Ride to Table Mountain, Skamania County, North Bonneville, Washington
Part of the Pacific Crest Trail System (PCT)
And hike to the 3,417' summit - 15 miles round trip
A 10 hour, very difficult hike
120 mile round trip ride - 9/2/10
The destination: Table Mountain
This picture was taken last June from the summit of Hamilton Mountain.
Table Mountain is just to the East of Hamilton Mountain.
This hike is about twice as difficult.
Wind Mountain, just to the East of Table Mountain is next
and will be the easiest of the three.
Then it will be Dog Mountain, just to the East of Wind Mountain
which will have a difficultly level similar to Hamilton Mountain.
All of these hikes are on the Washington State side of the
Columbia River Gorge
There are two possible starting points for this hike.
I did the "full meal deal" which starts at the
Bonneville Trailhead, right across the street (Washington Route 14)
from the Bonneville Dam Visitors Center.
This is Federal property so you need a National Parks pass for day use.
That's Hamilton Mountain and Little Hamilton just to the left of the trailhead sign.
The alternate trailhead is the Aldrich Butte trail entrance by Bonneville
Hot Springs. Scroll down to the bottom for more information about this route.
Return to Table Mountain on August 21, 2011
Suzy wanted to hang out at the trailhead parking area
The Tamanous trail is where young American Indian boys
proved their manhood... and I don't doubt it! I went in with
a Glock, a compass, lots off food and water and still, this
was by far the most difficult and dangerous hike I have taken so far.
I had a trail guide that I found at the Portland Hikers web site which
turned out to be not very helpful. I'll try to do better here in case
you want to use my info on your adventure to this mountain.
The key to success here is to resist all urges to leave the PCT! Wandering
off down fire roads or unmarked trails may be interesting but you could
easily find yourself lost. Until you know your way around, look for those
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is not as well marked as most of the
State trails I've been on. You want to look for these PCT emblems which
are not overly abundant. Usually nailed to a tree so you have to look
for them. For the most part, I had very little problems staying on the
trail and was mostly confident throughout that I was not lost.
I didn't see the "magnificent view" of the Gorge 1/4 mile into the trail.
A half mile in there is a fork in the trail where you can either go
North or South. You'll be traveling a mostly North by Northwest course
so North is the correct choice here. I probably could have gotten by
without it, but having a compass turned out to be very helpful. I
was unable to find a topo map but in retrospect I don't know that having
one would have been all that helpful.
About a mile or so in, you hit a big clearcut area. There is a logging
road at the end of it that might be helpful if you get stuck out here after
dark. Also gas line and power line service roads further along the trail.
I'm assuming that going South on any of these will take you into North Bonneville.
I believe that's Greenleaf Peak straight ahead.
Someone on Portland Hikers advised that it's Table Mountain. They are probably correct
Some sections of the trail are quite wide. Others not so much.
Here's the logging road near the end of the clearcut area.
That's Hamilton Mountain and Little Hamilton ahead.
These are just to the West of Table Mountain which you are
not able to see on most of the PCT trail
The next few miles is mostly a thick canopy forest trail.
I worried about getting stuck out here after dark even though
I brought several LED flashlights and LOTS of batteries. I don't
smoke but I wish I had a couple of BIC lighters with me just in case
I needed to start a fire for warmth and safety. There were several
suitable campsites along the trail if I needed to do that.
Here's a typical infrequent trail marker high up on a tree.
You really need to look for these things although by the end of
the hike I got pretty good at spotting them.
Maybe 2 1/2 miles in you come to the power lines and the
service access road. I think this road goes down to the Hot Springs
area of North Bonneville. If so, This would be the alternate and shorter
(albeit unmarked) hike trailhead.
Hamilton and Little Hamilton are in view again.
That's Gillette Lake off to the right
Descending back into the forest towards Gillette Lake
The view South towards the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge
There is a trail to the left just past the lake that ends at some nice campsites.
The lake is stocked with trout.
Just past Gillette Lake you start running into refreshing streams
I think this is Carpenter Creek
I'm about three miles in now.
There is another, larger lake on the left
that I think is called Carpenter Lake.
There were too many trees to get a decent picture so that's why none was included here
The first real view of scenery about four miles in.
I believe this is the Greenleaf viewpoint.
That's the Columbia River and Bonneville Dam down below
You'll come up on a nice little vista.
I think this is the Greenleaf overlook.
That's the power lines I came by two miles back. Very windy here... but refreshing.
Good place for a rest and a sandwich.
Note my decidedly low tech, 30 year old knapsack...
Not the most spacious rest area and viewpoint but it's back
into the deep forest as soon as I move on.
You will soon come up on an an abandoned road that's
the Greenleaf Falls trail. Turning right would take you to
Greenleaf Falls. For the purpose of this hike, stay on the PCT
which is well marked here.
Above Carpenters Lake there is an abandoned road that is the PCT-Aldrich
Bypass Trail. Next time I come here I will enter the trailhead at the
beginning of the Aldrich Trail which is several miles less hiking to get
to this location you just hiked five miles to reach.
You will come up on a campsite clearing and it gets a
little tricky here. The PCT is the narrow trail straight
ahead and to the left. The wide trail straight ahead is
the one you want to take. These two trails intersect again in 150 feet or so
but if you DON'T take the wide trail at this intersection
you will be off in the wrong direction.... I did not see any PCT
markers at the junction 150 feet up the hill so be advised.
