The Syncline Trail on the Washington side of the Gorge is a prime spot for mountain biking, and the spectacular views of dramatic cliff faces, the Columbia River and Mt Hood found on the Coyote Wall section also make this one of the area’s best hikes.
The 20-mile trail system has endless options making it a good option for all skill levels, whether you want to do a morning run along the ridge, enjoy a leisurely walk through meadows bursting with wildflowers, or make a day of it by linking up with other trails like the Catherine Creek hike.
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Getting to the Syncline Trail and Coyote Wall
Locals refer to this entire recreation area as Syncline, which is about a five minute drive east of Bingen along Highway 14. Take the turnoff at Courtney Road across from Locke Lake, and there’s a parking area with washroom facilities that also serves as the trailhead.
From there, follow the paved Old Highway 8 to reach the different trail options which include:
- Coyote Wall Loop Trail: 6.8 miles, 1,624 feet elevation *best views
- Old Ranch Road and Little Maui Trail Loop: 3.9 miles, 646 feet elevation
- Little Moab: 0.8 miles, 814 feet elevation
- Labyrinth to Coyote Wall Loop: 6.7 miles, 1,489 feet elevation
Note: Directly across from the parking lot you’ll see a wooden structure with a dirt trail to the right of it. This leads to private land, so to access the Coyote Wall trailhead you’ll need to continue towards the washroom/roundabout where the new pathway begins.
The Coyote Wall hike
Coyote Wall is a massive formation of columnar basalt, which makes it a favorite spot for geologists. This distinguishable feature of the Gorge can also be seen from across the river in Mosier, Oregon, and a diverse population of rare and sensitive plants are found in the area.
To get to Coyote Wall, head up the trail and veer left onto Old Ranch Road which links up with Little Moab. Scramble over rock stairs and keep your head up for mountain bikers tearing down the trail as you make your way to the cliff edge, which has dramatic views looking straight down at winding Courtney Road, Locke Lake and the Columbia River Gorge.
Some choose to turn around here; otherwise, complete the loop by continuing up Coyote Wall Trail to Atwood Road where it loops back, then take Little Maui Trail back down to see a new vantage point of this fantastic Washington hike.
Tip: Short on time but want the view? Take the Old Ranch Road trail over to Little Moab which will take you straight up to Coyote Wall without doing the full loop. This out-and-back option is about 2.5 miles round trip, and takes about 45 minutes.
The Old Ranch Road and Little Maui Trail Loop
While this hike doesn’t have the wow factor of peering straight down Coyote Wall, it still has sweeping views of the Gorge with the bonus of a few additional waterfalls and streams.
Since it’s a loop you can either head to the right to start on Little Maui, or veer left to start on Old Ranch Road (which is closer to Coyote Wall). Those who start on Little Maui along the east side of Syncline are treated to great views of Mt Hood, wildflowers and stream crossings along a series of switchbacks.
The path eventually loops back to meet up with Old Ranch Road, and you’ll enjoy sweeping Gorge views on the way back down.
Note: This hike won’t get you over to Coyote Wall, so if you want that view you’ll need to link up with the Little Moab trail as you’re heading back down Old Ranch Road.
Tips for hiking Coyote Wall
- Dogs are permitted, but must be on a leash from December 1 to June 30 to protect nesting birds.
- Watch out for ticks, rattlesnakes and poison oak along the trail.
- As this is primarily a mountain bike trail, hikers should give cyclists the right of way by stepping off the side of the path as they approach.
- Spring is one of the best times to visit when the wildflowers are in bloom, and it’s also a good option for an off-season winter hike (though the trail can get quite muddy).
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:
- Why Mitchell Point trail is one of the best Hood River hikes
- Hiking the incredible Hamilton Mountain Trail in Washington
- The scenic Rowena Crest viewpoint in Oregon’s Columbia Gorge
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Tamara Elliott is the travel editor and founder of The Gorge Guide, which highlights the best experiences in the Columbia River Gorge. She’s an award-winning writer based in Hood River, Oregon, who particularly loves the area wineries and waterfall hikes. Tamara is also the founder of Globe Guide, which offers savvy tips for exploring destinations around the world.