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Gillette Lake Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Gillette Lake (Jeff Statt)
Hamilton Mountain from the powerline road near Gillette Lake (Jeff Statt)
A broken fragment of basalt (Steve Hart)
Typical trail section (Jeff Statt)
Approximate gps track of Gillette Lake hike
  • Start point: Bonneville TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Gillette Lake
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Out and back
  • Distance: 5.6 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 650 feet
  • High point: 435 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Year round
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes

Contents

Hike Description

Honestly, this isn't the most scenic hike in the area. It does offer a pretty accessible, easy stroll, and a decent chance to see some wildlife. Most day hikers taking this stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail are ascending nearby Table Mountain or are thru-hikers just beginning (or ending!) the Washington State section of the PCT.

The hike starts at the Bonneville Trailhead. You'll start up 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 until you get to the lake. 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 it may not be there during the warmer months; the other is farther up the trail just an 1/8 of a mile or so; look 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 the remainder of the hike, from different eras and in varying 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. Further, they provide the only views of nearby Table Mountain and Greenleaf Peak until you get to the lake. 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. The area is also a strange mix of public and private land. Property owners have allowed access for through hikers, but it is not recommended you divert far from the trail.

As you approach the lake, the forest gets thick again. Somewhere in this area, you might notice that the land is unusually hummocked. Instead of the common pattern of valleys eroded by winter streams, the land here is filled with random small mounds and huge, mossy boulders. You're walking on a huge landslide deposit, laid down about 500 years ago when the south side of Table and Greenleaf mountains slumped into the Columbia River. This landslide dammed the Columbia for many years, giving rise to the story of the 'Bridge of the Gods.' Today trees and ferns have covered the landscape, but the uneven landforms still provide evidence of the devastation.

After a bit, 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 hear buzzing 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 body of water filling a depression in the landslide. 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. There is recent evidence of beaver activity on the shore 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 greenish/turquoise coloration that gives it some character. The distinct profile of Hamilton Mountain is in evidence to the west.


Maps

  • 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
  • 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

  • Northwest Forest Pass (or America the Beautiful Pass) required
  • Vault toilet, picnic tables, information kiosk at trailhead
  • $2 toll each way at the Bridge of the Gods

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Day Hiking: Columbia River Gorge by Craig Romano
  • Hiking the Columbia River Gorge by Russ Schneider; revised by Jim Yuskavitch
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L Sullivan
  • 70 Virtual Hikes of the Columbia River Gorge by Northwest Hiker
  • Day Hike! Columbia Gorge by Seabury Blair, Jr.
  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Washington by Tami Asars
  • Pacific Crest Trail: Oregon & Washington by Jeffrey P. Schaffer & Andy Selters
  • Washington's South Cascades Volcanic Landscapes by Marge & Ted Mueller
  • Fire, Faults, and Floods: A Road & Trail Guide Exploring the Origins of the Columbia River Basin by Marge & Ted Mueller

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.