Black Lake Hike

Hike Rating: Moderate
Hike Length: 6.8 miles roundtrip
Elevation Change: 230’
Trailhead Elevation: 885’
Best Season: April-June and September
Driving Access: Any vehicle

Plus Points
• Picturesque basalt bluffs and scabland topography within the Drumheller channels
• The hike features deep rimrock lakes, reed-cattail marshes and stream cataracts
• Birdlife includes egrets, herons, ducks, geese, osprey and red-tailed hawks
• Abundant Spring wildflowers, including larkspur, phlox, asters and yarrow
• One of the more scenic, cow-free coulee hikes in Southeast Washington
• A feeling of wilderness solitude, even though farmlands are just a few miles away

Minus Points
• No established trail, but hiking is easy on old cow trails and game tracks
• Good route finding skills are required and use of our GPS points may be helpful
• Rattlesnakes are a possibility throughout the summer, so be aware

Download (PDF, 752 KB): Photos of Black Lake Hike
Download (PDF, 763 KB): Topo Map for Black Lake Hike
Download (GPX, 1 KB): GPS Points for Black Lake Hike
Download (PDF, 634 KB): Road Map for Black Lake Hike

Trail Notes
Map of Black Lake Hike
From the parking area at the Upper Goose Lake boat launch, the hike starts on a trail leading southeast up the steep-walled coulee away from the lake. After 0.3 miles, the rock wall on the south side of the coulee peters out (GPS Point 1) and one can easily walk up the grassy bank to the top of the rim. The route then follows old cow trails back northwest along the rim edge toward the lake, with panoramic vistas of the lake and coulee. Near the lake, the route follows the rim as it bends west, and then ascends up over the highest rimrock to avoid the steep slopes facing the lake.

At 1.0 miles, one comes to a wide, steep draw leading north down through the rim (GPS Point 2), providing an easy hiking route down to a lower bench near the lake. Descend to this flat lower bench and walk west, keeping to the bench edge for the best views of the lake and its waterfowl. At 1.3 miles (GPS Point 3), the route descends off the bench through a wide pothole to lakeside, where one finds game trails running near the water's edge under shady willow trees.

For the next 2 miles, the route roughly follows the east edge of the lakes and streams south, at times climbing up onto the nearby rim, at times descending to the water, as the topography and game trails dictate. At 1.8 miles, one comes to the stone-fill dam of Upper Goose Lake, marking the start of a long cattail marsh between the two lakes. The route soon passes through a grove of willow trees, then climbs south on a well-built trail up onto a higher rim and emerges on a bench overlooking Lower Goose Lake. From 2.0 to 2.7 miles, the walking is easy on grassy benches above the lake, with vistas of scenic basalt buttes.

At 2.8 miles, one comes to the low rock-and-mortar dam holding back Lower Goose Lake. Past the dam, the stream descends to Black Lake through a
narrow rocky canyon with both cataracts and small marshes. The easiest walking is on game trails on the east side of the creek, with sightings of egrets, herons and waterfowl in the marshy backwaters. At 3.4 miles, just past a series of splashing waterfalls, one emerges on a bench overlooking Black Lake, with long views of the lake and coulees to the south — a fine hike destination. Return as you came.

Road to the Trailhead
From the north on State Hwy 262, 4.9 miles east of Potholes State Park and 6.7 miles west of State Hwy 17, turn south on a gravel road at the east end of O'Sullivan Dam. This gravel road leads into the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge. Drive south about 2.9 miles to a junction, where the Upper Goose Lake Road is straight ahead.

From the south on State Hwy 26, drive north to the town of Othello, then follow McManamon Road north out of town as it descends into the Drumheller Channels. At 5.7 miles, turn north onto paved Morgan Lake Road. Follow this road north into the Refuge, past the end of the pavement, for about 4.6 miles to a road junction. Turn left (west) here onto the Upper Goose Lake Road.

Drive southwest on the Upper Goose Lake Road for about 1.7 miles to the road's end at the Upper Goose Lake boat ramp. A WA State Discover Pass is required at this trailhead.

Camping Options
The nearest public campground is Potholes State Park, about 10 driving miles northwest of the trailhead. This is a large campground with 126 sites, 60 with full hookups for travel trailers and RVs, and 66 more primitive sites for tent and car camping. It features drinking water, flush toilets, coin-operated showers and boat ramps into Potholes Reservoir. Reservations are available April 15 through September 15 and are highly recommended for the summer months. Visit the WA State Parks website or call (888) 226-7688. Camping fees are based on the type of campsite selected.

Note that camping and overnight parking are prohibited anywhere within the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge.

Agency Contact: Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife, (509) 765-6641

DISCLAIMER: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, but the authors do not guarantee that it is either current or correct. The reader assumes full responsibility for any use of this information, and is encouraged to contact local public land agencies to inquire about current conditions before traveling.

Page last updated: 12/8/14