“A simple hike up the elevated trail, then if you desire complexity, continue up the canyon for great views.”
— Matt Freeman
Birding · River/Creek · Swimming · Views
A U.S. Fee and Day Use area.
This site is rich with mining history. The trail got its name from a 4-inch steel pipe, then an 18-inch steel pipe that was suspended from the canyon walls starting about three miles upstream (Whitewater Canyon) where the water source was reliable. Workers that maintained the pipeline found some parts of the line similar to a catwalk... There was a lot of exposure, so confidence with heights and good balance was a must to work on the pipeline.
The first half mile of Catwalk National Recreation Trail
was recently reconstructed to meet American Disability Act (ADA) after a flash flood wiped out much of the elevated catwalk trail. Now it's wheelchair accessible to the end of the reconstructed trail, about 0.5 miles one-way.
If the curious cat in you wants more, at the end of the reconstructed catwalk, drop down to the stream bed and follow the sometimes visible old trail. Some portions that are elevated (catwalk), and others a singletrack trail, but all parts no longer maintained. You are on your own to figure how to wander up the stream. If you don't want to get your feet wet, Hmmmm, that darn cat theme again?... then climbing with a bit of exposure is required to follow the old elevated pipeline route.
Need to Know
This is a U.S. Fee Area.
Begin the hike with a brief review of the information and warning signs at the trailhead. The area close to the trailhead has numerous picnic areas dispersed in the canyon.
After a short distance to a steel bridge, choose the ADA Catwalk National Recreation Trail Alternate
by crossing the bridge, or remain on the trail and get a bit more exposure to steep grades and a narrower trail. The two trails quickly merge in the canyon on the elevated catwalk trail.
The reconstructed catwalk trail ends at a half mile. Drop down to the riverbed and begin hiking upstream. Look for the sections of the trail that still remain. Some segments are washed out, and it's necessary to drop down to the stream bed to continue. The trail crosses Whitewater Creek once. Depending on the amount of water, wade, hop, or find a log to cross.
As you wander up the creek, notice the evidence of steel anchors used to attach the pipelines to the walls of the canyon.
Eventually, climb out of the stream bed and find a trail intersection Gold Dust Trail #41. This is where the canyon opens up a bit and the trail is much easier to follow, although the trail does not appear to be maintained. Follow the trail up the creek to experience a remarkable diversity of plants and trees. The trail is marked with flagging and a few cairns.
The last segment appears to be an old roadbed, perhaps used to haul supplies to construct the pipeline from the upper segment of the canyon. I turned around at a large washout stream bed. Clearly there is plenty more canyon to explore for the curious cat.
Flora & Fauna
The upper canyon is a cool arboretum. Juniper, Douglas Fir, Ponderosa Pine, Sycamore trees, Pinion trees, Oak, and Live Oak all thrive there, along with bunch grass, a variety of cactus and succulents, and other unknown shrubs and forbs.
History & Background
This site was used for gold and silver mining. The catwalk trail was originally a pipeline attached to the canyon walls used to transport water for mining activities.