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Catherine Creek-Coyote Wall Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Revision as of 18:32, 24 February 2018 by Bobcat (Talk | contribs)

In between Catherine Creek and Coyote Wall, there are grassy ridges with great views towards Mount Hood, the Columbia River, and Mosier. (Jerry Adams)
To the Southeast, you can see the Columbia River and The Dalles. (Jerry Adams)
The trail follows an old 4 wheel drive road. There is a single lane bicycle track. A lot of the ways, the trail goes through grassy meadow areas. (Jerry Adams)
Sometimes, the trail goes through forested areas of mostly Oak trees. (Jerry Adams)
  • Start point: Catherine Creek TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Coyote Wall Upper Viewpoint
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 11.0 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2640 feet
  • High point: 1675 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Year round, best March–May
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes, on spring weekends


Hike Description

This hike links the Catherine Creek area with the Coyote Wall area. There are great views of the Columbia River, the east end of the Columbia River Gorge, Mount Hood, and a lot of wildflowers. There are numerous variations to this hike, including starting farther east at the Tracy Hill Trailhead for a much longer day that will take in all the features of the area.

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 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 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! This is a good spot to turn around and begin the loop proper.

Return to cross Catherine Creek, and go right on the FR 20 spur road (Atwood Road). Hike up under oaks and ponderosas to get views across to the Catherine Creek Arch. You may notice Lewis’s woodpeckers flitting about in the trees, turkeys may scuttle off in the undergrowth, and there are views back to the Columbia River. Keep up the main road bed and pass under powerlines. Big-leaf maples and Douglas-firs suddenly become the dominant canopy. In dark Douglas-fir woods, the track drops to the Atwood Road-Old Stove Road Junction (There's an old stove just down the road to the right). Keep left here and curve up on a poison oak-lined track to emerge from the woods onto the vast grassy slope of Sunflower Hill. Death-camas and bare-stem desert parsley bloom in profusion here in the spring, and views extend east to the Columbia Hills and across the river to McCall Point and Memaloose Hills near Mosier.

You'll soon reach the trail post at the Atwood Road-Sunflower Hill Trail Junction. Keep heading west on Atwood Road here. 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 bloom trailside. Cross a trickling Rowland Creek, and 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/whote 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 also bloom. Then come to the signposted Atwood Road-Upper Labyrinth Trail Junction. Continue west through an oak wood to reach an open slope and follow Atwood Road, here just a narrow track, to cross a creek. You’ll pass a post that marks the upper end of the former Hidden Valley Trail, now decommissioned, and then enter oaks again to reach a new footbridge over Labyrinth Creek. Soon after this come to a complex set of junctions where you’ll keep straight and exit the oaks at the Atwood Road-Old Ranch Road Trail Junction (Before the junction, a single track trail leads up through the oaks for a shortcut across the private property of Burns Farm to the top of Coyote Wall). There’s a sign near on the road leading up to a house telling you where private property is.

Head left on Old Ranch Road Trail #4426 past a copse of larger oaks and descend the hillside to get far-reaching views to Mount Hood and major prominences in-between. You’ll pass along the east side of a meadow before traversing west through a band of oaks and arriving at the Old Ranch Road-Coyote Wall Traverse Trail Junction. From here, go right to continue the traverse across a grassy slope and cross a low footbridge. The trail then switchbacks up twice, weaving in and out of the oaks and passing below a meadow where a couple of boats (!) are parked. At the next switchback, look to the oak-shaded draw on your left to see an old rock dam that backs up a small pond. Keep left at the junction with a connector trail that drops down from the western edge of the Burns Farm. Recross the draw and traverse an open slope before reaching the Coyote Wall-Coyote Wall Traverse Trail Junction, in marked with a post that has no sign (as of 2018).

Here go right to head straight up the slope on an old jeep track. You’ll cross a cutoff trail that comes from the vicinity of the Demi Anni Vineyards and then arrive at a loop in the rough road track that appears briefly from the woods: This is the western end of the cutoff trail that crosses Burns Farm. Keep going a few more yards to a lone ponderosa at the Coyote Wall Upper Viewpoint. This is a great picnic spot although you’ll need to look out for ticks in the spring. There’s a view up to the northern rim of the wall and expansive views across the Columbia River to Mount Defiance and Mount Hood.

When you’re ready to finish the loop, take the southern section of the Crybaby Trail, which hugs the edge of the wall and gives you views down into the oak/ponderosa woods below: The trails down there are now off-limits as they cross private land. The views are glorious all the way down and, close at hand, balsamroot and pungent desert parsley blooms in clumps while vultures whoosh by as they capture the thermals. You may see a small plaque memorializing a mountain biker who got too close to the edge here. The Crybaby Trail joins the Coyote Wall Trail near the Coyote Wall-Coyote Wall Traverse Trail Junction, and the former trail keeps dropping through fields of buttercup and balsamroot. Hike down through a gathering of young ponderosa pines, and pass through a fence line. After winding farther down an open slope, come to the Coyote Wall-Old Ranch Road Trail Junction.

Go right through a gap in a fence and, after about 60 yards, reach the Old Ranch Road-Little Moab Trail Junction. Here, make a right to get another cliff-edge view at the Coyote Wall Viewpoint, and then return to the junction and keep heading down along the rim on the Little Moab Trail. Keep descending until the trail veers east above a recessed bench on the wall. Drop down among scattered ponderosas. Listen for the chimings of meadowlarks. Saxifrage, cryptantha and blue-eyed Mary bloom in the meadows. Skirt the rim of this bench and then head east to pick up a jeep track, coming to the four-way Old Ranch Road-Little Maui Trail Lower Junction in the midst of a rocky outcrop. Make a right and descend to the old highway. Go left on the rapidly deteriorating paved surface of Old Highway 8. One hundred car trains may be making their passage below, and there are views across the river to the orchards of Mosier. Pass a rugged gully on the left and then approach a rocky prominence on the right. Look for the Highway 8-Labyrinth Trail Junction leaving the road and heading up through a colorful scabland.

Wind up the Labyrinth Trail #4423, keeping right at a junction to enter the Labyrinth’s maze of basalt outcroppings. Pass under a ponderosa pine to drop into a hollow, and then follow Labyrinth Creek up past where it plunges through a narrow defile on the right. You’ll pass by Labyrinth Cave on your left and then you can take a side trail to get a better view of Labyrinth Falls. Switchback up twice to get a view of Labyrinth Falls’ upper tier, and then cross Labyrinth Creek on a single plank bridge. Hike up under oaks and then through a meadow under a palisade of columnar basalt known as Accordion Rock (and to local climbers as Wankers Columns). To your left, Labyrinth Creek funnels through another gorge. Enter an oak wood that is carpeted with lupine, buttercups, and poison oak. Exit the woods and wind up to a T-junction at a fence and telephone line. Go left here (The trail to the right is unofficial), and head up the slope, now getting views upriver to the Columbia Hills. Swing right to pass under the phone line and through the fence line and get a vista down to Rowland Lake, the Rowland Wall, and across the river to the Rowena Plateau. Mount Hood stands out to the southwest.

Reach the Labyrinth-Upper Labyrinth-Desert Parsley Trail Junction (unsigned in February 2018), where you can get a view back to Mount Hood. Keep right here to traverse the slope on a narrow tread above the Rowland Basin. 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 to 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, and wind down to a talus slope. 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 Raptor Trailhead, 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, many 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 Rowland Wall-Sunflower Hill Trail Junction to close the loop. Make a right on the road bed to return to the trailhead.


Regulations or restrictions, etc

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

Trip Reports

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Guidebooks that cover this hike

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