You can hike and stay cool on this trail south of the Tri-Cities

How to stay safe when you’re running or hiking a trail

Law enforcement and other experts suggest these tips on how to stay safe when you're running or hiking a trail.
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Law enforcement and other experts suggest these tips on how to stay safe when you're running or hiking a trail.

If you are looking for a shaded day hike you can enjoy anytime during the summer, just look a couple hours south into Oregon.

Leave around 8 a.m., get to the trailhead east of La Grande before noon and then take a leisurely walk up the North Fork of Catherine Creek in time to set up dinner.

The trail — which leads to the Eagle Cap Wilderness — is well maintained and relatively gentle on your legs, with just a few short ups and downs.

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Paul Krupin on the North Fork Catherine Creek Trail. Courtesy Paul Krupin

It is a delightful walk through shady mature forest with large spruce and fir trees along the creek.

You’ll pass through several ecosystems and see all kinds of wildflowers, as well as interesting and even colorful mushrooms.

What to expect

The well-graded trail to the meadow follows the creek up a long, curving U-shaped valley created by an ancient glacier.

It’s 5 miles in and out with an elevation gain of 1,400 feet. Once you get to the meadow, the sky opens up and offers views of the valley and surrounding slopes.

You might see deer, elk or even black bear, especially at dusk and at sunrise. Don’t miss the 1900-era cabin at the upper end of the meadow.

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Horseshoes hang on a nail at the 100 year old cabin. Courtesy Paul Krupin

You can camp along the edges of the small stream that winds through the valley. Expect to see a spectacular view of the stars.

In the morning you can enjoy the sunrise changing the colors of the mountains.

On the way back, you can stop for a well-deserved meal at L.J. Brewski’s in Union, Oregon. The door handles are antlers, the signs are memorable and the beer is as good as it gets.

Getting there

  • Take 395 South to Hermiston and head east on I-84 to La Grande.
  • Head south on Highway 203 for 14 miles towards Union, Oregon.
  • In Union, turn left on East Beakman Street and follow the signs to keep going on Highway 203 (also known as Medical Springs Highway).
  • Go 11 miles to Catherine Creek Lane (which becomes Forest Road 7785). Turn left on Catherine Creek Lane and go 4.2 miles to the North Fork Catherine Creek Recreation Area sign.
  • The campsites are on the left side of the road after the sign. Park and start hiking.
  • You’ll need to have a Northwest Forest Pass for your car at the trailhead. The trail is open from June to mid-November.
Paul Krupin is an avid local outdoor enthusiast and a member of the Intermountain Alpine Club (www.imacnw.org). He can be reached at pjkrupin@gmail.com.