Table Mountain from Bonneville Hike
From Portland Hikers Field Guide
- Start point: Bonneville Trailhead
- End point: Table Mountain
- Trail Log: Trail Log
- Hike Type: Out and back
- Distance: 15.8 miles round trip
- Elevation gain: 3350 feet
- Difficulty: Difficult
- Seasons: April-October
- Family Friendly: No
- Backpackable: No
- Crowded: Yes
The hike starts at the Bonneville Trailhead, on the Tamanous Trail. Ta-mah-no-ous is a Native American word translated roughly as "vision quest". Young men proved their readiness to be adults by going on a search for guardian spirits. From the parking lot, you start out on a gravel road, but quickly divert up a wooded path that starts straight uphill. (Incidentally, if you continue down the gravel road another 100 yards you'll see where the nearby train track enters a tunnel.) It won't be long before you have a nice viewpoint to the south overlooking the river just east of the Bonneville Dam. There won't be much more in the way of views for a while. It is somewhere in this trail section where the trail crosses over the top of the aforementioned tunnel...but you'll be hard-pressed to see where!
After a little more than half a mile from the trailhead, you'll come to a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail. Turn left and you'll be heading toward Canada (even if you are heading more west than north). There are two ponds near this junction, both unnamed - the first is seasonal and you may not be there during the warmer months, the other is farther up the trail just an 1/8 of a mile or so, watch downhill and you'll see between the trees. Follow the trail closely in this section and do not divert onto the overgrown forest roads that intertwine here.
In about a mile, you'll come to a clearcut as the trail turns sharply to the right. In fact, there are several clearcuts through this part of the hike, from different eras and in varying staging of regrowth. While they are an eyesore to many, they represent a long history of forestry in this area, and underscore the work of conservation groups that are responsible for the preservation of all the abundant forests that remain. Further they provide the only nearby views of Table Mountain and Greenleaf Peak. The trail can be a bit faint through here, by Pacific Crest Trail standards, but it should be easy to follow as you wind your way through the remainder of the hike. It is also a strange mix of public and private land through here. Property owners have allowed access for through hikers, but it is not recommended you divert far from the trail.
As you approach Gillette Lake, the forest gets thick again. You head up the right hand side of a dried-up creek valley and begin to gain more elevation. The trail eventually empties out at a forest road. Actually, this is the access road for the powerlines that you'll notice buzzing nearby overhead. The lake is on the other side of the road downhill just out of view. Look for where the trail picks back up as it heads downhill quickly. You'll see the lake on your left. Gillette Lake is a natural lake. Continue down the hill and look for a small spur to the left. It takes you to a nice lakeside campsite. The lake is stocked with golden trout and there are often ducks as well, particularly in the winter. Deer are common around dusk, feeding in the clearcuts. Putting aside the powerlines overhead, it is a nice, tranquil location. The lake often has a green coloration that gives it some nice character. The distinct profile of Hamilton Mountain is in evidence to the west.
Back on the Crest Trail continue up to the Greenleaf Viewpoint for a great view of the Columbia River Gorge. Farther on, you'll cross an abandoned road that today forms the Greenleaf Falls Trail. Turning right here would lead you to Greenleaf Falls. For this hike, continue straight ahead.
Soon, the trail contours across a ridge above Carpenters Lake. The PCT-Aldrich Bypass Trail, another abandoned road, soon parallels the PCT for a ways and they intersect about 1 mile from Carpenter Lake. You can take either path north from here as they intersect again about 150 yards farther north. From this second junction take the Crest Trail northward as it begins to climb the west side of Table Mountain.
A half mile later, you'll come to the Heartbreak Ridge Trail. This is a newly reopened second route to the summit of Table Mountain. The new route follows the old Eastway Trail for some distance up the mountain, then veers on to a new path up a steep talus slope. The Heartbreak Ridge Trail is quite rugged, so for this hike stay on the Crest Trail for another 4/10 of a mile to the West Table Mountain Trail. (The Heartbreak Ridge Trail is detailed as the Table Mountain Loop Hike). Turn right here and start working.
The Table Mountain Trail has one flat spot and it ain't here. The first tenth of a mile is one of the steepest official trails in the area. It's heavily timbered and can be pretty slick if it's muddy. Then the trail breaks out into a loose talus area. The large stones have been crudely fashioned into a switchback, but be careful of rolling rocks underfoot. The trail climbs the base of some pointed rock formations called the Windbreak Rocks. If you have the misfortune to climb Table Mountain on a "bad weather day", you'll understand the appropriateness of the name. There are several different routes here and the trail is a bit of a maze. The trail reaches a Table Mountain Lower Viewpoint large flat area about a half mile above the Crest Trail. On a clear day, there are great views of Bonneville Dam and Cascade Locks and this makes a great picnic stop.
Continuing on, the trail alternates between small timbered patches and open hillsides. The open areas are mostly right on the edge of a cliff and have great views to the west. Eventually there are a couple of switchbacks through a talus area and some interesting pits that may have Native American origins. The trail passes another rocky area with a cairn marker. Soon after this the trail comes to a fork. Go straight ahead to the open North Viewpoint, where there are views of Mount Saint Helens, Mount Adams and Mount Rainier.
After you've had your fill of the north views, return to the fork and head south. Finally comes that flat stretch we mentioned earlier. Table Mountain is well named and the summit is flat as a table. The main trail heads south and several use paths crisscross the thinly forested summit. After a bit the trail starts dropping through stunning open meadows. Near the end of the trail, there are a couple of sketchy viewpoints. The south edge features incredible views of the cliffs framing the landslide, as well as views of the entire Columbia River Gorge and Mount Hood. Be careful here, as a stumble would mean sure death. Take your time exploring the summit and then head back the way you came.
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