Once upon a time, the Lyle cherry orchard was just that. But when farmers stopped irrigating, the orchard died—save for one tree, whose survival no one can fully explain. The solitary deciduous denizen echoes the solitude you’ll likely have on this hike: No road signs announce the trail’s existence, so you have to know where to look.
ROUTE: From the simple roadside pullout, step over the pyramidlike ladder and continue walking until you’ve reached the Cherry Orchard Trail sign about a quarter-mile from the turnout. The first mile up a rocky cliff abounds with steep switchbacks, total elevation gain is 1,500 feet, before flattening onto an open bluff with prime Gorge views. Continue up the ridge and weave through head-high grasses and scrub oaks, and when you think you’ve come to a viewless end, keep on trekkin’ through the trees until you reach a spectacular sheer with sweeping vistas. Look for the cherry tree on the eastern edge, where the hill dips toward The Dalles.
DIRECTIONS: Travel east on Rte 14 through Lyle. The trail begins at a small gravel turnout on the left (north) side of the highway about a half-mile after the double tunnels. Park in the turnout and look for the small trail opening.