In this guide, I’ll lead you through the wonders of the Catherine Creek Recreation Area, where every season offers its unique charm. From the brilliant hues of spring wildflowers to the crisp autumn air and year-round accessibility, there’s something for everyone along this trail.
With its accessibility and natural wonders, Catherine Creek Loop Trail promises an unforgettable adventure, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking the best spring hikes in the Columbia River Gorge.
Hiking Catherine Creek Loop Trail in Columbia River Gorge
Join me as we delve into the beauty, history, and allure of this trail, while providing you with essential details to plan your own visit to this beloved corner of the Pacific Northwest. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or seeking a kid-friendly outing, Catherine Creek welcomes all who yearn for a connection with nature’s wonders.
Map of Trailhead
Catherine Creek Loop is located on the ancestral lands of the Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla, Wasco and Wishram, and Yakama tribes. And on the ancestral lands of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and the Confederate Tribes of Siletz Indians. We are grateful for the stewards of this land past and present. We are honored to be and recognize that we are guests on this land.
General Trail Information
Region: Columbia River Gorge
Distance: 2.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 300 ft
Time: 2 hours +
When to go: Year-Round
Dogs Allowed?: Yes – On Leash
Date Completed: November 12, 2022
How to Access Catherine Creek Loop Trail
Before you set out on your adventure along the Catherine Creek Loop Trail, it’s essential to know how to reach this natural wonderland with ease. Situated in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge, accessing this trail is a breeze, thanks to its well-marked trailhead and ample parking.
In this section, we’ll provide you with all the practical information you need to find your way to the Catherine Creek Recreation Area, ensuring a smooth start to your memorable hike.
Getting to the Trailhead
If you’re setting out from Vancouver, Washington, reaching the Catherine Creek Trailhead is a picturesque and straightforward drive.
Begin your journey by heading east on Washington State Route 14 (WA-14). This scenic highway will lead you through the breathtaking Columbia River Gorge, treating you to glimpses of the mighty river and charming towns along the way. Continue along WA-14 for approximately 53 miles, savoring the natural beauty that surrounds you. As you approach your destination, watch for signs indicating the Catherine Creek Trailhead. The trailhead parking lot is conveniently located along the road, providing ample space for your vehicle.
As you arrive at the trailhead, you’ll find ample parking space, making it convenient for visitors. Additionally, there are well-maintained restroom facilities available, ensuring comfort during your outdoor adventure.
Take advantage of the informational signage that provides insights into the area’s natural history and trail options, helping you plan your route!
Season to Visit
The Catherine Creek Loop Trail offers a captivating outdoor experience year-round, with each season unveiling its unique charm. Whether you’re an avid wildflower enthusiast or simply seeking a tranquil nature escape, here’s what you can expect during each season:
Spring: Bursting with Wildflowers (March to May)
Spring is undoubtedly the star of the show at Catherine Creek Loop. As early as March, the landscape awakens with a riot of colorful wildflowers, transforming the meadows into a botanical wonderland. You’ll encounter vibrant blooms like camas, lupine, balsamroot, and more, creating a breathtaking tapestry of hues. This season is perfect for photographers, botanists, and anyone looking to immerse themselves in the beauty of the Columbia River Gorge. Be prepared for cooler temperatures in the mornings and evenings, and don’t forget your camera to capture the floral spectacle.
Summer: Pleasant Hiking and Clear Skies (June to August)
Summer brings warm, sunny days to the Columbia River Gorge, making it an excellent time for hiking the Catherine Creek Loop Trail. The wildflowers may start to fade, but the views of the gorge and the lush greenery along the trail remain stunning. You can enjoy comfortable temperatures, clear skies, and a variety of wildlife sightings. Summer is ideal for a family outing, and it’s when the trail’s accessibility truly shines. Remember to carry plenty of water and sun protection as the sun can be intense.
Fall: Autumn Colors and Mild Weather (September to November)
As the days grow shorter and temperatures begin to cool, Catherine Creek Loop welcomes the arrival of autumn. Fall foliage adds a new dimension to the hike, with the oak and ponderosa pine trees donning brilliant shades of red, orange, and gold. The air is crisp, making for pleasant hiking conditions. Fall offers a quieter and more serene experience on the trail compared to the busy spring season. It’s a great time for those who enjoy solitude and a peaceful communion with nature.
