Thursday, July 30, 2020

Table Rock, Ten Years Later

During the pandemic's early days, when most hiking trails were shut down, there was one local area that managed to remain open.  Searching for places to get my outdoor fix, I started seeing social media reports from an area I'd all but forgotten about - the Table Rock Wilderness.


Managed by BLM (that is, the Bureau of Land Management) this nearly 6,000 acre wilderness lies in Oregon's Cascade foothills near the town of Molalla.  It's centerpiece is Table Rock, a large basalt "fortress" rising up from the forest, that boasts spectacular views from the summit.  Surrounded by farmlands, this pocket of rugged woods seems out of place.  A long way from most metropolitan  areas, it doesn't see the heavy use as the Gorge, Mt Hood, or the coast.  I'd only visited here once, in 2010.   After hiking to the top of Table Rock and back, I promptly forgot about the place.

Shady forest

But now in 2020, desperate to find open hiking trails, I decided it was high time for a revisit.  So early one Friday in June I wound through farmlands towards Molalla and beyond, followed the Molalla River, and navigated a maze of gravel roads until finally arriving at the trailhead.


The trail followed an abandoned road for a mile, until finally turning into the forest.  The road seemed to go on forever, but thick patches of bleeding heart flowers kept me and my camera entertained.  Finally walking through the woods, I hadn't traveled very far when I spotted this etching on a rock in the middle of the trail.  Although I usually don't condone such behavior, the figure made me laugh.  (Is it a ghost - or a Sasquatch?  Who knows?)

Tie-dye trilliums

A mile of climbing through the woods and the trail led out through a clearing across a talus slope.  High cliffs of columnar basalt rose above, the north face of Table Rock.  It's vertical wall was impressive, but I was concentrated on a patch of  lovely pink and white trilliums.  Kind of looked like tie-dye flowers!  (Jerry Garcia would be proud).

Tall rock cliffs

The trail meandered along in the shadow of the cliffs.  It was kind of rough, climbing over large rocks and bushwacking through overgrown bushes. 

No mountain views today

After following the cliffs for a  half mile or so, the trail once again ducked into the woods, and I climbed slowly upward until reaching the base of Table Rock.  Then the real climbing began!

Summit selfie

Although only a half mile from the summit proper this last segment seemed to take forever.  A man and his cute Australian shepherd dog passed me, the first hikers I'd seen so far.  Finally, the path leveled out and I was able to take in some views of the adjacent wooded hills.  Hooray!

Ugly clear-cut views from on top

Unfortunately forests were not the only thing visible from the top of Table Rock.  Ugly bare patches from past clear cut logging operations contrasted starkly with adjacent forests.  Looked like someone had taken a razor to the hillsides.

Indian paintbrush

I meandered along the summit saddle, snapping photos of the lovely flowers gracing the adjacent woods.


Almost to the true summit, I came upon the man and his dog on their way down.  I stopped and chatted for a few minutes, and complimented the man on his very cute and well-behaved dog.  Seeing the dog brought back memories of the last time I'd hiked Table Rock.  My dog Bear was in his prime then and happily joined me on this latest adventure.  He loved hiking so much, it made me sad to think he'd been gone four years already.  I realized how much I missed hiking with a furry companion.

The clouds came rolling in

Reaching the summit proper, I sat on a rock and enjoyed my lunch.  Normally several Cascade peaks are visible from the summit, but today's cloudy weather hid them all.  To add insult to injury, during my break the clouds began dropping, further obliterating views of the adjacent hills.

Trail across the top of Table Rock

Although I'd contemplated recreating my 2010 hike and taking a side trail over to Rooster Rock, in the end I decided Table Rock was enough of a goal for the day, and retraced my steps back downhill towards the trailhead.

Wild onion (I think)

This gave me extra time to photograph some of the pretty flowers on the return trip.

Interesting fuzzy leaves

These fuzzy new leaves were interesting.

Stonecrop, ready to sprout flowers

As were these intricate leaves that I believe were stonecrop, ready to sprout their yellow flowers.

Fairy bells

Delicate, ivory fairy bells also bloomed along the trail.  Although there were many wildflowers in bloom, I was a couple weeks too early for the rhododendrons, which in season are rumored to put on a nice show.

The trail went right by the cliffs

Returning to the cliff section once again, I took some time to try and capture the unusual columnar rocks that made up this side of Table Rock.

Unusual rock columns

Formed by several ancient lava flows, the rock columns showcase these different formations.

Another view of the rock formations

The talus slope at the foot of these cliffs has been created by rock layers splintering off the cliffs and crashing into the valley below.

Salmonberry flowers

Passing back through this area, I began encountering people hiking in the opposite direction.  One of the few areas with open trails, word had obviously gotten out.

Still a little snow left!

Happy to have had the summit nearly to myself, getting up early really does pay!

One last view before entering the woods

I hiked a side path through some trees to get one final glimpse of the adjacent hills before ducking back into the forest for the final two miles.

Bleeding hearts

Once reaching the road, I was passed by at least six different groups of people all heading up the trail.  Taking my time, I captured the lovely bleeding heart flowers growing thickly here.

Delicate striped flower

I returned to an almost full parking area.  For such an out-of-the way place (it's a long 2 hour drive from Portland) it was surprising to see so many people here on a cloudy Friday afternoon.

But I'd  had a great uncrowded hike and it was nice to return to a long-forgotten wilderness area and relive old memories from the last time I'd been here.

Now - time to hit up a farm stand on the way home for some fresh strawberries!

See the blog post from my 2010 hike here.


  1. Hello, Linda

    what a great hike, the cliff views are amazing. I always enjoy the wildflowers, beautiful scenes and photos. Take care and stay safe! Enjoy your day, have a great weekend.

  2. ...gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! I remember the first time that I saw clear cuts, it wasn't so gorgegous!

  3. Wonderful photographs as ever. Those basalt columns are amazing; here in the UK we mainly know them from the Giant's Causeway in N Ireland and Fingal's Cave on the Isle of Staffa. I had to check your earlier post before I understood your remark about "no mountain views" - OK there are some BIG snow-covered peaks hidden by the clouds.

  4. It really does payoff in terrific solitude to get to a trailhead early! Looks like a neat hike, the rocks are fascinating. I had to look up Molalla as I'd never heard of it, looks like an interesting back road to Silverton.

  5. Those volcanic rocks remind me of both the Isle of Staffa and Samson's Ribs below Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh.

  6. Cool!. The story of your hiking trip inspired me to do it too.
    I agree with the view photos from above, the view looks spectacular.

    Have a nice weekend.
    Greetings from Indonesia.

  7. Definitely worth a return hike and I love your selfie shot!

  8. Wonderful post. Wow that was quite the trail. You have stamina girl. I'd never make it at my age. The wild flowers are so pretty and the views were wonderful. The rock formation is quite fascinating. Thanks for revisiting this area.

  9. I love these small unknown wildernii.


Don't be shy! Please leave a comment.