Eagle Creek to Wahtum Lake
Central Gorge, Oregon
Eagle Creek (photographer: Michael J Horodyski)
Hike Details
Type:
Out and back
Distance:
26.5 miles round trip
Elevation Gain:
5310 feet
Difficulty:
Expert
Trail Features
Family Friendly:
No
Restrooms:
Yes
Trailhead Pass:
Trail Details
WildflowersWaterfallWaterfall
Begin this hike at Eagle Creek Trailhead and climb steeply up to Wahtum Lake over two days. The first eight miles follows scenic Eagle Creek, coming to a great camping spot. On the second day, the steep trail climbs up to Wahtum Lake, elevation gain 2300'. Camp at Wahtum Lake, then return the way you came.
 
This trail enters the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness at approximately 5 miles south of the trailhead. Wilderness restrictions apply.
 
- Hike descriptions were collaboratively written with the generous support of oregonhikers.org.

Driving Directions

Eagle Creek Trailhead:   raveling eastbound on I-84, take Exit #41. At the bottom of the ramp turn right. Go about 1/2 mile to the end of the road. You will go past a footbridge (that takes hikers up to Wauna Viewpoint) as the road narrows to one lane. Continue a short ways to a large parking lot; park only in designated spaces. NW Forest Pass required. Coming from the east, there is no westbound exit at Exit #41/Eagle Creek. You must continue on I-84 and get off at Exit #40/Bonneville Dam, get back on the interstate and head east for one mile to Exit #41. At the bottom of the ramp turn right. Go about 1/2 mile to the end of the road. You will go past a footbridge (that takes hikers up to Wauna Viewpoint) as the road narrows to one lane. Continue a short ways to a large parking lot; park only in designated spaces. NW Forest Pass required.

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)