Labyrinth......this word evokes feelings of mystery and intrigue. It conjures up images of secret passageways winding through a maze. Does it get your attention? It did mine!
So when I discovered a trail in the Gorge called the Labyrinth, well I just had to go hike it!
|Follow the road to the labyrinth|
Located on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge, between Coyote Wall and Catherine Creek, the Labyrinth provides a connection between the trail networks for both areas. Although I've hiked both places multiple times, this middle Labyrinth trail had never come up on my radar.
|Surprise waterfall (with rainbow!)|
Doing a bit of online research I discovered a plethora of trails connecting Coyote Wall, Catherine Creek and the Labyrinth. I could do a loop from the Labyrinth east to Catherine Creek. Or I could do a loop to the west and pick up some of the Coyote Wall trails. Which direction should I go? So many choices!
|Enter the labyrinth.....|
I ended up at the Labyrinth Trailhead one sunny Friday morning in March, still undecided on which direction to go. As with many of my treks, I'd chosen to wing it and make my decisions along the way. After parking in a gravel pull-out right off Highway 14, I shouldered my backpack and headed down an abandoned gravel road. This road, formerly the old highway, headed straight west and would eventually connect near the Coyote Wall trailhead.
|Mt Hood and Columbia River|
But I'd only follow this road for a mere half mile before coming to the official Labyrinth trailhead. Despite it's short distance, the road walk packed a lot of beauty. I enjoyed early morning views of the calm Columbia River and Mt Hood poking it's snowy peak above the hills on the Oregon side. I also passed by a lovely tall waterfall roaring down an adjacent basalt cliff, complete with a surprise rainbow!
The official Labyrinth trailhead looked intriguing from the start. The path zig-zagged uphill past a few scraggly oak trees before winding behind a large basalt outcropping. What was beyond there? I was about to find out.
|Another lovely cascade hidden within basalt walls|
A stiff climb from the start, I puffed uphill past the first basalt palisade. To my delight I discovered a few purple grass widows blooming beside the trail. The higher I hiked the more of these flowers I spotted. Some photography may or may not have happened. (Trailside wildflowers always tend to slow me down!)
|Color spot beneath gnarly tree branches|
I passed by another beautiful waterfall, hidden deep in a basalt-walled canyon. I couldn't get close enough to get a decent photo, so had to rely on the pathetic zoom of my 18-55 lens. Still it was a wonderful surprise for this trail with the mysterious name.
|Columbia River water patterns|
|Yellow spots of desert parsley|
Then I continued climbing. I passed a junction with the Desert Parsley Trail, but decided to keep going. From my crude map printed off the internet, I knew the Labyrinth Trail eventually intersected with Atwood Road, an abandoned road that now served as a connector between Catherine Creek and Coyote Wall.
|Grass widows were everywhere!|
|More Mt Hood views|
|Lone oak tree above the river|
|I finally reach Atwood Road!|
|Fantastic lunch spot|
After seeing few hikers on the Labyrinth, I ran into several large groups along Atwood Road. Every flat spot with views seemed to be claimed by people taking lunch breaks. Hungry, and now past noon, I kept on towards the Catherine Creek trail junction, hoping to find someplace to take a break. Reaching the Catherine Creek junction, I decided not to continue any farther east and instead retrace my steps back along Atwood Road. Lucky for me, I remembered the locations for most of the fantastic lunch viewpoints, and on my return trip came across one that was now unoccupied. Aaahh...finally! Lunch, rest, and a fabulous view was just what I needed!
|Hundreds of grass widows!|
|Purple spots everywhere|
|I couldn't believe the huge grass widow bloom|
And, still I found grass widows blooming in force! I think I picked the right week to enjoy peak bloom.
|Looking down on the labyrinth and river|
|Waterfall from Little Maui Trail|
|The end is in sight!|
By the time I arrived at the trailhead, my left wrist was throbbing. A mini mart stop for some ice and an empty sandwich bag provided an makeshift ice pack for the ride home. The following morning a trip to urgent care confirmed nothing was broken (luckily just a bad bruise to my left wrist).
Despite the unhappy ending, it was still a wonderful day in the Gorge exploring this new trail with the mysterious name. And it was a winner! I'll definitely be adding the Labyrinth to next year's spring hiking lineup.
Nearly 9 miles and 1800 feet total elevation gain for the day's impromptu loop.
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