Story by Rick Barlupi
Photos by Rick Barlupi & Chico Oroville Outdoor Adventurers
Table Rock is a volcanic tooth in the Sierra Nevada, Plumas National Forest, and the epicenter of the 1849 California Gold Rush. 1849 Gold Rush miners from nearby Howland Flat shot fireworks off the top of Table Rock on the 4th of July and chiseled their names on the rocks, which remain today.
From the trailhead the hike is an hour and a half and rated moderate by the US Forest Service, elevation change 6100 feet to 6908 feet. The first mile of the hike is easy; most of the trail is a broad path through the forest. Near the end, however, the trail narrows with the last hundred yards being a scramble over a rocky terrain, but it is well worth the challenge. This section of the trail uses stacked rocks to mark the path to the top. Be very cautious coming down.
When we got on top, the view was 360 degrees that we won’t ever forget. The scenery was spectacular, the mountain air was scented with the aroma of the ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir trees, and the sky was a brilliant, deep sapphire. Off in the distance, Lassen Peak is easily seen to the northwest. The beauty was so stunning, and so vast, that we all were glad that we made the effort to hike here. The temperature at that elevation was enjoyable while back at our starting point in Chico it hit 103 degrees.
To access the trailhead from La Porte, head north on Quincy/La Porte Road and turn right onto Howland Flat Road. Proceed on 21N17 for two miles, then turn right on the spur road signed “Table Rock” and travel one mile and park in the wide spot just before an uphill right hand turn. The walk to the trailhead is an easy mile hike. There were a few stretches of road that were fairly rough; a 4-wheel drive vehicle is essential.
Between La Porte and the trailhead we stopped to explore the historical gold rush cemetery at St. Louis and the concrete arch bridge spanning Slate Creek. There’s something mesmerizing about remote hiking treasures that are off the beaten path, offering a glimpse into the lives of resilient folks that endured the fundamental frontiers of change.
If You Go: Day hikers bring a lunch, jacket, water, hat, binoculars, and a camera. Suitable for kids over 12, but no dogs due to the boulder hike to the top. If you are a backpacker, thrill-seeker spend the night on top of Table Rock. Tents are advised but not mandatory.