Eagle Creek to Punchbowl Falls
Central Gorge, Oregon
Punchbowl Falls (photographer: Margot Kelley)
Hike Details
Type:
Out and back
Distance:
3.8 miles round trip
Elevation Gain:
500 feet
Difficulty:
Easy
Trail Features
Family Friendly:
No
Restrooms:
Yes
Trailhead Pass:
Trail Details
WildflowersWaterfallWaterfall
Possibly as impressive as the Gorge itself is the story of how this recreational area was built. It was created in the early 1900s as part of an effort to begin preserving parkland areas in the Columbia River Gorge, where industry was rapidly encroaching. In some sections, workers used dynamite to blast the trail into the side of the cliffs. Soon thousands of people could enjoy areas that were impossible to traverse otherwise. The original trail has remained nearly unchanged to this day.
 
The Eagle Creek to Punchbowl Falls hike is one of the shorter options for taking in the beauty of the Gorge, and perhaps the most popular. Starting at the trailhead, take the wide, well-groomed trail along the creek for a stretch, then alternating in and out of a young deciduous forest before beginning to take on elevation.
 
Before you've gone a half-mile, you'll find yourself high above the creek, which has now opened up to a glorious valley. Many months the fog hangs low in the canyon, blocking your view of the snow-encrusted cliff-sides towering around you. In places, the trail is narrow and the drop-off is quite steep. Cable lines were built into the walls in sections to provide some stability.
 
Greenery abounds along the Eagle Creek trail. As the trail steadily gains elevation, it begins to divert away from the creek. You'll notice the quiet as you ascend away from the rushing water and deeper into the lush old-growth forests of Douglas fir, cedar and hemlock. Dewy ferns, moss-covered rocks, and sometimes poison oak blanket the forest floor. You will be surprised at the beauty and quiet of these sections, which at times are like scenes from a fairy tale.
 
- Hike descriptions were collaboratively written with the generous support of oregonhikers.org.

Driving Directions

Eagle Creek Trailhead:  Traveling eastbound on I-84, take Exit #41. At the bottom of the ramp turn right. Go about 1/2 mile to the end of the road. You will go past a footbridge (that takes hikers up to Wauna Viewpoint) as the road narrows to one lane. Continue a short ways to a large parking lot; park only in designated spaces. NW Forest Pass required. Coming from the east, there is no westbound exit at Exit #41/Eagle Creek. You must continue on I-84 and get off at Exit #40/Bonneville Dam, get back on the interstate and head east for one mile to Exit #41. At the bottom of the ramp turn right. Go about 1/2 mile to the end of the road. You will go past a footbridge (that takes hikers up to Wauna Viewpoint) as the road narrows to one lane. Continue a short ways to a large parking lot; park only in designated spaces. NW Forest Pass required.

Community Connection

Lyle Cherry Orchard’s trailhead is located approximately one mile from the Gorge town of Lyle and is home to the “Lyle” sign that sits above the community. Since this preserve was opened to the public the Lyle Cherry Orchard has provided the community with an accessible natural space right in their back yard. The sunny and dry preserve is the perfect hiking spot to visit during the rainier fall days in the western gorge. Visitors from the Gorge and beyond recreate on Lyle Cherry Orchard and in turn support the local economy.

Photo: View of town of Lyle from Lyle Cherry Orchard (Debbie Asakawa)

Preserve Story

The property where Lyle Cherry Orchard Preserve lies currently was once grazing land for cattle and as the name suggests the eastern part of the preserve held a cherry orchard. The orchard and its trees were well abandoned by the time Nancy Russell purchased the property piece by piece in the 1990’s and later donated it to Friends in 2009. Nancy purchased the property when it came up for sale because it was within key viewing areas on the Oregon side of the Gorge and would have most likely become subdivided for development.

The land is also home to remnants of Lyle Convict Road, a demonstration road built by Sam Hill to convince Washington legislators to fund a Columbia River Highway. When Washington showed no interest in Sam’s project, he invited the entire Oregon legislature to his Maryhill estate to see his "Good Roads" work and Oregon quickly agreed to build on their side of the river what is today the Historic Columbia River Highway.

The trail at Lyle Cherry Orchard was started in when Friends' founder Nancy Russell purchased the property and has been open to the public and maintained Friends and its land trust ever since. In 2019, Washington Trails Association started work to reroute some parts of the trail and add new trail to explore for the benefit of Gorge residents.

In 2013, the land trust and volunteers removed a dilapidated house and outbuildings on the southwestern end of the property. Countless hours were spent removing building materials, old vehicles, garbage, and debris. In 2015 volunteers removed over 1,700 feet of fencing material on the property to allow for the free movement of wildlife across the landscape. Without the help of Friends volunteers and Gorge community members, projects like this would not be possible.

Photos: Before and after cleanup at Lyle Cherry Orchard (Friends' archive)