Catherine Creek Recreation Area

Area Status: Open
A paved trail winds through a small stand of oaks.

One of the premier areas for early spring wildflower viewing in the eastern Columbia River Gorge, Catherine Creek Recreation Area is popular each spring before it dries up by mid summer. The trailhead and parking north of Old Highway 8 are the access point to a network of multi-use biker/hiker/equestrian trails. The site was once a ranch before being acquired by the Forest Service to protect native plants, the unique arch formation, and other sensitive resources after the creation of the National Scenic Area. 

Bear right to start the Catherine Creek Loop Trail, which is gradually being improved by the Forest Service and the Washington Trails Association. Take a slight left to follow Old Atwood Road, a route popular with mountain bikers. 

The harder-to-follow Bitterroot Trail #4422 also leads west, eventually connecting to the Coyote Wall Area. This route began as a user-created trail, and has never been officially "built" by the Forest Service, so it is easy to get lost.

The agency agreed to maintain some of the trails created by users after a 2012 planning effort. Each year more trail improvements are implemented, and in 2019 a new bridge was constructed over Catherine Creek. Other area trails are being decommissioned to protect native plants, so do your best to stay on marked trails and avoid areas and respect signs that mark areas under restoration. A new kiosk is being designed in 2019. Once installed, this will make navigation and trail rules much clearer. 




Grasswidow bloom in Catherine Creek area. Photo by Darryl Lloyd Falls on lower Catherine Creek. Photo by Darryl Lloyd Coyote Burdoin Catherine Creek Map A paved trail winds through a small stand of oaks. A group of small purple flowers with thin leaves.

At a Glance

Current Conditions: 3/3/23: Damaged bridge on lower trail impeding ADA wheelchair access on the west side (out and back OK) East side is wheelchair passable.
Fees: No Fee
Open Season: Year-round
Usage: Medium-Heavy
Restrictions: Dogs on leash in Catherine Creek planning area year round. Dogs on leash in Coyote/Bourdian planning areas December 1st through June 30th. Horses may use Coyote/Bourdian planning areas May 1st through November 30th. Horse party size can't exceed 8 horses. Catherine Creek planning area closed to mountain bikes. Mountain bikes and horses must stay on designated trails.
Closest Towns: Bingen, WA; Lyle, WA
Water: No
Restroom: Yes, Mid January - early June accessible portable toilet.
Operated By: Forest Service
Information Center: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

General Information


From Bingen, WA: Travel east on Washington State Highway 14 approximately 4.6 miles to mile post 71 and the junction with Old Highway 8 (County Road 1230) on the left. Turn left onto County Road 1230 at Rowland Lake and follow it 1.4 miles to the Catherine Creek parking lot on the north side of the road.

From Lyle, WA: Travel west on Washington State Highway 14 approximately 1/4 mile and take a right onto Old Hwy 8 (County Road 1230). It is an immediate right after crossing the Klickitat River. Follow Old Hwy 8 for approximately 4.8 miles to the Catherine Creek parking lot on the north side of the road.


Parking fills early on spring weekends. Parking is an undeveloped gravel shoulder along the county road. Park as organized as possible, without blocking others or impeding traffic. Cars that cross the fog line can be towed. 

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Day Hiking

The interpretive trail (south of the highway) offers the best Gorge panoramas, with informative tidbits about the area. It is paved, but there are rough sections along the way.

North of Old Highway 8, a rugged trail system originally created by users has now been integrated into a Forest Service plan and is undergoing gradual improvements every year. Please respect any signs indicating that sections of trail are being decommissioned.

General Info:

Safety Information

Watch for ticks, poison oak, and rattlesnakes. 

Seasonal Information

This site is most popular in spring, as it tends to be sunnier than the rest of the Gorge and one of the first areas where spring wildflowers emerge.

By mid summer, the site dries up and crowds thin. 

Fall is one of the best seasons, as gentle rains green up the landscape but crowds don't reach the same levels as the spring peak. 

Areas for Day Hiking at Catherine Creek Recreation Area

Viewing Plants

A group of small purple flowers with thin leaves.Over ninety species of wildflowers can be found in the area from Grass widow which blankets the ground as early as February to Western Ladies Tresses that may bloom into July. Please protect the sensitive soils and plants by staying on existing trails!  

Areas for Viewing Plants at Catherine Creek Recreation Area

Viewing Scenery

A person looks across the Columbia River at the landscape.

The eastern Gorge's unique rugged beauty is on full display in this open area. 

Hikers can also enjoy the sight of the natural rock arch on the Catherine Creek loop, which is now protected by a fence. It is illegal to enter the fenced area, but more importantly, please keep your distance as a way to respect and protect the arch, which is both a natural wonder and a site of cultural importance to local Native American tribes. 

Areas for Viewing Scenery at Catherine Creek Recreation Area