Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Lyle Cherry Orchard

Okay, it's back to PNW photos and stories!  I've been hiking like crazy since returning from my Arizona trip.  Time to play catch up.

This trail had the best sign!

In late March, home from my wanderings, I was hankering for a spring wildflower fix.  The wildflowers always bloom first in the eastern reaches of the Columbia River Gorge.  With most of the Oregon Gorge trails still shut down from last September's fire, I looked to my northern neighboring state.

Columbia River views

This spring my motto has been "try new trails."  One that I'd never hiked before was the scenic path through Lyle Cherry Orchard on the Washington side.

Prairie Star

I'm not sure if it was the distance from Portland (about an hour and a half drive) or the relatively short route (the trail itself is only about 4 miles round trip) that kept me from visiting until now.

Rocky outcrop

I got a late start that Saturday morning, and after driving past overflowing trailheads at Coyote Wall and Catherine Creek, began to worry about securing a parking spot.  But luckily, the lot was only about 2/3 full.  Guess other folks didn't want to travel that far either.

Lovely unknown flower

The trail itself wasn't signed, but an obvious boot path from the parking area led me through a scrub oak forest under tall basalt cliffs.  In a 1/8 mile I came upon the famous Cherry Orchard trailhead sign.

Gnarled oak trees

And a lovely sign it was, beautifully carved lettering adorning it's face, with a couple small wildflowers painted on each side.  The lower portion ominously warned of the hazards hikers might encounter (poison oak, ticks, rattlesnakes, steep cliffs....)

Desert parsley

The sign wasn't enough to deter me from the day's goal.  Tucking my pant legs into my socks to guard against ticks, I began to climb up a small draw.  Flowers carpeted the forest here, slowing my progress.

These trees look like withered old people

The forest thinned out into a meadow and the trail began to switchback steeply uphill.  As I climbed, views opened up westward towards the tiny town of Lyle and eastwards to the drier portion of the Gorge.

Path through the grass

Steep basalt cliffs lining the Columbia River came into view, as did the higher Cascade mountain foothills.

Gorge panorama on top of the ridge

Zig-zagging up the steep meadow, I came upon the first balsamroot flower of the season.  A large clump of the cherry yellow blooms were brightening up the surroundings.

Shooting stars

About a mile up, the terrain flattened out and my trail began wandering through another oak forest. 

Remains of the orchard area

Dozens of wildflowers brightened the forest floor.  Shooting stars, larkspur, Oregon sunshine, glacier lilies, and even a couple of extremely late-blooming grass widows.

Nothing left of the homestead but fence posts

The official trail was supposed to end at an old homestead where a few surviving trees from an old cherry orchard still existed.  However, I came to the old road described in my hiking guide, and there really wasn't much to see.  A few old fence posts and more oak trees, but I didn't see anything resembling a cherry tree.  Kind of anticlimactic.


I continued past the homestead, following a faint road until it appeared to dead end in a cliff-edged oak grove.  The views east were quite lovely, and I had a quick snack while enjoying the scenery.

Last fall's dry leaves

This entire 500-plus acre property was purchased by Friends of the Gorge founder Nancy Russell.  Upon her death, she deeded the land to this organization, and a trail was built so all could enjoy this beautiful area.

Glacier lilies

Although the faint road continued further east, the day was growing warm, and I decided I'd done enough exploring for today.  Retracing my steps back to the homestead area, I meandered along the ridgetop, snapping photos of any flower I thought I may have missed.

The season's first balsamroot

Although I'd had the homestead all to myself, I encountered a continuous stream of hiker groups as I trekked back through the woods.  Apparently this trail was more popular than I thought!

Looking down on the plateau

Descending back down the steep bluffs, I was treated to fantastic views of the stair-stepped basalt cliffs and the grassy plateau midway down.  Several people were fanned out across the plateau.  From my vantage point, they looked like ants.

Balsamroot patch

Although tempted to follow the crowd across the plateau to these cliff edges, I decided to save that exploration for another day.

Hikers admiring the Gorge view

The final half mile through the lower oak forest, I snapped photos of some of the more unusual species of flowers.

Miners lettuce

Such as the white flowers and unusual leaf of the Miners lettuce plant.  And I spied a clump of yellow monkeyflowers with red spots - a variety I'd not seen before.

Unusual monkeyflowers

Boy, it was great to be back home in the Gorge!  I've got another favorite spring trail to add to my list.


  1. That sounded like a very pleasant meander around with some stunning views to look at as well

  2. ...the gorge is gorgeous, thanks for taking me along for the journey!

  3. Hello, I love all the beautiful wildflowers. The views from this trail are amazing, I love the gorge, river and cliff views. Looks like another great trail. Thanks for taking me along. Great photos. Happy Thursday, enjoy your day!

  4. Que maravilha esta paisagem e com uma flora espantosa e de grande beleza.
    Um abraço e bom Feriado.

    Dedais de Francisco e Idalisa

  5. Hans and I have hiked that trail and it must have been a bit later in the season as we had masses of poison oak along the lower portions of the trail...and Hans stepped over a small rattlesnake without even seeing it! I about had a heart attack following him and seeing it immediately after he stepped over it!

  6. So great that you are out there trying new trails. Love your photos!

  7. Beautiful Pacific NW photos!

  8. Scenic area. Ticks are a growing pest here as well. I used to enjoy wearing shorts in hot weather on the hills but I wrap up more now as I know more than a few hill walkers who have been affected by Lymes Disease over the years. Counted 80 ticks on me after one island trip a few years ago so percentage wise that's not so good for my future health and it did put me off the hills a bit in spring and summer, especially as the ones we do rarely have paths to the summits.

  9. Hi! Your photo of Hikers admiring the Gorge view is awesome! There are many beautiful flowers. I have not yet seen most of them. Thanks for sharing.

  10. I'm surprised there are that many visitors with all those hazards to avoid. Beautiful spring flowers.

  11. Nice - especially nice flower pics

  12. Your pictures are all so beautiful!

  13. Something very different from Arizona. Always enjoy your wild flowers tours

  14. Love the monkeyflowers and surprisingly my favorite shot was the oak leaf! Spring shot past here, right from snowstorms to hot and humid - glad you were able to get out and enjoy it!

  15. Beautiful photography as always and I appreciate your labeling those wildflowers! Im not sure if we had hiked that trail but we did enjoy our week stay at Gorgeous Gorge.

  16. What beautiful spring flowers. Boy the rattlesnakes sign would have scared me :( You are a trooper!!

  17. What a beautiful place- and steep in parts!

  18. Great seeing the Washington side of your hiking adventures. Lovely as well. I enjoyed it all.


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