Table Rock, Oregon
Copyright Chris Erikson 2005
Location: 65 miles SSE of Bend, OR
Coordinates: (NAD83 / WGS84 datum)
Wind: Any, 360 degree wind exposure
Access: Dirt Road, medium clearance, rocky, steep
Season: Year round (depending on snow conditions of the high Oregon desert.)
Vertical Relief: 1000’+
Skill level: Intermediate (due to cliffs)
Table Rock is a pint sized and remarkably symmetrical extinct volcanic cone, with a summit elevation of 5621′. It stands roughly 1000′ higher than the surrounding desert in a setting isolated from any nearby hills or peaks, which results in a unique and spectacular appearance. It’s classic and distinctive shape can be seen for many miles in any direction. This structure appears to be a classic volcanic cone, but is actually a unique maar’ cone created by the interaction between groundwater and magma.
The summit plateau is nearly flat, almost perfectly circular, and about ¼ mile in diameter. Cliffs averaging a few hundred feet in height ring nearly the entire summit except for the NW side, below this steep but navigable slopes continue at a constant grade down to the base of the mountain. These sheer cliffs are the exposed edges of the columnar basalt “cap” covering the entire summit.
The road to the summit circles around about half of the cone on it’s climb to the top, beginning on the mountain’s E flank and traversing around the S shoulder until reaching the summit area via a gap in the cliffs on the NW face.
For more info on the fascinating history of volcanism and geology of this peak and the region, go here to the Cascade Volcano Observatory webpage:
Wood and Kienle, 1990, Volcanoes of North America:
“The Table Rock maar complex consists of Table Rock (a tuff cone), 2 large tuff rings, and 6 smaller tuff rings and eroded vents. The complex forms a north-northwest-elongated oval 5.6 x 8.8 kilometers. The highest point is the top of Table Rock, 395 meters above the basin floor. The complex overlies a 220-meter-thick section of lake sediments, interbedded tuffs, and sands and gravel.
Table Rock is a symmetrical tuff cone, approximately 1,500 meters in diameter at its base, tapering to a diameter of approximately 360 meters. The cone is capped with a basalt lava lake now partially eroded. Dikes extend north-northwest and south-southeast of the crater lake, parallel to the long axis of the tuff ring complex. The lava lake and dikes suggest that before eruptions stopped, access of ground or surface water to the magma ceased.”
This mountain has tricky flying due to the difficulty of down slope recovery on most sides, but has such a unique appearance, interesting geology, and a fun approach road, that it’s worth flying at least once just for the experience.
Due to it’s location far east of the Cascade crest in the deserts of central Oregon, summer weather here is generally dry and hot. Spring and fall temps are typically in the 70’s to low 80’s, summer temps commonly in the 90’s or better. Rain infrequent.
Summit area is basalt boulders and outcrops, low scrub bushes and volcanic ash soil. No trees. Upper slopes are cliffs to a few hundred feet high, above lower slopes consisting of widely spaced small trees and scrub brush, more basalt outcroppings and volcanic ash soil.
Lift can be good but the lift band probably does not go all that high (slope top plus 200-300′?) unless strong thermals are present. Lift is vertical with no penetration issues. Flying in wind shearing across the hill is a non issue, since you just walk to any part of the hill to face directly into prevailing winds.
The slope’s sharp lip means a good ability to stay up in marginal lift if you work close to the lip. Unlimited sightlines and visibility as long as you are not low and accidentally rounding the side of the summit.
Boulders and outcrops, sandy ash soil, small brush. No trees, very flat…. as long as you can make the top. Little if any crunchie friendly landing zone, and no crunchy friendly out landing zone. Rocks and some brush, punctuated by more rocks for variety. Did I mention the rocks?
Walk of Shame:
Cliffs on all sides mean any walk will be a long one, however since the there is no real tree or brush cover finding a downed plane should not be a problem. The issue here isn’t losing your plane, it’s just how best to get to it.
Since the access road rings the S half of the mountain, simply walk or drive the road to as close as possible and then cover the remaining ground on foot. If you’re down on the N half of the mountain, you’ll need to get below the cliffs and then traverse the mountain as necessary.
Campsites numerous and obvious at the base of the cone, none on the way up, the summit is entirely open. Sites are unimproved, “dispersed camping” conditions, pay attention to fire conditions as this area is extremely dry. Unless you see otherwise, if you are there in summer or fall, expect a fire ban is in place. Please clean up after yourself.
Take Hwy 31 to Silver Lake, Oregon. Travel 6 miles E of Silver Lake on Hwy 31 and turn N onto Table Rock Road. Proceed 3.5 mi N on Table Rock Road until reaching the NW side of Table Rock, take a right to head E on the good dirt road which forks off heading E.
In about 1 mile take another right at next “Y”, the road will start to go SE in gently rolling terrain, then will turn to the S.
Stay on obvious main road as you approach Table’s E slope, at which point the road will begin to climb the mountain’s SE flank and circle around to the NW side where the road gains the summit.
It is about 4 miles to the summit from the turn onto dirt from Table Rock Road.