Table Mountain from Bonneville Hike
From Oregon Hikers Field Guide
- Start point: Bonneville Trailhead
- End point: Table Mountain
- Trail Log: Trail Log
- Hike Type: Out and back with loop
- Distance: 15.5 miles round trip
- High point: 3417 feet
- Elevation gain: 4320 feet
- Difficulty: Difficult
- Seasons: April-October
- Family Friendly: No
- Backpackable: No
- Crowded: Yes
The Bonneville Trailhead is the main trailhead for accessing Table Mountain and its environs. Other trailheads that were much closer included the Aldrich Butte Trailhead (accessed by private road and closed due to local complaints in 2016) and the Dick Thomas Trailhead (on the property of the former Bonneville Hot Springs Resort & Spa: closed in January 2017 when the property was sold). Those wishing an even longer hike can begin at the Icehouse Lake Trailhead for the Pacific Crest Trail near the Bridge of the Gods. The hike begins on trail easements through private forest land all located on the hummocky terrain of the historic Bonneville Landslide. You'll pass through clearcuts and under powerlines to visit sparkling Gillette Lake before entering the Gifford Pinchot National Forest where you cross Greenleaf Creek. From there, the grade steepens until you arrive at the base of Table Mountain. It is recommended that you ascend to the summit ridge via the steep and rubbly West Table Mountain Trail and descend using the Heartbreak Ridge Trail.
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 route 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 notice it 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 it 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; they are from different eras and in various stages 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. Furthermore, 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 across the terrain of the Bonneville Landslide. 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 that 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 and just out of view. Look for where the trail picks back up as it heads downhill quickly. You'll see Gillette Lake, a natural lake, on your left. 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. Look for signs of beaver activity along the lake shore: there's a beaver lodge at the far end of the lake. Deer are common around dusk, feeding in the clearcuts. Putting aside the powerlines overhead, it is a pleasant, tranquil location. The lake often has a green coloration that gives it some character. The distinct profile of Hamilton Mountain is in evidence to the west.
Back on the Crest Trail, cross the Gillette Creek Bridge and continue through logged areas above dark little Greenleaf Pond. From here, you'll cross Greenleaf Creek Bridge over rushing Greenleaf Creek (You'll hear a waterfall cascading below, but this is on private land). Now, you're officially in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest as you head up an escarpment 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 Two Chiefs 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 at the Pacific Crest-Aldrich PCT Bypass Trail Junction about one mile from Carpenters Lake. You can take either path north from here as they intersect again about 150 yards farther north. From this second junction take the Pacific 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. There's a Washington DNR sign with a map of the local trail system. This will be your return route. 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. 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. At the Table Mountain Lower Viewpoint, there are views across the expansive Hamilton Creek valley to Hardy Ridge as well as south to the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge. As you get higher, you’ll also get a vista to South Birkenfeld Mountain and then Birkenfeld Mountain behind it. Noble firs enter the forest mix. Follow the trail as it veers right into the summit woodland. As you drop, you’ll pass a connector that leads to Table Mountain’s North Ridge Trail (You can take this a little way to get the great views of the snow-capped Washington stratovolcanoes at the Table Mountain North Viewpoint. Return to the main trail to reach the signposted Heartbreak Ridge-West Table Mountain Trail Junction and keep left to head up through a vine maple/ thimbleberry thicket. Emerge from the woods to head up to the summit ridge, where you’ll find another signpost at the West Table Mountain-Table Mountain Summit Trail Junction.
The summit is flat as a table to the north of this point, but you'll be hiking along a ridge with a steep meadow dropping off below you. The main trail heads south and several use paths crisscross the thinly forested summit ridge. Soon, the trail starts dropping through the stunning open meadows that are redolent of wild onions in the spring. Near the end of the trail, there are a couple of sketchy viewpoints. The south edge features incredible views of the cliffs framing the Bonneville Landslide, as well as views of much of the Columbia River Gorge and on to Mount Hood. Be careful here, as a stumble would mean sure death. Take your time exploring the summit and then head back to the Heartbreak Ridge-West Table Mountain Trail Junction and go left.
The path begins to descend the Table Mountain Talus Climb. Older versions of this trail traveled through subalpine meadows and hikers did a lot of damage to the fragile terrain. The current version of this trail avoids that problem by using a rocky slope. Follow the path down over somewhat loose rock. The trail is marked by poles stuck into the rock. After leaving the talus, the trail switchbacks down and passes though coniferous forest before rising steeply for a couple hundred feet. You come out at the Heartbreak Ridge, right on the edge of the lower clifftops on the west side of the Table Mountain Slide Area. You'll get a great look at the higher cliffs across the way. It's a short distance form this viewpoint to a small rock perch, where you can look up to the top of Table Mountain. Now begins the heavy descent: about 700 feet in half a mile. Drop through dense slope forest to reach the Pacific Crest-Heartbreak Ridge Trail Junction. Go left to return along the Pacific Crest Trail to the Bonneville Trailhead.
- Maps: Hike Finder
- Green Trails Maps: Bonneville Dam, OR #429
- Green Trails Maps: Columbia River Gorge - West #428S
- Geo-Graphics: Trails of the Columbia Gorge
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service/Bureau of Land Management: Columbia River Gorge
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Adams Ranger District
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Gifford Pinchot National Forest
Regulations or restrictions, etc
- Northwest Forest Pass required
- $2 toll each way at the Bridge of the Gods
- Search Trip Reports for Table Mountain from Bonneville Hike
Related Discussions / Q&A
- Search Trail Q&A for Table Mountain from Bonneville Hike
Guidebooks that cover this hike
- Hiking the Columbia River Gorge by Russ Schneider; revised by Jim Yuskavitch
- Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
- 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
- 50 Hiking Trails: Portland & Northwest Oregon by Don & Roberta Lowe
- Columbia Gorge Hikes: 42 Scenic Hikes by Don & Roberta Lowe
- Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Washington by Tami Asars (PCT section)
- Day Hikes on the Pacific Crest Trail: Oregon & Washington by George & Patricia Semb
- Pacific Crest Trail: Oregon & Washington by Jeffrey P. Schaffer & Andy Selters
- Washington Hiking by Scott Leonard
- Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill
- Washington's South Cascades' Volcanic Landscapes by Marge & Ted Mueller (partial)
- Fire, Faults, and Floods: A Road & Trail Guide Exploring the Origins of the Columbia River Basin by Marge & Ted Mueller
- Table Mountain from Bonneville Trailhead (Friends of the Columbia Gorge)
- Vancouver, WA: Table Mountain via Pacific Crest Trail (Backpacker.com)
- "Bonneville Landslide, Red Bluff Landslide, and the Cascade Landslide Complex, Columbia River Gorge, Washington" (The Columbia River: A Photographic Journey)
- "Table Mountain, Washington" (The Columbia River: A Photographic Journey)
- Table Mountain (Summit Post)
- Table Mountain (Washington Trails Association)
- Table Mountain (Skamania County, Washington) (Wikipedia)
- Stevefromdodge (creator)