Lyle Loop Takes Shape at the Cherry Orchard

Thanks to a partnership between Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust and the Washington Trails Association (WTA) that takes advantage of the latter group's expertise at volunteer-built trails, the existing trail at the land trust's Lyle Cherry Orchard preserve has been altered and enhanced, making the lower part of the trail less treacherous and opening up new vistas from this eastern Gorge jewel.

This project involves the development of two new loop trails, built upon the original trail. The Cherry Orchard Loop trail is already open, providing new viewpoints and an additional 0.6-mile of trail through unique oak forests and rugged landscapes.

Now, after being delayed for several months by the COVID-19 pandemic, small groups of socially-distanced WTA volunteer trail builders are constructing another loop at the Cherry Orchard preserve: the Lyle Loop trail, accessing the preserve's northwest corner. This loop construction will provide an additional two miles of new trail, as well as feature views from a higher elevation than the Cherry Orchard Loop.

Photos by Tom Griffith, Gabe Smith, and Gail Wayper. Click on any photo to enlarge it.

Left: Volunteers excavate a new section of trail. Right: Scenic vista from the Lyle Loop trail.

According to Stasia Honnold of WTA, between Nov. 12-15, 2020, WTA trail crews put in 173 total hours of work on site: "Over the four days, our crews built 1,000 feet of new tread!"

A particular challenge for the trail builders was a section of thick grass. "I do not think I have ever worked in such a difficult area all day long ripping the tenacious grasses out of the corridor in my volunteer time with WTA," said Tom Griffith. "It is truly evidence of your can-do spirit that you continually come out to work on this trail." The work continued at a much faster pace when the volunteers finished with the grass section.

"We still have lots more to go, but we're getting there, and getting to the point where we'll be able to move a little faster again," said Honnold.

The Lyle Loop trail project was originally scheduled to be completed by the end of 2020, but the Columbia River Gorge Commission, which oversees land use applications, granted a one-year extension. The target date for completing the trail is December 2021.

Learn more about volunteering with WTA.