Rowena Plateau Loop
Eastern Gorge, Oregon
Blooming balsamroot at Tom McCall Preserve looking north toward Rowena Plateau (photographer: Greg Lief)
Hike Details
Type:
Loop
Distance:
2.5 miles round trip
Elevation Gain:
250 feet
Difficulty:
Easy
Trail Features
Family Friendly:
Yes
Restrooms:
No
Trailhead Pass:
No
Trail Details
WildflowersBeautiful ViewsIce Age FloodsIce Age Floods
This easy stroll over a plateau in the eastern gorge is a great hike to view the geological reminders of the ice age floods which created the Gorge. Views up and down the Gorge show the rolling hills and valleys across the river, but also the depressions, now "kolk" lakes, created by the floods. In late spring, the balsamroot and other wildflowers are abundant and help to create a palette of warm tones for photographers and hikers.
 
You can't talk about the Rowena Plateau without talking about the Tom McCall Nature Preserve. The Nature Conservancy has worked to preserve the fauna and flora here. Ecologists work to monitor rare plant populations. Starting in spring, volunteers lead interpretive hikes.
 
There are no restrooms here. The closest option is at Mayer State Park.
 
A more strenuous hike to the McCall Point also leaves from this trailhead/nature preserve.
 
Please note: No dogs are allowed since this is a nature preserve managed by The Nature Conservancy.

Driving Directions

Rowena Plateau:  From I-84, take Exit #69/Mosier. Follow the Historic Columbia River Highway into Mosier. Continue east on the highway for almost 7 miles. Look for a turnoff on your right with a big sign reading "Rowena Crest."

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)