hike: Catherine Creek – Tracy Hill loop

The Catherine Creek area is known for spring wildflowers, but it also features panoramic views of the Columbia River from Tracy Hill on this scenic loop hike.

distance: 5 miles
elevation gain:  1,250 ft.
difficulty: moderate
best season: February-May
drive time from Portland: 1 hour 30 minutes
parking pass: none

Catherine Creek – Tracy Hill loop hike

screen grab of my track from the Gaia GPS app

The Hike

The east side of the Columbia River Gorge is a population destination in the spring for several reasons: spring wildflowers here are spectacular, and the drier climate offers a retreat from the rain that’s frequent farther west. It’s also known for ticks, rattlesnakes and poison oak, so I prefer to go early in the season when all three are less prevalent.

We parked at the Catherine Creek trailhead and took the trail to the right of the signboard. At the first trail split just after the trailhead, we stayed to the left on a wider gravel path and continued past this to cross Catherine Creek on a small wobbly bridge. Doing this loop clockwise provides better views on the descent.

Catherine Creek – Tracy Hill loop hikeCatherine Creek – Tracy Hill loop hikeCatherine Creek – Tracy Hill loop hike

The bridge here has seen better days, but it was easy to cross.

Catherine Creek – Tracy Hill loop hikeCatherine Creek – Tracy Hill loop hike

In this area, we missed the turn off for the eastern part of the loop, so we turned around and backtracked to it.

Catherine Creek – Tracy Hill loop hike

Grass widows were abundant along the lower sections of this hike.

Catherine Creek – Tracy Hill loop hike

The power lines were buzzing as we hiked under them.

Catherine Creek – Tracy Hill loop hikeCatherine Creek – Tracy Hill loop hike

The trail going up on the western side of the loop is steeper than the descent on the other side, and it alternates between open grassy sections and wooded sections.

Catherine Creek – Tracy Hill loop hikeCatherine Creek – Tracy Hill loop hikeCatherine Creek – Tracy Hill loop hikeCatherine Creek – Tracy Hill loop hikeCatherine Creek – Tracy Hill loop hike

Still going up!

Catherine Creek – Tracy Hill loop hike

Mount Hood comes into view near the top of the loop.

Catherine Creek – Tracy Hill loop hike

We stopped here at this rustic bench for lunch with a view.

Catherine Creek – Tracy Hill loop hikeCatherine Creek – Tracy Hill loop hike

Wildflowers were much more abundant on this side of the loop.

Catherine Creek – Tracy Hill loop hikeCatherine Creek – Tracy Hill loop hikeCatherine Creek – Tracy Hill loop hikeCatherine Creek – Tracy Hill loop hike

We were back at the trailhead soon after crossing this bridge.

Catherine Creek – Tracy Hill loop hike