To reach Lower Oneonta Falls, walk up the creek bed, over a large and perhaps unstable log jam. Be very careful scrambling over this, especially with little ones! Continue walking through the incredible slot canyon through water up to your waist until you reach the waterfall.
The trek to Lower Oneonta Falls has some very uneven footing but it's worth the challenge. It is fantastic on an August weekday to cool off with the cool refreshing water. Avoid on weekends since it is so busy.
- The creek bed is very rocky; water shoes are recommended.
- This trail is very busy on hot summer weekends. We recommend going during the week. You’ll appreciate the experience much more.
- Do not attempt to climb the small cliff next to the falls and jump in the water. If you injure yourself in the Oneonta Gorge, you'll have a long wait before emergency personnel can get to you.
Driving DirectionsOneonta Trailhead: From I-84, take Exit #35/Ainsworth and head west on the Historic Columbia River Highway for approximately 1.5 miles. Just east of the Oneonta Tunnel on your left/south is the Oneonta Gorge. Parking is limited.
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)
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)