Table Mountain from Aldrich Butte Trailhead Hike
From Oregon Hikers Field Guide
- Start point: Aldrich Butte Trailhead
- End point: Table Mountain
- Trail Log: Trail Log
- Hike Type: Out and back
- Distance: 8.0 miles round trip
- Elevation gain: 3350 feet
- Difficulty: Difficult
- Seasons: April-October
- Family Friendly: No
- Backpackable: No
- Crowded: Yes
From the Aldrich Butte Trailhead, hike up a road that currently serves as a power line maintenance road. There's a fork at the trailhead and you'll want the left side (that goes straight up and into the trees). Immediately past the powerlines, on the edge of the forest, another small road forks to the left - ignore it and go straight. For the first mile of the hike you follow an abandoned Aldrich Butte Road, which was built to access a military defense position on Aldrich Butte during World War II. This old road starts out pretty steep (for a road), but then the grade eases.
After about a mile, you'll come to a somewhat complicated trail junction near Carpenter Lake. The first trail to the right is the Dick Thomas Trail, which is an alternative access trail for this hike. Next, you'll see Carpenter Lake itself, which has degenerated into a boggy meadow since resident beavers left. At Carpenters Lake, the road makes a sharp hairpin to the left and another old road continues straight ahead. This is the Two Chiefs Trail which heads northeastward to intersect the Pacific Crest Trail before reaching Lower Greenleaf Falls. Keep left and a minute later you'll come to another, nearly identical junction. Now take the right turn (Aldrich Butte Rd continues left). You'll know you have the right trail as it climbs northward.
Soon the trail enters the Cedar Creek drainage. The PCT is hidden in the trees, just above you to the right, so don't be surprised if you hear people. The two trails parallel each other 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 turn right on Crest Trail as it begins to climb the west side of Table Mountain (the road comes down to Cedar Creek, crosses the creek and soon disappears).
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 and has little views, 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 in 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, Mount Hood, 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. Ignore the sign for Gorge Overlook for now and go straight ahead 0.2 miles to the open North Viewpoint, where there are views of Mount Saint Helens, Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, and one of the best views of eastern Columbia River Gorge.
After you've had your fill of the views from the north tip of the summit, return to the fork and head east to Gorge Overlook (alternatively, you may follow a faint boot path east on the top of the ridge, without losing elevation). Finally comes that flat stretch we mentioned earlier. Table Mountain's summit is flat as a table. The main trail heads east, while several use paths crisscross the thinly forested summit and reconnect to the main trail where it re-gains the summit. Soon the main trail starts dropping through stunning open meadows. At the end of the trail there is an almost 1,500 feet high drop-off and a couple of sketchy viewpoints. The south edge (Gorge Overlook) features incredible views of the cliffs framing the landslide, as well as views of the western Columbia River Gorge (view east is partly obscured with trees), Bonneville Dam, 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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- Maps: Hike Finder
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