Activity: Hiking Distance: 5 miles, out and back Rating: Moderate
Why it’s great
Awash in early wildflowers like cone-shaped lupines and blue-and-white Pacific hound’s tongue, this rarely traveled trail on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge is a go-to destination for springtime trekking. Situated just east of Lyle, the 2-mile path, which climbs some 1,500 feet, also delivers knockout views of Rowena Crest, a massive, fortresslike outcropping of basalt. Yet the highlight for many is at the trail’s end, where a stroll through a windswept meadow leads to an abandoned cherry orchard.
From the parking lot, head north up an unmarked gravel trail that skirts a craggy basalt cliff. After a short climb, you’ll pass a weathered wooden sign marking the Cherry Orchard Trail. Continue to the right, crossing a moss-covered scree field. After a series of switchbacks, the trail levels out and winds beneath a dense network of scrub oak. At approximately 1.5 miles, you’ll see a pond known for attracting swarms of fluttering butterflies. Half a mile farther, the path intersects an old dirt road. To visit the orchard, follow the road south, toward the meadow. The few remaining trees, which sprout snow-white blossoms each April, line the eastern edge of the meadow.
Post-Hike Watering Hole
Solstice Wood Fire Café
Sizzling with organic, farm-fresh ingredients like portobello mushrooms and Hood River pears, the thin-crust, wood-fired pizzas served by this colorful eatery are miles from ordinary. The homemade roasted red pepper and tomato soup drizzled with jalapeño cream is slurp-the-bowl good. Wash it all down with a rotating selection of ice-cold drafts from Double Mountain, Walking Man, and Deschutes breweries. 415 W Steuben St/Hwy 14, Bingen, Wash.; 509-493-4006
Travel 62 miles on I-84 East to Hood River. Take Exit 64 and turn left to cross the Hood River Toll Bridge (75 cents each way). Bear right on Washington Highway 14 and drive 12 miles. The trailhead is located on the left, just past the Lyle Tunnels. No fees or permits required.