Located on the warmer Washington side of the Gorge, Table Mountain is best tackled on a cool day, when the heat won’t sap your stores—stores you’ll definitely need to complete the hike, which climbs steadily uphill before gaining most of its 3,300 feet of elevation in the final grueling mile.
ROUTE: The half-marathon-plus begins at the Columbia River and meanders through huckleberry thickets before meeting up with the Pacific Crest Trail, identified by the white-and-blue triangles nailed to cedar, hemlock and Douglas fir trees. Further on, you’ll cross a few gravel roads and duck under power lines before reaching lovely Gillette Lake, a gem of fresh water encased in a cocoon of thick, tall greenery. You may be tempted to linger, but a better place to stop is at a point just past Greenleaf Creek, where you’ll have majestic views of Wauna Point, Kidney Lake and the Gorge. Nearby, Sacaquawea and Papoose Rocks also make perfect spots to eat and hydrate before the final grind to your destination. Note that there are two options to the summit. The primitive Eastway Trail heads almost straight up through rock gardens and bushy thickets, but the much better choice is to continue a mile farther on the Pacific Crest Trail to the Westway Trail, which is only slightly less steep but is better maintained.
Whichever path you choose, the grassy knoll of the 3,417-foot summit yields wide vistas up and down the Gorge’s cliffs, and also rewards your efforts with tranquility: Few people who set out manage to reach the peak. Map: Green Trails Bonneville Dam No. 429 (primitive trails not shown).
DIRECTIONS: From eastbound I-84, cross the Bridge of the Gods, turn left on Rte 14 for 2 miles and look for the Bonneville Trailhead sign on the right.