Winter: Tranquility and Solitude (December to February)
Winter unveils a tranquil side of Catherine Creek Loop. While the wildflowers are dormant, the landscape exudes a serene charm, with snow dusting the surrounding hillsides and a peaceful hush in the air. This season offers solitude and a chance to experience the beauty of the Columbia River Gorge in a different light. Be prepared for chilly temperatures and potential snow or rain, so dress warmly and check trail conditions before venturing out.
Each season at Catherine Creek Loop Trail has its own allure, ensuring that this beloved destination remains captivating no matter when you choose to explore it. Be sure to plan your visit accordingly and make the most of what each season has to offer in this stunning corner of the Pacific Northwest.
You do not need a permit to hike Catherine Creek Arch Loop Trail!
Now let’s dive into what to pack for your walk around Catherine Creek Arch Loop trail!
What to Pack
Preparation is key to ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable hike along the Catherine Creek Loop Trail. Whether you’re planning a spring wildflower expedition or exploring the trail during another season, having the right gear is essential.
Here are some of my favorite pieces of hiking gear! Remember this is in addition to the Ten Essentials of Hiking:
If you need a refresher on the Ten Essentials of Hiking, you can read about it here.
Altra Trail Runners
Columbia Hiking Boots
The trail is mostly exposed. So consider packing sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat. In summer, consider lightweight, moisture-wicking clothing with built-in UV protection.
A comfortable daypack or hiking backpack is essential for carrying your gear and essentials. With such a short trail your pack can be smaller depending on what you’re bringing.
REI Co-op Flash 22
Patagonia Crossbody Bag
Adjust your gear based on the season and your specific needs, and remember to check the weather forecast before heading out on the Catherine Creek Loop Trail. Now, let’s hit the trail and explore the natural wonders that await!
Hiking Catherine Creek Loop Trail
The trail parking lot is along the road with plenty of space. The trail head is on the parking side where you will see signs for the various trails in the area as well as signage for carrier seeds. The ecosystems in the area are fragile in the Columbia River Gorge. It is likely that at every trailhead you will be prompted to brush your boots before and after your hike to minimize possible cross contamination between ecosystems.
The minimum trail length is around two miles. There are options of increasing the trail length to five miles by completing various offshoots or completing the lower trail on the other side of the street from the parking lot which is ADA accessible. When completing this trail be mindful of the signage. There are some trail sections that are restricted and no longer open for use. This is also why the Washington Trails Association and AllTrails have differently recorded trail lengths.
The trail is a loop around rolling meadows with unrestricted views of the Columbia River until you’ve reached the north end of the loop when you’ve reached the arch. The large land arch sits with impressive grandeur along the side of the trail. On the other side of the trail is an old ranch, demonstrating just how much history is in the area. The impressive basalt arch provides a taste of Utah with the style of the Pacific Northwest.
As Catherine Creek Loop provides astounding views of the Columbia River Gorge and has minimal elevation gain, any time of year would be just as good as any to visit this quaint trail.
Catherine Creek Universal Access Trail
If you’re looking for a leisurely outdoor excursion suitable for everyone, there is a paved trail across the parking lot from the main trailhead.
This trail is designed with accessibility in mind. The path is at least 4 feet wide, providing ample space for easy maneuverability. There are some steeper downhill sections with an 8-12% grade about a half mile into the trail, clockwise.
Check This Out: Ebey’s Landing Trail – 100 Classic Hike of Washington
Should Catherine Creek Trail be a 100 Classic hike of Washington?
I am hiking all “100 Classic Hikes of Washington”. But the question is, Should Catherine Creek Loop be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington?
This trail should absolutely be a classic hike of Washington as this trail offers so much history surrounding how the area was shaped by the river.
The wildflowers that this trail offers is a sea of lupin, which is why I believe it to be so popular in the Spring. With how short and accessible this trail is, I will definitely be back to complete it again in the Spring!
Let me know in the comments if you think Catherine Creek Arch Loop should be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington!
If you’d like to complete your own 100 Classic Hikes journey, you can purchase the book here.
What to do in the area?
Prior to hiking this trail, I spent time at the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum. The interpretive center shares the story of the Columbia River Gorge and the people that lived there. Walking through the museum took about 2 hours and I would highly recommend visiting!
After the hike, a quick drive to to White Salmon, WA landed us at Everybody’s Brewing for a post hike beer!