Herman Creek to Mud Lake
Central Gorge, Oregon
Herman Creek (photographer: Debbie Asakawa)
Hike Details
Type:
Out and back
Distance:
17.8 miles round trip
Elevation Gain:
3400 feet
Difficulty:
Expert
Trail Features
Family Friendly:
No
Restrooms:
Yes
Trailhead Pass:
Trail Details
Wildflowers
Start your hike at the Herman Creek Trailhead. Head up the trail until you pass the Gordon Creek cutoff and the Nick Eaton Ridge cutoff trails, and then will slowly climb high above Herman Creek. After you enter the Hatfield Wilderness, you will start to pass by streams that have beautiful waterfalls. At about four miles, you will come to the Casey Creek cutoff trail and a nice camp area. There is a short, steep trail off to the right that leads down toward Herman Creek and through one of the largest stands of Old Growth forest in the Columbia River Gorge.
 
Shortly past this campsite, cross Casey Creek and continue your gentle climb toward Mud Lake. At about seven miles, the intersection of Trail #410 could provide an alternate route back. This trail climbs another 1500' and follows Nick Eaton Ridge back to the Gordon Creek cutoff trail that you encountered earlier on this hike. To continue on to Mud Lake, travel about another 2 miles. After a quick climb, you will see the Mud Lake sign nailed to a tree on your left. From here, it is a short downhill walk to the lake. The lake is in its prime in mid to late summer.
 
Please note: Depending on how far you hike from this trailhead, you may be entering the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness. Wilderness restrictions apply.

Driving Directions

Herman Creek Trailhead:  From the west, travel on I-84 to Exit #44/Cascade Locks. At the stop sign turn right/east and follow Wa-Na-Pa street through town. Continue under the freeway and turn left/east on Frontage Road (on the south side of the freeway) to the Herman Creek Campground sign. From the east, take Exit #44/Cascade Locks. Immediately turn left and travel under the freeway. Turn left/east onto Frontage Road (on the south side of the freeway) to the Herman Creek Campground sign. Follow the narrow, paved road that goes up to the campground (to the left) and trailhead (to the right). There is room to park at the trailhead, and along the road towards the campground, but don't block the campsites in the campground. Sometimes in the winter the gate is closed but you can park along Frontage Road. Hike up the 1/2 mile paved road to the trailhead.

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)