This gem of a hike on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge offers spectacular views of the Columbia River, spring wildflowers, and Oregon White Oak woodlands. Owned by the Friends of the Columbia Gorge (FOG), the property is the centerpiece of their acquisitions and restoration is consistent with the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act of 1986.
Originally an out and back trail, WTA volunteers worked with FOG staff to design and construct two additional loops off of the main trail. The short eastern loop (Cherry Loop) takes a clockwise journey through a meadow that was once the site of the namesake Cherry Orchard. The last survivor from the cherry tree farm days appears at the far eastern end of the meadow and blooms in the spring.
Hike the Cherry Orchard Loop for a 5-mile roundtrip outing, or the slightly shorter Lyle Loop at 4 miles roundtrip. Hiking both means you’ll end your day having done about 6.5 miles total.
The Cherry Orchard is mostly an out-and-back trip, which climbs from Highway 14 steeply up to a plateau where the Columbia River view opens up and stays with you as you climb through a diverse meadow of spring-time wildflowers: death camas, grass widow, larkspur, glacier lilies, shooting star, locoweed, and balsamroot, to name a few.
The trail switchbacks up another slope before traversing east along the top of the ridge to a short loop at the end. Throughout the hike is an Oregon White Oak (aka “Garry Oak”) woodland. This route provides hikers with a fantastic view towards The Dalles from the small loop.
The Lyle Loop also uses the trail up from Highway 14 that crosses the plateau and then switchbacks up the ridge through a Garry Oak grove and past wildflowers. The loop portion of the Lyle Loop route is much longer, and the trail heads to the west. This route is best hiked counterclockwise. Sticking to this direction reduces congestion and the need to pass people on the trail that can be narrow where it runs along steep slopes above the town of Lyle.
At the farthest end of the Lyle Loop, the trail moves into Ponderosa pine mixed with oak. From here the path enters a vast meadow and a downstream view of the Gorge. At the far end of the high meadow is an overlook of the town of Lyle, seated at the mouth of the Klickitat River. The Lyle Loop continues across this meadow and rejoins the main trail at about 0.8 miles from the parking lot.
We recommend that hikers walk the Lyle Loop in a counter-clockwise direction to reduce the need to pass people on the narrow trail. The narrow trail above the town helps the trail blend into the hillside preserving the scenic beauty of the Gorge. To some this narrow section may seem too undeveloped or unfinished, but it was purposefully designed that way. WTA built this section of trail following strict policies for trails that are visible from key viewing areas such as Rowena Crest Viewpoint.
Friends of the Columbia River Gorge Founder Nancy Russell purchased several land parcels in the early 1990s to form what is known today as the Lyle Cherry Orchard. Many of the sections were secured from longtime Lyle resident Rex Bullis.
As Nancy explored the property, she found the remnants of an old cherry orchard on the eastern boundary and named the property for its agricultural history. The trail was built in 1992.
Nancy passed away in 2008 and the land was donated to the Friends of the Gorge Land Trust in 2009. Land Trust acquisition is a goal of The Friends.
Washington Trails Association partners with The Friends to ensure that good trails are maintained, and fragile plant species preserved.