Hiking Trails

Rimrock Trail

Columbia National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to see the power of the ice age floods that ripped the landscape of eastern Washington. The view above is from the Rimrock Trail and shows how the swirling waters and scouring rocks created pockets everywhere, pockets that would later be filled with water from the Columbia Basin Project.


Cross-country hiking is allowed in all areas open to public use; be aware of seasonal closures. There are three primary trails on the refuge, all starting at a trailhead 2.8 miles north of refuge offices on Morgan Lake Road (3.9 miles to a secondary trailhead). Two of the trails are out and back; one is a loop. The trails on Columbia National Wildlife Refuge are considered primitive and may be narrow, overgrown, uneven, steep, and/or unstable.

Map

 

Rimrock Trail

Difficulty: Moderate

The trail is 3.3-miles-long with an elevation gain of 200 feet. Although starting out near Crab Creek, this trail promptly leads into the drier shrub-steppe habitat. After meandering past striking columnar basalt formations, the trail ascends, circling the top of a mesa and provides a beautiful view of the surrounding refuge landscape. You have to return back along the same trail. Allow 2-3 hours.

 

Marsh Trail

Difficulty: Easy

The Marsh Loop is about 1.8-miles-long and has little elevation change; most of the trail is flat. This trail follows Crab Creek and circles two marshes, remaining in the lowlands near wetland habitat. The trail is open from March 1 through September 30. Allow an hour.

 

Crab Creek Trail

Difficulty: Moderate

This trail is a 1.0 mile that primarily follows Crab Creek, immersing one in its riparian habitat. With scattered willows and large patches of wild rose and golden currant, this trail is a favorite among birders. For an extended hike, you may follow an additional 3/4-mile section of trail connecting the Crab Creek Trail to the Rimrock and Marsh Loop trailheads. Caution: Where the trail climbs out of the marsh is steep and the substrate is not stable. Proceed with caution. This is also the only part of the trail that is difficult.

 

Crab Creek Spur Trail

Difficulty: Easy

As you get to the part of the Crab Creek Trail that drops down to creek level, you'll see a sign for a 780-foot spur that leads you to an interpretive panel related to the Ice Age floods. It's worth the 1,560-foot (0.3 miles) round trip.

 

Pipistrelle Cliffs Trail

Difficulty: Easy

This "trail" is not really a trail; it's a hike along a service road that takes you on a dike to Black Lake, which is located off the refuge. However, this is one of the best places to view the exemplary geology of the refuge, including columnar basalt, and the results of the Ice Age floods. The "trail" is about 3/4-miles in length one-way; you must backtrack to return to your vehicle. Take note that Black Lake and its shoreline are in private ownership, so please respect the property owners rights are remain away from the lake.