The Crab Creek Trail is a short but scenic hike among the rocks and reeds of the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge. Offering grand views of basalt cliffs above seasonal lakes, along with myriad bird species, the reward here for your effort is high. The patient hiker will be able to hear many bird songs, and may even spot a coyote or other wildlife.
The trail starts at the basalt pillar and an excellent sign board with a detailed map of the trail network. Follow the signs for Crab Creek Trail, heading to the left just past the pillar. The path immediately enters sagebrush and tall grass, home to many of the small birds that can be heard. Early spring is a great season to listen for birds, while rattlesnakes are still out of sight.
The path follows along the edge of a bank that overlooks the dammed water of Crab Creek. Songbirds can now be heard as a full choir of delightful chirps, whistles, and whoops. The chorus creates a soundtrack for the landscape, and brings a delightful softness to the hardness of the rocks and the sky.
At 0.4 mile is a short side trail that heads left to an impressive crater. This curious formation fits perfectly into an already bizarre, inhospitable landscape. The round trip to the crater and back adds just 0.2 miles to the total mileage, and is well worth the extra effort. This may also make a good turnaround point for those who feels content with a 1.0 mile round trip hike.
Back at the junction, the main trail now heads down a crumbling staircase made of railroad ties into the lower basin. The nearby vegetation here is a profusion of head high riparian grasses competing for real estate in the soggy valley bottom. The trail is literally a lane cut into the grass, and meanders gently, avoiding the muddiest dips along the way.
At 0.8 mile the path diverges in a brambled wood. Both lanes are short, but the righthand option has a sign commemorating the 2003 fire. This lane also offers a view of a small waterfall spilling into Crab Creek. The two lanes soon converge back into one path heading toward a series of cliffs where raptors often spiral high on morning thermals against the deep blue sky.
After nearing the main road, the path heads away from the cliffs, crosses a weathered bridge, and ends at the northern trailhead at 1.3 mile. A sign across the road marks the end of pedestrian territory, as the wetlands beyond are closed to preserve sand hill crane habitat. If coming from Moses Lake, it makes sense to start here and do this hike in reverse.