Made it to the base of Table Mountain. I'm probably a little
over five miles in at this point. It's been a fairly easy hike so far
but that's all going to change soon.
At this kiosk you have the choice of ascending the Heartbreak Ridge trail
which is EXTREMELY steep and rugged. I ran into a Dutch couple from British
Columbia who went this way and did make it to the summit. But they were
experienced hikers who were in way better shape than me so I opted to stay
to the left and ascend via the traditional PCT route. Except for some young
guy, these were the only people I saw out here all day.
You are now about 5 1/2 miles from the Bonneville Trailhead
The path to the left was also somewhat steep but nothing compared to
the Heartbreak Ridge choice. The Heartbreak Ridge trail will take you to
the East end of the Table Mountain Summit. The West Table Mountain Trail
(staying on the PCT) will obviously take you to the West end of the Table
In about 1/2 mile you come across another kiosk identical to
the other. This is where you leave the PCT, turn right and start your
serious ascent up Table Mountain. This is the beginning of the West Table
Mountain trail. This is where the hike changes from fairly easy to
The next tenth of a mile is one of the steepest official trails in the
area. It's heavily timbered and can be very slick if muddy. About a half
mile from the kiosk where you left the PCT you will come across an open
(but very rocky) viewing area. The hike starts getting substantially
more difficult moving forward from here.
There are a lot of BIG rocks that are somewhat unstable. Enjoy the clearing
and the nice view of North Bonneville and the Table Mountain summit.
It starts getting very windy once you get into the clearing and will remain
so for the remaining mile and a half.
That's the top of Table Mountain and the trail of very sharp, very unstable
rocks that you have to follow for the next half mile or so. Ultimately, I won't
make it to the top... not because I was tired so much but because it's VERY slow
going from here on out.
I decided that I need to start heading back at 15:00 at the absolute latest
lest I risk getting caught in the woods after dark. I was probably within a half
mile of VERY rugged hiking from the summit when I decided to turn back. Of course
the fact that hiking on these rocks was EXTREMELY treacherous and the fact that
there were a lot of sheer ledges where one wrong step would send you plunging to your
death also had something to do with it. The wind gusts were very strong up here
so I was very careful to not get too close to the edge of any of these cliffs
Nice view of Mount Hood from here though.
You will come up on a wide, flat viewpoint area that is a good spot to
take a rest, get some pictures and generally prepare for the final mile
and a half of so to go. It gets a lot tougher still moving forward.
Table Mountail summit. So near yet so far. Like a fool, I
tried to climb (climb, not hike) the field of loose rocks but it
took an hour to go maybe 1/2 mile. It probably would have taken me
another hour to reach the summit at the rate I was going and by that time
I would definitely be hiking in the dark long before I reached the trailhead.
Here's a sample of what's ahead. Most of these spots were too hazardous
to even think about pulling out the camera. I fell on my ass several times
because of rock slides. This is a VERY unstable footing situation. Plus, the
winds were VERY strong up here and I had a difficult time keeping from being blown
off the ledge. In many spots you have just inches between you and a sheer ledge
and a LONG drop!
I proceeded another half mile or so and made it past the rock field and into a wooded
area. It was probably relatively smooth sailing to the summit from there but it was
getting late and I decided to be smart and live to hike another day. Very
disappointing to not make it to the top though.
This "trail" is completely unmarked and on descent there is ample opportunity
to choose the wrong path. Some of those choices probably would have been fatal.
Back at the trailhead, the Dutch couple told me they found a cross for some 24 year
old who apparently fell and was killed. This is the first hike I have ever taken
where I felt that my safe return to the trailhead was seriously in question.
Glad I did it but this was clearly a difficult hike.
I will do this hike again, probably next Spring, and I WILL reach the summit this time!
I'll need to start a lot earlier... maybe 07:30 instead of 09:30.
I'll also take the shorter route that starts in Hot Springs so that I'll have more
time to actually explore the summit.
The Heartbreak Ridge trail can't be any worse than the route I took this time
so I'll go up that way next time. Assuming I survive, I'll post a link on this page
with pictures and info that may be helpful if you are planning this hike.
Even though I failed to accomplish my objective, I still felt a sense of
accomplishment getting as far as I did. Two years ago I would have been too
fat and too out of shape to even attempt a hike like this.
The Aldrich Butte trail... a several mile shortcut to the base of Table
Mountain that saves walking through a lot of clear cut forest. Your real
desire is to climb Table Mountain, right? I'll update this section after
I walk this trail and document everything.
Taking Washington Highway 14 East, turn left towards North Bonneville
Hot Springs. The road is well marked and is right across from the Bonneville Dam
Visitors entrance access road.
Go through a little tunnel and you'll see some nice mountain views straight
ahead. Turn right as soon as you exit the tunnel.
This is Table Mountain dead ahead. I think this is Greenleaf to the right.
Down the road you'll come to Bonneville Hot Springs. Some people park
here and some park on the gravel area behind the resort.
The trailhead is the gravel road going uphill behind the resort.
The road past hot springs continues for a mile or two and then turns to gravel.
When I have some time I will check out possible trailhead entrances and parking.
It seems to me that starting from the hots springs resort may entail a lot of
unnecessary walking if Table Mountain is your intended destination.
Ride to Hood River, Oregon
Ride to Wind Mountain and hike to the top