This post will be the first in my series about our Spring Break trip to the Columbia River Gorge. I’m breaking our outings down into bite-sized chunks. Other posts in this series will include:
- Visiting the waterfalls on the Oregon side of the Gorge [Added 4/21/14]
- Columbia Hills State Park, including camping, hiking, and viewing petroglyphs [Added 5/28/14]
- Visiting the Observatory in Goldendale [Added 5/31/14]
- The Columbia River Gorge Discovery Center and History Museum in The Dalles [Added 7/26/14]
- Bonneville Dam and the various attractions
We used my parent’s home near Vancouver, WA as a base camp for our spring break vacation this year. On one of the sunny days that we had last week, we took my 94-year-old grandmother out for a drive up Highway 14 and the Washington side of the Gorge. I wanted to give her a change of scenery and let her see some flowers and wide-open views.
The Catherine Creek Trailhead has a couple of different options for whatever level of hiking you want to do. The easiest is on the south side of the trailhead, where there is a paved nature trail that is wheelchair accessible. I was there last year at the end of April, and I was amazed at the numbers and kinds of flowers that were blooming. This year we were a bit earlier, and the flowers were just getting started.
Meadowlarks were constantly singing from the meadows north of the road. The sun was bright and warm – we were overdressed in our long pants and long-sleeved shirts. I was hoping Grandma would be able to walk down to the first bench only a few hundred feet along the trail, but she wasn’t feeling up for the walk on this day. I enjoyed the walk myself, moving quickly along, while looking at the flowers and taking in the view.
Aaron and the kids went on the trail to the north, up to the Natural Arch. When they came back, I heard tales of various lizards and butterflies. If they had wanted, they could have extended their hike to make a longer loop.
I was a bit sad that Grandma was only up for a drive and sitting in the car with the windows open, but I know it meant a lot for her to go out for the day. There were other older ladies out with their companions, and I know it’s a popular place for those who have some mobility challenges. It really is a wonderful trail system, with several options for whatever your mood. Gabe said it would have been worth the drive if only for the lizards, Annika talked about the butterflies for days, and I got my fix of flowers.
If You Go: The Catherine Creek Universal Access Trail has two loops. One is about 0.75 mile, and one is 1.25 mile. There are benches along the way to rest. You won’t need a pass to park, but you’ll need to bring your own TP for the porta-potty, and you won’t find any other services there. The Catherine Creek Natural Arch Trail gives you the option of a longer loop of about 2.5 miles, unless you only want to walk the 0.5 mile up to the arch, and then come back, as my family did. There is poison oak in this area, so educate yourself and watch your children closely. Ticks can also be a problem here. Prepare for sun and wind, and enjoy the scenery!