Catherine Creek Rock Arch–A touch of Utah in the Northwest!

Location: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Land Agency: Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area

Roundtrip: 2.3 miles

Elevation gain: 370 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Contact: Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area

Notes: Dogs permitted on leash. Be aware or ticks and poison oak.

Green Trails Map: Columbia River Gorge East No. 432S

Good to Know: kid-friendly, dog-friendly (but dogs must be leashed to protect nesting western meadowlarks), snow free winter hike; exceptional wildflowers, historic, practice Leave No Trace Principles

Access: From Portland, drive I-84 east to Exit 64 in Hood River taking the toll bridge ($2.00) into Washington. Turn onto SR 14 and drive 5.8 miles turning left (just before Milepost 71) onto Old Highway No. 8. Continue for 1.4 miles to trailhead located on your left.



Catherine Creek shaded by Oregon oaks.

Follow an old ranch road to a weathered corral set in a grove of oaks beneath an impressive natural arch. Then wander through pine groves and fields returning along an open ledge that bursts with blossoms in the springtime. Since the late 1980s, the Forest Service has been acquiring lands here at the ecologically rich Catherine Creek. However, many of the trails crisscrossing the area were illegally built by recreationists, and the Forest Service has identified several of them to be removed. The loop described here may be altered in the future as the Forest Service reroutes sections away from fragile areas. Check with the land agency for updates.

From the trailhead gate, two old roads diverge across the open grassy countryside. Take the one right sauntering across a bedrock flat decorated with asters and swaying grasses. Home to nesting western meadowlarks, it is imperative that you keep your dog leashed and on the trail here. The way soon meets up with Catherine Creek in a small canyon. Here the old Atwood Road-trail heads left climbing toward the Coyote Wall.  It makes a worthy side trip.


A ground squirrel checks out the old corral at the natural arch.

For the arch, continue right crossing Catherine Creek and coming to an old corral and ranch ruins at .5 mile. Here in oak and pine forest surrounded by basalt walls, among chirping birds and flitting ground squirrels, you’ll feel miles away from the hurried transportation corridors of the gorge just minutes away. Now look up to your right at the impressive basalt arch. Common in the American Southwest, natural arches are rare here in the Pacific Northwest. Please stay behind the fence to not disturb this ecologically and culturally sensitive landmark.

The loop continues through forest patches and lupine fields coming to a junction at 1.2 miles just after passing a powerline. It’s possible to continue left for explorations up Tracy Hill. The loop however follows a well defined trail right climbing up on open ridge before slowly descending, paralleling Catherine Creek and passing above the arch. Flowers are profound in spring; the air fragrant with lupine. Views of the Columbia River are sublime. At 2.1 miles reach Old Highway No. 8. Follow it .2 mile right back to your car.


For more information on this hike including maps and side trips-plus 99 other hikes in the Columbia River Gorge (including the Vancouver-Portland metropolitan Area), pick up a copy of my Day Hiking Columbia River Gorge

For more information of where to stay and play in the Columbia River Gorge, visit Northwest TripFinder

Catherine Creek is also one of my 100 Classic Hikes in Washington. Have you hiked them all?

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