On the Crawford Oaks trail at Columbia Hills State Park (photographer: Debbie Asakawa)
Trail Description Driving Directions
This figure-8 loop takes you through beautiful rolling hills and oak tree groves. Balsamroot and lupine abound in spring.You will need a Discover Pass to park here; the day rate is $10 (bring the correct amount in cash) and you can find envelopes near the restrooms. The trailhead begins just beyond the restrooms (west of the parking lot). You’ll find a kiosk at the trailhead, which will have a map–take a photo of the map with your smartphone or camera if you have one. Throughout this hike, all junctions are well marked with brown metal posts that signify the trail directions. You’ll see that the trail is a figure-eight configuration. This description will take you through the lower loop counter-clockwise and the upper loop clockwise.
Begin the hike by ascending Entry Road. Take a couple minutes to read the story of the Missoula Floods on the three panels at the overlook. In another 1/8 mile, take a few steps off the trail to the right for a view of Eightmile Creek Falls (which you will also see from the parking lot below). Continue up the road and go through an unlocked gate. At the one mile point on Entry Road, make a right turn and follow the brown metal signs toward Military Road and Vista Loop.
After you cross the creek, you’ll come to your first junction. To your left is a long meadow that was once a homestead. You can see the remains of an orchard on the far end. Turn right at this junction and follow Vista Loop up the hill and back toward the Columbia River. The trail will traverse the hillside eastward then turn north again to gently climb to increasingly spectacular views of the Columbia both east and west. Continue to follow Vista Loop until it joins with Military Road. At this junction, turn left. At this point, the two loops of the figure eight share a trail for approximately one-half mile. You will first ascend and then descend before coming to the junction with the Eightmile Alternate trail. If you want to hike only the lower loop, turn left here to walk through the upper reaches of the homestead, turn right at the junction near Eightmile creek and retrace your steps down Entry Road back to your car. This will be approximately five miles of hiking.
If you want to continue on the upper loop, turn right on Eightmile Alternate trail and follow it past two creek drainages. After crossing the second drainage, you’ll turn left and downhill–the trail will soon head back uphill toward the old Crawford Ranch (now part of Washington State Parks and closed to the public). Follow the trail to the ranch (marked as Pond Connector) to wander among the buildings and enjoy the views. There is a second restroom facility and parking lot just above Dalles Mountain Road (not easily seen from the trail).
Return to the trail and head southeast along the Vista Loop trail to the junction with Military Road, a place you stood earlier in the day. Turn right and follow the trail as you did before but this time turn left when you arrive at the junction with Eightmile Alternate trail. Descend through the upper reaches of the old homestead and turn right at the junction just before crossing Eightmile Creek and heading back down Entry Road to your car.
The entire upper loop is 3.5 miles and begins from Crawford Ranch. You can access that trailhead by turning left on (gravel road) Dalles Mountain Road, located about one-half mile after turning right onto SR-14 from Highway 197. After three miles on this gravel road, turn right at the old wagon to find a large parking lot and restrooms on your left just beyond the ranch buildings.
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Preserve the Wonder Hike Challenge
This spring’s hike challenge highlights the many wonders of the Gorge.