Columbia River Gorge: Hiking the Coyote Wall / Labyrinth Area, WA

1 06 2017

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Like the Lower Deschutes River area, the Washington side of the eastern Columbia River Gorge offers beautiful spring hikes with lots of SUN, whereas it might be cloudy in the Portland, OR area. This spring, I discovered the Coyote Wall / Labyrinth trail system.

To reach this beautiful area, take I-84 east from Portland, and cross the Hood River Bridge to the Washington side. Head east on Hwy 14 past Bingen. In about 3-4 miles you’ll encounter a lake on the left. That’s Locke Lake. To reach Labyrinth you’ll have to walk along the north lake shore road maybe a mile to get to its trailhead.

The Washington side of the Eastern Gorge is ideal in early spring because like a solar collector, it faces south, it is sparsely treed,  so it gets lots and lots of sun. This trail system climbs some 1,775 to max out at 1,895 ft elevation. It is shared by mountain bikers and hikers – and their canine friends.

If you like waterfalls, sparse trees, immense views, and wildflowers – and who doesn’t? This system is for you. But if you cannot handle some climbing be warned. It may be that the beauty will just carry you through.

I had recently been to the next-door Catherine Creek trail system. Catherine Creek is so open as to be boring in comparison. Catherine Creek has vast open fields which seem to go on forever. Alternatively Labyrinth has countless micro “worlds” filled with little canyons, trees, flowers, waterfalls and views popping out. Each one different.

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It’s possible to lose one’s way up there, so I suggest consulting an online guide with detailed instructions before heading out.

Laura and I encountered countless wildflowers along the trail.

 

One after the other, these little canyons keep coming, and then, the trail leads to an eye popping view of the entire eastern Columbia River Gorge. The trail eventually leads to the Coyote Wall, which is an escarpment some 70 feet above a valley and goes along a mile or so.

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Now, that’s a time to pause, relax, and take stock of life for a bit! On this day, we were really fortunate to be treated to calm winds. And, the hills were literally “flowing,” draining the burden of the spring rains!

In mid-summer, like many places in the eastern Gorge, this place bakes. So at that time of year, I’d probably pick another hike. But perfect in spring!

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That’s 11,240 ft Mt Hood!


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