PDX Runs: Coyote Wall

Coyote Wall seen from the Oregon side. Photos by Julie Baker.

The Columbia Gorge seems like a world away from the city of Portland, with countryside, hills, shimmering water, hills, bikers, hills, and—did I mention hills?

Coyote Wall is a close-in gorge trail run (about one hour from Portland) that offers all of the above in abundance. My route racked up 2,000 feet of elevation gain as I traversed steep, grassy slopes and took in wide open vistas.

The wall itself (above) is a shelf of columnar basalt known to locals as "the Syncline." The trail system here is a mountain bike playground with accompanying running and hiking tracks.

Runners can pick their challenge here: shorter and steeper, or longer with more gradual climbing.

The route I planned to take started at the parking lot, with about .5 miles on a paved, pedestrian road before arriving at the trail entrance. Take a left at the gap in the fence, marked with stones, and head uphill. Take a left onto Little Moab Trail, which will wind its way to Old Ranch Road.

There is a marked sign at the intersection of Old Ranch Road and Coyote Wall Trail. Turn left here and head up Coyote Wall. Foot traffic mostly seems to stay on the main path here, but it will be crossed by mountain bike paths.

At the top of the wall, you’ll run into a patch of green forest. When the path comes to a T, take a left and then look for a single-track path on your left to take you down close to the wall. This single-track path will return you to Coyote Wall’s main path, which you then head back down.

For a slightly different route, retrace your steps down Old Ranch Road but turn onto Little Maui Trail to head back to the trail entrance.

The terrain is rugged out here, and running along Little Moab you’re right on the precipice, which makes for panoramic views any time you need an excuse to stop.

Signage was inconsistent and we had to check our phones a few times to see if we were on the right track. I ran 9.7 miles on my visit, but that included a few exploratory detours. Sticking to the plan will reduce the distance by a couple of miles.

You’ll see bikers, hikers, and runners alike making their way up the zigzag trails at Coyote Wall. Everyone on the trails was polite, including the dogs (who are supposed to be leashed).

While the weather was pleasant and not too hot in November, I wished I had a water pack with me for the way down. There is little to no shade for most of the trail.

This run offers:

  • Columbia Gorge views
  • Free parking
  • Vault toilet at the start
  • Elevation changes
  • Friendly users

Directions:

You'll find "Coyote Wall Trailhead" in your GPS with a White Salmon address. To get there, head east on I-84 out of Portland. Take the Hood River (exit 64) and pay the $2 toll to cross the Hood River Bridge. (They do take credit cards.) Turn right after crossing the bridge, and stay on WA 14 for about 5 miles. Take a left onto Courtney Road and a right into the parking spaces.

Learn more about Coyote Wall at the Forest Service website.

 

Julie Baker is a former collegiate swimmer who runs for the Portland Running Company Race Team. She lives in Portland with her husband and two small children. Email baker.juliew@gmail.com.

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