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Catherine Creek Canyon Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

This page is marked as a Lost Hike. The "trail" may be dangerous and hard to follow and is not recommended for beginning hikers without an experienced leader. Carry detailed maps of the whole area and/or a GPS unit and compass.
The pinnacles above the Catherine Creek Arch (bobcat)
Chocolate lily (Fritillaria lanceolata), Catherine Creek (bobcat)
The arch at Catherine Creek (bobcat)
Columbia desert parsley (Lomatium columbianum), Catherine Creek Canyon (bobcat)
The old stove on Old Stove Road, Catherine Creek (bobcat)
Rowland Lake from near the Rowland Lake Viewpoint (bobcat)
The loop up the Catherine Creek Canyon (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Catherine Creek TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Upper Catherine Creek Crossing
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 5.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1390 feet
  • High Point: 1425 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: All year, best March through May
  • Family Friendly: For older kids
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Only in lower areas
Poison-Oak
Rattlesnakes
Ticks

Contents

Hike Description

This loop first takes you to the well-known Catherine Creek Arch and then away from the madding crowds as you head up the Catherine Creek valley to eventually rely on deer trails. The slopes here are steep, poison oak is an issue, and you will have to tangle with a little brush (While this is a short section, it is off trail and involves good navigation skills). Once, you've crossed Catherine Creek, use an old logging track to head up in shady coniferous forest to join the regular network of trails on Sunflower Hill. To make a longer outing, parts of this hike can be combined with other routes in the area, such as the Tracy Hill Loop Hike and the Catherine Creek-Rowland Basin Loop Hike.

From the Catherine Creek Trailhead, hike on a closed road (Atwood Road, signed FR 020), toward the northeast. This trail soon drops down to Catherine Creek as it bubbles through a small oak forest. The graveled road continues upstream for a short stretch 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 an imposing wall of columnar basalt.

You'll soon come to an abandoned corral filled with miner's lettuce that blooms in April. The Catherine Creek 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 reaches the Catherine Creek Arch-Catherine Creek Pinnacles Trail Junction, where it veers right in a ponderosa pine/oak parkland. Look for dark Lewis' woodpeckers swooping from tree to tree.

Make a left at the junction, and reach the grassy power line corridor. The trail swings left below the Catherine Creek Pinnacles and their skirt of scree. Head northwest through an oak wood with the scree bluff to your right and Catherine Creek gushing down through an oak thicket to your left. Pass across a grassy slope, reenter the oaks briefly, and then reach a broad open bench. A few old oak skeletons stand out starkly to your right. Where the obvious trail swings 90 degrees up the slope to your right, keep left.

Here, you can pick up deer trails heading north (Caution: This is tick country in the spring!). After crossing a small stream in a gully, keep switching deer tracks as you try to keep a level trajectory. Rocky outcrops will host displays of the endemic Columbia Gorge desert parsley early in the year. Yellow balsamroot blooms in mid-spring. Listen carefully for the sound of tumbling water: If you don't mind descending a very steep slope, you can visit a 10-foot waterfall on the creek; farther upstream is a narrow defile. Note the course of an old farm road (We'll call it Old Stove Road) across the creek: The aim is to reach creek level at the same point that the road does. Keep above a rock outcropping, and then descend the slope to pick up a route that leads through the underbrush to the creek. This can be a bit of a scramble as the rocks here are loose. You’ll need to go upstream a little to find a good crossing at an alder that is bent across the creek – a stout staff or trekking poles will help here.

Hike up the old road bed, which is brushy in parts. A few brush piles, some partially burned, need to be stepped around, and there is a little blowdown. Get views of the grassy slopes on the other side of Catherine Creek. Enter rather gloomy Douglas-fir/grand fir secondary forest with an open understory. Leave the dense forest and get more views across the little valley. At a bend in the road is an old stove, and soon you’ll come to the Atwood Road-Old Stove Road Junction. Go right on Atwood Road, and pass around a big loop that takes you up to the broad open expanse of east Burdoin Mountain (Sunflower Hill). Pass the Atwood Road-Bitterroot Trail Junction, and continue on the level into oak woods. Atwood Road takes you over Rowland Creek, where you enter the east-facing Douglas-fir forest. Come to the Atwood Road-Shoestring Trail Junction, and go left.

The trail descends a ridge crest of Douglas-fir and oak to come to the Rowland Wall-Shoestring Trail Junction. Keep left here, and continue the descent, getting views down into the talus fields of the Rowland Basin, now on the National Register of Historic Places to acknowledge its centuries of use by Native Americans. To the west of the basin is the Labyrinth, and along its eastern border is the Rowland Wall with its distinctive pinnacle. The trail then dives off the ridge into oak woods and crosses Rowland Creek on a plank before rising to the grassy sward of Sunflower Hill and the Rowland Wall-Rowland Wall North Tie Trail Junction, which may be barely discernible in the grass.

Follow the trail south along the rim of the Rowland Wall. Wind down, getting views of Rowland Lake, a former marsh inundated by Lake Bonneville, and the town of Mosier across the river. Desert parsley blooms on exposed rocky ground and saxifrage and camas can be seen in the seeps. Pass above the pinnacle and admire the mossy snag leaning against the wall at the Rowland Lake Viewpoint. The trail continues to snake roughly down, and you’ll pass the Rowland Wall-Rowland Wall South Tie Trail Junction before turning east through thickets of young ponderosa pines, many of which are brown and dead from a beetle infestation. In spring, the ground here is wet and the trail often carries a running stream. Reach a rocky bench with small bogs and vernal pools. Look for blooming bitterroot here in mid-spring. Follow an old road bed that veers right at a camas swale at the Rowland Wall-Bitterroot Trail Junction. Stay right between copses of oak and come out on the gentle slope above Old Highway 8. Continue down the slope to the trailhead.


Maps

  • 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

  • none

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.