Columbia Hills Historical State Park - Crawford Oaks Loop
Eastern Gorge, Washington
On the Crawford Oaks trail at Columbia Hills State Park (photographer: Debbie Asakawa)
Hike Details
Type:
Loop
Distance:
7-8 miles round trip
Elevation Gain:
900 feet
Difficulty:
Moderate
Trail Features
Family Friendly:
No
Restrooms:
Yes
Trailhead Pass:
Trail Details
WildflowersWaterfallWaterfallBeautiful ViewsCultural HistoryCultural HistoryIce Age FloodsIce Age FloodsBird Viewing

This figure-8 loop takes you through beautiful rolling hills and oak tree groves. Balsamroot and lupine abound in spring.

You will need a Discover Pass to park here; the day rate is $10 (bring the correct amount in cash) and you can find envelopes near the restrooms. The trailhead begins just beyond the restrooms (west of the parking lot). You’ll find a kiosk at the trailhead, which will have a map–take a photo of the map with your smartphone or camera if you have one. Throughout this hike, all junctions are well marked with brown metal posts that signify the trail directions. You’ll see that the trail is a figure-eight configuration. This description will take you through the lower loop counter-clockwise and the upper loop clockwise.
 
Begin the hike by ascending Entry Road. Take a couple minutes to read the story of the Missoula Floods on the three panels at the overlook. In another 1/8 mile, take a few steps off the trail to the right for a view of Eightmile Creek Falls (which you will also see from the parking lot below). Continue up the road and go through an unlocked gate. At the one mile point on Entry Road, make a right turn and follow the brown metal signs toward Military Road and Vista Loop.
 
After you cross the creek, you’ll come to your first junction. To your left is a long meadow that was once a homestead. You can see the remains of an orchard on the far end. Turn right at this junction and follow Vista Loop up the hill and back toward the Columbia River. The trail will traverse the hillside eastward then turn north again to gently climb to increasingly spectacular views of the Columbia both east and west. Continue to follow Vista Loop until it joins with Military Road. At this junction, turn left. At this point, the two loops of the figure eight share a trail for approximately one-half mile. You will first ascend and then descend before coming to the junction with the Eightmile Alternate trail. If you want to hike only the lower loop, turn left here to walk through the upper reaches of the homestead, turn right at the junction near Eightmile creek and retrace your steps down Entry Road back to your car. This will be approximately five miles of hiking.
 
If you want to continue on the upper loop, turn right on Eightmile Alternate trail and follow it past two creek drainages. After crossing the second drainage, you’ll turn left and downhill–the trail will soon head back uphill toward the old Crawford Ranch (now part of Washington State Parks and closed to the public). Follow the trail to the ranch (marked as Pond Connector) to wander among the buildings and enjoy the views. There is a second restroom facility and parking lot just above Dalles Mountain Road (not easily seen from the trail).
 
Return to the trail and head southeast along the Vista Loop trail to the junction with Military Road, a place you stood earlier in the day. Turn right and follow the trail as you did before but this time turn left when you arrive at the junction with Eightmile Alternate trail. Descend through the upper reaches of the old homestead and turn right at the junction just before crossing Eightmile Creek and heading back down Entry Road to your car.
 
The entire upper loop is 3.5 miles and begins from Crawford Ranch. You can access that trailhead by turning left on (gravel road) Dalles Mountain Road, located about one-half mile after turning right onto SR-14 from Highway 197. After three miles on this gravel road, turn right at the old wagon to find a large parking lot and restrooms on your left just beyond the ranch buildings.
 
Download a Park Map.

Driving Directions

Crawford Oaks Trailhead:  Take Exit #87 (Hwy 197/Dufur) and head north to cross the Dalles Dam Bridge into Washington. Drive two miles north on Hwy 197 then turn right, heading east on SR-14. Drive approximately three miles (passing Dalles Mountain Road on your left and Horsethief Butte on your right) then turn left into the signed parking lot for Crawford Oaks Trail. Note: Columbia Hills State Park has three trailheads – Dalles Mountain Ranch, Horsethief Lake and Crawford Oaks. Signs for all read “Columbia Hills State Park” + the specific trailhead. Make sure to pick the correct one!

Community Connection

Lyle Cherry Orchard’s trailhead is located approximately one mile from the Gorge town of Lyle and is home to the “Lyle” sign that sits above the community. Since this preserve was opened to the public the Lyle Cherry Orchard has provided the community with an accessible natural space right in their back yard. The sunny and dry preserve is the perfect hiking spot to visit during the rainier fall days in the western gorge. Visitors from the Gorge and beyond recreate on Lyle Cherry Orchard and in turn support the local economy.

Photo: View of town of Lyle from Lyle Cherry Orchard (Debbie Asakawa)

Preserve Story

The property where Lyle Cherry Orchard Preserve lies currently was once grazing land for cattle and as the name suggests the eastern part of the preserve held a cherry orchard. The orchard and its trees were well abandoned by the time Nancy Russell purchased the property piece by piece in the 1990’s and later donated it to Friends in 2009. Nancy purchased the property when it came up for sale because it was within key viewing areas on the Oregon side of the Gorge and would have most likely become subdivided for development.

The land is also home to remnants of Lyle Convict Road, a demonstration road built by Sam Hill to convince Washington legislators to fund a Columbia River Highway. When Washington showed no interest in Sam’s project, he invited the entire Oregon legislature to his Maryhill estate to see his "Good Roads" work and Oregon quickly agreed to build on their side of the river what is today the Historic Columbia River Highway.

The trail at Lyle Cherry Orchard was started in when Friends' founder Nancy Russell purchased the property and has been open to the public and maintained Friends and its land trust ever since. In 2019, Washington Trails Association started work to reroute some parts of the trail and add new trail to explore for the benefit of Gorge residents.

In 2013, the land trust and volunteers removed a dilapidated house and outbuildings on the southwestern end of the property. Countless hours were spent removing building materials, old vehicles, garbage, and debris. In 2015 volunteers removed over 1,700 feet of fencing material on the property to allow for the free movement of wildlife across the landscape. Without the help of Friends volunteers and Gorge community members, projects like this would not be possible.

Photos: Before and after cleanup at Lyle Cherry Orchard (Friends' archive)