Catherine Creek Universal Access Loop
Eastern Gorge, Washington
Looking east from Catherine Creek (photographer: Debbie Asakawa)
Hike Details
Type:
Loop
Distance:
1.4 miles round trip
Elevation Gain:
50 feet
Difficulty:
Easy
Trail Features
Family Friendly:
Yes
Restrooms:
Yes
Trailhead Pass:
No
Trail Details
WildflowersBeautiful Views
The Catherine Creek area is widely known for its wildflowers. From the parking lot, the trail surface is paved and in good condition. This makes it a good option for strollers and wheelchairs, although the parking lot area is pretty rough. After getting on the trail, you'll come to an abandoned corral and a trail junction, which is the end of the loop. The trail weaves past several informational signs about the flowers and history of the area. In ~ 1/4 mile, you'll come to a viewpoint overlooking Catherine Creek Falls. The falls run all year, but are bound to be much fuller in the spring. From here, the trail drops down steeply and crosses a couple of wooden bridges. You'll pass the lower end of the shortcut trail which heads uphill to the right. At the base of the hill is a welcome bit of shade under a few oak trees. The trail now starts going gradually up. You'll go under a small bluff, and off to the left, you'll notice a fault in the underlying basalt. As the trail switches back toward the east, you'll pass the upper junction of the shortcut trail and soon, you'll be back to the first trail junction.
 
Please note: Dogs are required to be on-leash in the Catherine Creek planning area year-round. Dogs are required to be on-leash in the Coyote/Burdoin planning areas December 1 - June 30.
 
History
While hikes like Dog Mountain offer wildflower showstoppers, no place in the Columbia Gorge offers the wildflower diversity and duration of Catherine Creek. Botanists flock here for months in the spring to enjoy the steady waves of wildflower blooms. Ironically, wildflowers are profuse at Catherine Creek because of the poor, shallow soil that does not allow grasses to come in and dominate the flowers. Prior to public ownership, the property was known as the Lauterbach Ranch where cattle heavily grazed the area. This was one of the Forest Service's early purchases following the passage of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

Driving Directions

Catherine Creek Trailhead:  Cross the Hood River Bridge ($2 toll) and turn right on WA Highway 14. Drive 5.8 miles to Old Highway 8. Turn left on Old Highway 8, which is also County Road 1230. Drive east on this road (which is an earlier version of today's WA Highway 14) for about 1 1/2 miles to the gravel parking area on the left/north side of the road. The universal access trail takes off to the right/south (downhill from the road). The rock arch hike and others begin on left or north side of the road. Old Highway 8 continues eastward into Lyle, creating alternate routes to/from the east.

Community Connection

Lyle Cherry Orchard’s trailhead is located approximately one mile from the Gorge town of Lyle and is home to the “Lyle” sign that sits above the community. Since this preserve was opened to the public the Lyle Cherry Orchard has provided the community with an accessible natural space right in their back yard. The sunny and dry preserve is the perfect hiking spot to visit during the rainier fall days in the western gorge. Visitors from the Gorge and beyond recreate on Lyle Cherry Orchard and in turn support the local economy.

Photo: View of town of Lyle from Lyle Cherry Orchard (Debbie Asakawa)

Preserve Story

The property where Lyle Cherry Orchard Preserve lies currently was once grazing land for cattle and as the name suggests the eastern part of the preserve held a cherry orchard. The orchard and its trees were well abandoned by the time Nancy Russell purchased the property piece by piece in the 1990’s and later donated it to Friends in 2009. Nancy purchased the property when it came up for sale because it was within key viewing areas on the Oregon side of the Gorge and would have most likely become subdivided for development.

The land is also home to remnants of Lyle Convict Road, a demonstration road built by Sam Hill to convince Washington legislators to fund a Columbia River Highway. When Washington showed no interest in Sam’s project, he invited the entire Oregon legislature to his Maryhill estate to see his "Good Roads" work and Oregon quickly agreed to build on their side of the river what is today the Historic Columbia River Highway.

The trail at Lyle Cherry Orchard was started in when Friends' founder Nancy Russell purchased the property and has been open to the public and maintained Friends and its land trust ever since. In 2019, Washington Trails Association started work to reroute some parts of the trail and add new trail to explore for the benefit of Gorge residents.

In 2013, the land trust and volunteers removed a dilapidated house and outbuildings on the southwestern end of the property. Countless hours were spent removing building materials, old vehicles, garbage, and debris. In 2015 volunteers removed over 1,700 feet of fencing material on the property to allow for the free movement of wildlife across the landscape. Without the help of Friends volunteers and Gorge community members, projects like this would not be possible.

Photos: Before and after cleanup at Lyle Cherry Orchard (Friends' archive)