Springtime is showtime in the Columbia River Gorge for one big reason — wildflowers. The best way to see the blooms is by foot along one of the area’s many hiking trails — but you’ll want to plan ahead before making the drive. Allow us to present one of our fav candidates for consideration: Catherine Creek Loop Trail.
- Starting point: Catherine Creek Recreation Area
- Difficulty: Easy
- Distance: 1.9 miles
- Route type: Loop
- Elevation gain: 383 ft
- Trail surface: Dirt, rocks, bridges
- Wheelchair accessible: Only on the paved south loop
- Open: Year round
- Dog friendly: Yes, on leash
After parking in a small pull out area at the trailhead, you’ll walk a few hundred feet to a split, where you can choose to take the trail clockwise or counterclockwise. You’ll cross bridges spanning seasonal streams, crest bluffs with sweeping views of the Gorge + pass through a canyon with a natural rock arch.
The land was a ranch before the US Forest Service acquired it in 1987 to protect its scenic, cultural, natural + recreational resources. Parts of the original path are still being decommissioned and rerouted, so staying on the right trail can be tricky without a map or GPS.
Why you should try it
Over 90 native species of wildflowers grow here, having adapted to the thin, dry soils created by Ice Age-era floods and seasonal wetlands. Some start blooming in February, while others prefer to sleep in + wait until June and July — you can time your visit depending on what flowers you hope to spot.
On a late April evening, we saw lupine, balsamroot, pungent desert parsley, camas, saskatoon, death camas, triteleia, larkspur, fiddleneck, and even a few plucky bitterroot blooms. Parts of the trail wind past swaths of seablush with powder-pink puffs. We also spotted a pair of mountain bluebirds + Lewis’ woodpeckers.
You can avoid paying the toll at the Bridge of the Gods by driving north to Vancouver, then following SR-14 east. Download an app with satellite maps like AllTrails to keep from wandering off on the main path. If you bring your dog, be sure to keep it on a leash + check for ticks afterward. We had the trail almost to ourselves on a stormy evening mid-week.
Let us know
Did you try this hike? Do you know of one we should check out? Send us your thoughts + recommendations.