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!