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Council Bluff

South Cascades


South Cascades -- Mount Adams Area
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3.2 miles, roundtrip


Gain: 950 ft.
Highest Point: 5180 ft.


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Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass

From its rocky and rutted beginnings, to the short last push to the top of a former fire lookout site, this trail boasts big rewards for very little effort. The west slope of Mount Adams is right there behind you as you head to the top of Council Bluff to face the mountain in full.

Beginning at the Council Lake campground and lake access, head northwest on the main campground road closest to the lake to find the start, signed 'Boundary Trail No. 1'.  The trail starts out as a wide, rocky, deeply rutted road, used by hikers and off-road motorcyclists alike. 

The trail switchbacks leisurely along this section and after 0.8 miles, the road (along with the grade) softens, with a clear view of Mount Adams available along a short side trail on the right. At 1.3 miles, the trail widens into a clearing, with the Boundary Trail continuing straight. Your trail for Council Bluff takes a hard right, through a set of posts.

Leaving the road behind as you step through, the trail becomes rockier again. The tread also narrows for the last 0.3 miles of switchbacks, in and out, and then back into the forest. Although short, hiking poles might come in handy for this final section. Mount Adams continues to be at your back through this last climb, until you emerge out of the forest with the last few rocky steps up to Council Bluff.

Watch your step at the top. There's nearly nothing left of the old fire lookout, there’s still at least one small cable poking out of the ground. After admiring Mount Adams, look south for Mount Hood and north for Mount Rainier. Mount St. Helens is to the west, but views might be difficult to catch given the trees. And of course, don’t forget to look down, though the shimmer of Council Lake will naturally catch your eye.

Return the way you came, stopping to take in the views of Mount Adams that are now in front as you descend, especially before rejoining the Boundary Trail. At just over a mile, the remaining trail down will go quickly and after all, Council Lake beckons!


Council Bluff

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 46.2630, -121.6319 Open map in new window


South Cascades -- Mount Adams Area

Council Bluff (#117)

Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Cowlitz Valley Ranger District

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Getting There

From Highway 12 in Randle, drive 1 mile south on SR 131. At the junction, bear left onto Forest Road 23 and proceed 31.8 miles (though the pavement ends at 23.5 miles. Make a right on FR 2334, signed 'Council Bluff'.

Alternatively, from Vancouver, head east on SR-14 for approximately 64 miles. Take a left to turn north on Alt SR 141, just after crossing the White Salmon River and before White Salmon and Bingen. Alt SR 141 joins SR 141 and in approximately 20 miles, the road name changes to Mt Adams Rd in Trout Lake. In about 1.5 miles, bear left on Randle Rd, which becomes NF-23 after 2.5 miles. Continue along NF-23 for about 20 miles and take a left on NF-2334, signed "Council Bluff".

Proceed 1.2 miles, bearing right onto the spur into Council Lake Campground, where the trailhead can be found at the west end of the campground. A pit toilet is available here.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass

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Council Bluff

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