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Cougar Trails Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Service road, WSU Vancouver (bobcat)
Entering the woods, WSU Vancouver (bobcat)
Mill Creek, WSU Vancouver (bobcat)
The loop described on the WSU Vancouver Campus (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: WSU Gray Lot TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: WSU Barn
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 2.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 230 feet
  • High Point: 240 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

Washington State University's Vancouver Campus sits on the grassy hillside of Mt. Vista, offering views to Gorge prominences such as Silver Star Mountain as well as farther to Mount Hood. The trail system here, named after the university's mascot, includes the forest corridor along Mill Creek, a tributary of Salmon Creek, and a barn at the Heritage Garden. The trails are best hiked on a Sunday, when there is little activity on campus. The description below takes you on a short loop: a longer walk of 4 - 5 miles is possible in less natural environments (See the WSU Cougar Trails map).

From the Gray Lot, head back along the road, and go right on a maintenance track towards the pond. At a trail junction, go left on a chip trail along the edge of the woods. Look to your left for a trail that goes through an old fence. Take this path into a forest remnant of western red-cedar, Douglas-fir, grand fir, white alder and big-leaf maple. The trail drops to a junction, where you go left to drop down to Mill Creek. Make a left over a footbridge on a muddy track, passing a salmon spawning sign. At a junction, proceed right and head up, stooping under a fallen cedar to reach 159th Street, another campus entrance road.

Go right on the paved sidewalk, and cross Mill Creek to head up the hillside. A narrow, muddy trail leads right into the woods above Mill Creek, but you should continue up the road to the top of the slope. Here, take a chip trail that leads back behind a sign around the edge of a large field, where you'll get a view of Mount Hood and Silver Star Mountain. At a junction, keep straight on a wide trail that passes through a fence and drops down into the woods. Reach an open field, and keep to the right side of the barn. Stay right on the trail past a sign explaining the Heritage Garden, which has plantings of heirloom fruit trees. At the next junction, a spur leads right to a sign about restoration. Return and cross Mill Creek on a footbridge. The trail heads up to a boardwalk and then rises up the steep bank above the creek. A spur leads right to the Butterfly Meadow. On the main trail, pass a cable gate and go left up the slope past a pond with its resident flock of mallards to approach the Gray Lot.

Walk south on the trail with the Gray Lot to your right. Enter a narrow corridor of vegetation and keep left to pass above a residence before crossing a road and entering a large open field. The path swings right (uphill) into a copse of trees. Turn right at a junction to exit the trees and reach another junction. Here keep right to walk from a cul-de-sac at a small parking area along a paved road. You'll pass through another line of trees to reach the Gray Lot.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Dogs are permitted on leash
  • Parking fees apply when school is in session

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.

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.