Table Rock is a mountain located within Columbia County, Washington in the Blue Mountains. Perhaps most famous for the fire lookout that is atop the peak and still manned during Summer months, Table Rock has long been a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Table Rock also has over 1000’ of prominence, which is more prominence than most peaks in the Blue Mountains range within Washington.
"Table Rock" Is A Good Name... (Photo By Paul Klenke)
From some locations near to and lower than Table Rock, the peak appears to have a conical-shaped summit area. In reality, the summit area is fairly large, flat, and rocky, allowing for “Table Rock” to be a fitting name. As the third-tallest peak in Columbia County, and the tallest peak within a ~12-mile radius, Table Rock is an ideal viewpoint from which to see into the Blue Mountains and surrounding areas. The views from the summit are so vast, in fact, that a fire lookout has been established there for many years and is one of the few fire lookouts in Washington still regularly staffed during every Summer.
Vertical Upper Northwest Slopes
Table Rock Summit Area
The Table Rock Lookout was first constructed in 1929, and was a small D-6 cupola cabin that remained at the summit for 30 years. An L-4 cab lookout tower with a 10’ tall concrete base was contructed in 1949. That concrete base still remains today, although the upper lookout cabin underwent modifications in 1989. A restroom is available for summit visitors near the lookout.
Table Rock Lookout
Table Rock is also an important destination for some prominence peakbaggers. As previously mentioned, Table Rock has over 1000’ of prominence. Although officially Table Rock is considered the second-most prominent point in Columbia County, behind only Oregon Butte, it is possible for Table Rock to be the county’s greatest prominence point (CoGPP) using the “dirty” rule of county prominence. For more information regarding CoGPPs or the “dirty” rule, please visit the Washington CoGPP section on this website.
The official USGS Benchmark can be found on a rock located at the south end of the summit area, away from the lookout tower. The USGS Benchmark is located near a sign for the Mill Creek Watershed, one of many such signs seen at the summit, on nearby ridges, and along FR-64. The Mill Creek Watershed is a closed watershed and no public access is allowed, as it is the municipal water source for the city of Walla Walla, Washington.
Watershed Boundary and USGS Benchmark
Looking North From Summit...
FROM HIGHWAY 12 IN DAYTON, WA:
1) Drive southeast on 4th Street. There might be signs indicating the road as the direction for the “SKI BLUEWOOD” ski area. 4th Street becomes known as North Fork Touchet Road after the Dayton city limits.
2) After 13.5 miles, the road becomes Forest Road 64 (FR-64). There is a “End Of County Road” sign at this location, but the road is still paved.
3) After 20.4 miles, the pavement ends. Continue straight on FR-64.
NOTE: The pavement ends shortly after the road passes the SKI BLUEWOOD skiing area.
4) After 23.5 miles, turn left to continue on FS-64. However, see important notes below regarding the final 4.5-mile section of FR-64 leading to the Table Rock turnoff.
5) After 28.0 miles, turn right onto FR-475 (a.k.a. “Table Rock Lookout Road”).
6) Follow FR-475 for nearly 0.5 miles to the summit area of Table Rock.
Along FR-475 (Table Rock Summit Road)
Umatilla National Forest, within which Table Rock is located, does not recommend passenger vehicles to travel beyond where FR-64 turns left at the 23.5-mile point from Highway 12. High clearance vehicles can generally drive all the way to the Table Rock summit, but the roads still require extra caution to drive. It is certainly possible for a passenger vehicle to drive along the final stretch of forest roads, even to the summit, but most (if not all) passenger vehicles would be recommended to not attempt it.
Prior to (i.e. north of) that location, FR-64 is passable for any street-legal vehicle. There is an unofficial area for parking and camping just prior to where FR-64 turns left and becomes poor quality. Then it would only be an easy five-mile road-walk or bicycle ride to the summit. Here are some of the problematic aspects of FR-64 (and even FR-475) between what would be mile-marker 23.5 and the Table Rock summit:
-> Many… and I mean MANY… drainage dips cross FR-64 (and to a lesser degree FR-475). Some of those drainage dips are shallow, while others are deep. Either way, they each require all types of vehicles to slow down and use extra caution.
-> The dirt on this section of roads can be slick and muddy when wet. This can also cause tires to get easily stuck during inclement weather conditions. Which leads to…
-> Multiple stretches of FR-64 have been “troughed” as a result of heavy 4x4 vehicles traveling along the road during inclement conditions, over time. Some of these “troughs” go down the center and/or sides of the road and creates ridges within the roadway.
-> Beyond what would be mile-marker 23.5 and the Table Rock summit, FR-64 and FR-475 are single-lane roads with few pullouts and/or turnaround locations.
Intersection Of FR-64 and FR-475
It is also possible to drive to Table Rock via a southern approach starting from Walla Walla, Washington, although access is only recommended for high-clearance vehicles (possibly even only 4x4 high-clearance vehicles).
From Walla Walla, WA:
1) Drive east on Isaacs Avenue.
2) Isaacs Avenue becomes Mill Creek Road, which later becomes FR-65. This road system is paved and accessible to any street-legal vehicle.
3) Turn left (north) on FR-64, and then follow to the Table Rock Lookout turnoff (FR-475).
NOTE: Due to the roughness of the southern sections of FR-64, this route is typically not recommended. For more specific information, such as distances, contact the Walla Walla Ranger District or obtain a Forest Map at their facility.
Currently, no Northwest Forest Pass or any other permit is required to hike, drive, and/or summit Table Rock.
However, prior to visiting the area it is recommended to contact the Walla Walla Ranger District of the Umatilla National Forest for current conditions, permits, etc.
People visiting Table Rock are not allowed beyond the Mill Creek Watershed boundary, which is clearly marked with numerous signs. As mentioned earlier, the Mill Creek Watershed is a closed watershed and no public access is allowed, as it is the municipal water source for the city of Walla Walla, Washington.
Per the Umatilla National Forest, no camping is allowed at the Table Rock summit or summit plateau.
There are numerous locations for backcountry camping and car-camping located along FR-64.
Prior to visiting the area it is recommended to contact the Walla Walla Ranger District of the Umatilla National Forest, and/or obtain a Forest Map, to determine possible camping locations in the area.