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Two Chiefs Trail Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Winter view of Table Mountain from the Two Chiefs Trail (cfm)
Gillette Lake and Hamilton Mountain (bobcat)
Table Mountain from the Pacific Crest Trail (bobcat)
The new landslide east of Greenleaf Creek (cfm)
The route to Greenleaf Creek from the Bonneville Trailhead (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Bonneville TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Greenleaf Creek Crossing
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Out and back
  • Distance: 15.2 miles
  • High point: 1,380 feet
  • Elevation gain: 2575 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Year round
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Hike Description

Essentially a hike along the Pacific Crest Trail and then an old logging railroad grade that became an abandoned jeep road, this route then was taken over by the ATV crowd. After the area became part of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, ATVs were banned, and the tread has seen use as an unofficial trail that takes you to the base of Table Mountain and then on to Greenleaf Creek, with the upper tiers of Greenleaf Falls a short but rugged bushwhack above. The December 2007 landslide, which spills half a mile down the slope, is just beyond the creek. Now the shorter approach from the former Dick Thomas Trailhead, entirely along the old railroad grade, has been closed off, so the only legal option is to begin at the Bonneville Trailhead.

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 reach the abandoned road/old railroad grade at the Two Chiefs Trail.

Bear right on this wide trail that, for many years, was used by ATVs. A small sign on a tree announces this as the Two Chiefs Trail. A trail to the right leads to a campsite on a wooded knoll. Descend into an alder grove, then rise along the face of a ridge. Get a view of the town of North Bonneville and head down again. Note along this trail how some creeks just disappear into the jumble of the Bonneville Landslide and reemerge mysteriously lower down the slope. There are several seasonal pools in this area choked with water parsley. Cross a more recent slide and look up to the left to see Sacaquawea and Papoose Rocks and also the face of Table Mountain. Soon come to the Table Mountain Slide Area where the whole amphitheater of the slide’s origin opens up before you. At least eight layers of lava seem to compose Table Mountain’s core. Look south to get a panoramic view of the Columbia River Gorge and the snowy top of Mount Hood above the deep cleft of the Eagle Creek Gorge. One can also see an old travel route that came up the scree directly from below. After this, you will reach the Greenleaf Creek Crossing and the roaring twenty-foot plunge that is the bottom of the falls. The water rushes through a jumble of large boulders, all mossy and liverworted in this cool dell.

Greenleaf Creek is the end of the moderate hike described here, but there are a couple of options for the more adventurous.

Extra options:

1) The more dramatic upper tiers of Greenleaf Falls are located upstream. There is no trail and you will have to bushwack up the steep unstable slope, encountering steep faces of the crumbly Eagle Creek Formation, to view the falls. This extra push is for experienced off-trail hikers only.

2) Where the road meets the creek the bridge has washed out, but you can wade across or keep your feet dry by scrambling downstream and walking across on logs. Cross the creek and continue on the old road to visit the 2007 landslide. Debris from the toe of the slide has wiped out part of the road, but users have created a new trail over it.

Maps

Note: The old railroad grade is shown as a jeep road on these maps, but not as a trail:

  • 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
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
  • 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

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain

More Links


Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.