kids by Wendy Gorton
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Oregon by Bonnie Henderson & Zach Urness
  • Day Hiking: Columbia River Gorge by Craig Romano
  • 100 Classic Hikes: Washington by Craig Romano
  • Hiking the Columbia River Gorge by Russ Schneider (revised by Jim Yuskavitch)
  • 70 Virtual Hikes of the Columbia River Gorge by Northwest Hiker
  • PDX Hiking 365 by Matt Reeder
  • Day Hikes in the Columbia Gorge by Don J. Scarmuzzi
  • 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
  • Curious Gorge by Scott Cook
  • Pokin' Round the Gorge by Scott Cook
  • Columbia Gorge Getaways by Laura O. Foster
  • Columbia Gorge Hikes: 42 Scenic Hikes by Don & Roberta Lowe

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.

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.