Gorge Towns to Trails
Washougal to Stevenson Trail
Hood River to The Dalles Trail
Lyle Cherry Orchard Loop
The ultimate vision for Gorge Towns to Trails is a 200-mile trail system wrapping around the Columbia Gorge, connecting small towns, farms, wineries and wild areas together. The vision for a loop trail and trails connecting into communities is imbedded in the National Scenic Area's Management Plan as two of the highest recreation objectives of the plan.With towns typically five to fifteen miles apart and separated by largely undeveloped areas, the project offers opportunities to protect undeveloped areas and create a European-style trekking model unachievable in most parts of the United States. Creating a 200-mile loop trail around Gorge requires land (either publicly owned or held by land trusts) and trails. Nearly 80% of the necessary land corridor miles are already secured and 46% of the trails miles needed are in place. Friends of the Columbia Gorge launched its vision by focusing on three segments totaling 66 miles and benefiting seven Gorge communities: Washougal to Stevenson, Hood River to The Dalles and the Lyle Cherry Orchard. Within these areas, 93% of the land corridors are secured and 35% of the trail miles are in place.
Gorge Towns to Trails addresses a long-held frustration among Gorge businesses. With its close proximity to Portland, most Gorge hikers visit for the day and never enter the communities. Gorge Towns to Trails creates a new paradigm: hikers taking extended multi-day journeys, lodging in Gorge communities and sampling the best of the Gorge: fresh fish from the Columbia River, fruits from its world-renowned Hood River Valley, wine from one of Gorge’s 19 wineries and beer from any of its 18 local breweries. Such a trail system could move the Gorge beyond a day-use recreation area to a multi-day destination spot for national and international travelers.
The Gorge Towns to Trails project is currently focusing on these three areas:
Washougal to Stevenson to Cascade Locks:An opportunity for a 34-mile trail connecting Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge, Cape Horn, Beacon Rock State Park, and the Pacific Crest Trail as well as the communities of Washougal, North Bonneville, Stevenson and Cascade Locks.
- Working to connect the remaining 2.5 miles of trail corridor needed for the Washougal to Stevenson trail section
- Partnered with the Port of Camas-Washougal to develop a new, one-mile trail that will serve as the west entrance for Gorge Towns to Trails
- Working with Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge to expand the refuge, connect new trail moving east and support refuge restoration efforts
- Supported by the Cape Horn Conservancy’s board of directors who voted to “preserve, enhance, promote and maintain related public lands within the Washougal to Stevenson corridor as a natural, educational, recreational, and economic assets to Skamania County”
Hood River to The Dalles Trail:An opportunity for a 20-mile trail connecting the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, Mosier Plateau, Tom McCall Preserve, Seven Mile Hill and the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center, as well as the communities of Hood River, Mosier, and The Dalles. The already-completed section from the town of Mosier’s Pocket Park up to our land trust property, the Mosier Plateau trail, is one step of the way to completing this segment!
- Mosier wineries and farms are working to help close the gap needed to connect Mosier to The Dalles, hoping to create a wine/farm loop trail.
- Watch a three-minute Grant's Getaways segment from Spring 2017 about Gorge Towns to Trails featuring Mosier Plateau and Mosier businesses.
Lyle Cherry Orchard Loops:The Lyle Cherry Orchard, our 515-acre land trust property above Lyle, Washington, will be undergoing a transformation in the coming months. More than four miles of trail will be re-routed and added to the existing five-mile trail system. Two new loops are planned – one to highlight the site of the long-abandoned namesake cherry orchard and another that wraps around the iconic “Lyle” sign. The trail additions are the product of seven years of careful planning, public engagement and trail plotting. The long-term goal is to connect the trail into Lyle as a key component of Gorge Towns to Trails.
Our project partner Washington Trails Association will hold weekend-long work parties where you can join for a weekend of camping and trail building, or for a single day.
- Friends’ Land Trust purchased 25 acres adjacent to the Cherry Orchard in our Preserve the Wonder campaign.
- Friends’ development application for the new trail was approved by the Columbia River Gorge Commission in December 2018.
- Washington Trails Association began construction of 700 feet of new trail on the lower half of the existing trail system.
- Trail building events with Washington Trails Association are scheduled for January 19-20, February 23-24 and March 16-17 (registration coming soon).
Status of the Larger Vision for Gorge Towns to Trails
- Secured over 100 supporters and partners, including congressional champions
- Prioritized by the Columbia Gorge Tourism Alliance, a 26-member organization created by Travel Oregon, as a #1 outdoor recreation priority, along with the completion of the Historic Columbia River Highway
- Outlined in Travel Oregon's effort to create the Oregon Outdoor Recreation Initiative as one of the top recreation projects recognized in its 15-year vision and five-year outcomes
- Featured in regional author Laura O. Foster's recently published book Columbia Gorge Getaways