- Maintain physical distance. Maintain recommended physical distancing of six feet from other people. Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times.
- Do not gather in groups. Trail is closed to groups of more than 5 people. Do not congregate at overlooks or rest spots.
- Share the trail. Warn other trail users of your presence as you pass to allow proper distance. Stay single file when passing others.
- Be courteous. Wearing a mask or face covering is recommended, especially when passing others. Do not use this trail of you feel sick or are displaying COVID-19 symptoms.
The Lyle Cherry Orchard trail starts at the east end of the parking area, against the rocks. The trail starts climbing immediately. About 1/8 of a mile up, you will come to a sign-in box and trailhead sign. This land is owned by Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust. Please sign in and use the boot brush to clean your boots, at the beginning and end of your hike. Yellow starthistle is abundant here. We are taking actions to control it and need your help! We are trying to keep this weed from spreading into the uninfested eastern part of the property
The trail continues to climb up a small draw. After about a mile, the trail splits: the westward trail takes you to a beautiful bench, and the eastward trail leads you up a steep climb with switchbacks to the cherry orchard and summit. This trail passes a seasonal pond, then comes to a dirt road. Turn right and pass an old homestead site and grassy area. Not many cherry trees have survived in the orchard, but some can be found at the eastern edge of the property.
The Big 3 (ticks, rattlesnakes and poison oak) all can be found on the Cherry Orchard trail at different times of the year. Please be aware!
- With its southern exposure and open landscape, the Cherry Orchard trail is one of the best early spring hikes in the Gorge. Best times to hike are February through May (with the peak of the wildflowers being mid-to-late April) and September and October.
- The hike has both great western and eastern views of the Gorge.
- As you climb hundreds of feet up the hillsides facing the Columbia River, look for river pebbles on the trail deposited here by the Ice Age Floods.
To ensure the best experience for you and other hikers please follow these rules:
- Start your hike from the trailhead on HWY 14.
- Stay on designated trails (there are sensitive plants, cliff edges, and private property very close to trails in some areas).
- No motorized vehicles, horses, or bicycles on trails. Steepness and trail construction is designed for pedestrians only plus motorized vehicles could precipitate fires in the summer.
- Smoking and fires are prohibited.
- No hunting (neighbors have requested this and Friends would like as much wildlife as possible on the land).
- Use the boot brush at the beginning and end of your hike so not to bring new weeds on to the site and from spreading those that may have clung to your shoes, equipment, or clothing to new locations.
- Keep dogs on leash (dogs can disturb sensitive areas, disrupt nesting birds, collect ticks and poison oak, and spread noxious weeds)
- From 1997-1999, trail builders Daryl Hoyt and Krista Thie did some rerouting and maintenance of the trail for Nancy Russell.
- In 2006 Chinook Trail Association conducted a work party to do trail maintenance in honor of Nancy and Bruce Russell.
- In 2013, the land trust removed a dilapidated house and outbuildings. Check out the before and after photos.
- In 2015, volunteers removed over 1700 feet of fencing on the property.
- Yellow starthistle control began in 2015 and major stewardship efforts are planned in the coming years.
History of the Cherry Orchard Property
- This 540-acre property in the eastern Gorge showcases the cake-layered basalt walls carved by the Ice Age Floods.
- Friends' founder Nancy Russell was drawn to its beauty and purchased several properties that today comprise the entire Cherry Orchard property. Check out this video at the 8:53 mark to hear Nancy talk about the property.
- Nancy named the property for an old abandoned cherry orchard at the top of the eastern boundary.
- The land is also home to remnants of 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 the now Historic Columbia River Highway on their side of the river.
- The property is also home to the “Lyle” sign that sits above the community.
- Nancy Russell’s estate bequeathed the Cherry Orchard property to Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust in 2009 to preserve this trail and scenic landscape.
Driving DirectionsLyle Cherry Orchard Trailhead: Cross the Hood River Bridge ($2 toll). Head east on WA Hwy 14 and travel about 11 miles into the town of Lyle. Continue past the town of Lyle and look for the gravel parking area just past the tunnel on your left/north side of highway.
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)
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)