Hike: Lyle Cherry Orchard Hike
Nearest Town: Lyle, WA
Mileage: 5.0 miles (there and back)
Difficulty: Moderate. Definitely no Dog Mountain, but it has a good amount of elevation gain.
Highlights: Go in spring to see the three flowering cherry trees and desert flowers. Awe-inspiring views. (originally hiked in May)
From Portland, take I-84 east to Hood River. Cross the Hood River Toll Bridge and turn right on Highway 14. Drive east through the towns of Bingen and Lyle. Just east of Lyle, you’ll drive through two tunnels. The trailhead is the first major turnout east of the tunnels.
|Take the trail from the parking lot up a winding canyon until you see a sign. DO NOT GO STRAIGHT, like I had the joy of doing, but follow the trail up the canyon, on the right side of the sign. Going straight leads to an old highway that’s interesting, but isn’t part of the Lyle Cherry Orchard hike.|
Heed the sign: BEWARE! Ticks and poison oak do frolic in these grassy fields.
According to the Friends of the Gorge website, Nancy Russell, the founder of the Friends, donated most of the land this trail meanders through. As a recently opened trail (the acquisition was completed in 2009), it was my first time hiking it.
This little-known gem of a hike on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge offers spectacular views of the Columbia River, amazing spring wildflowers and a forest of gnarled, old trees.
|The day was overcast with a chance of rain promised by the oracle that is weather.com. Once you emerge from the mix of oak and scrub, you have an endless view of east-side prairie. The trail climbs up the ridge through rich fields full of spring green and flowers in various stages of bloom. Lyle Cherry Orchard Plant List|
|Once I peaked the first ridge—no ma’am, you have not reached the top—I stopped and soaked up the view of the western reach of the Columbia River. I was on top of the world.|
|Then I turned back to face the continued uphill climb. Luckily, I had many chances to rest and stare off at the beauty of this hike. These Oregon white oak forests, with their gnarled trunks, puffy galls, and remnants of what looked like a burn, have a definite haunted look about them up here on the northern side of the gorge. About a third of the hike takes you through these forests. Watch for poison oak!|
|After a bit of a descent, and a walk along an old, abandoned road, you reach a wide spot. I took my lunch here, wondering where the cherry trees were. I did a little birding before I packed up and continued forward. Then I saw those elderly trees, still thriving out here without any caretakers.|
|The rain began to sprinkle as I marched toward the three trees standing tall on this cliff top overlooking The Dalles in the distance. Nature will always find a way.|
The world has moved on since hopeful hands planted these trees. I marvel at their ability to strive forward. They’re old, maybe even tired, but despite that fact they bloom each spring, reminding those of us who hike this hill of our own roots, buried deep within the soil, and that sometimes you have to survive the hardships of winter, or of a tough hike, to find your pot of gold. Rain, or not.