This trail travels through beautiful shrub sage country and offers nice views over the Columbia River. Scenic irrigation seepage lakes rimmed by rust-colored basalt walls, abundant bird life, and some good fishing are additional attractions for this trip.
Maps: Ancient Lake and Dusty is on the Babcock Ridge 7.5 minutes USGS Topo and the S portion of the ride down to Columbia River is on Evergreen Ridge. 7.5 minute tope. Or view our topo map. Note: use ‘Print Preview’ before printing to properly scale this map to a full sheet of paper.
Activities: Hiking, Mountain Biking, Family Fun, Fishing. Dusty Lake is a popular fly-fishing lake. No motorized vehicles are allowed on the trails or lakes.
Nearest Towns: Quincy
Skill Level: 2. Easy but lack of signage means you must rely on maps.
Fitness Level: The area can accommodate all fitness levels. 1 plus or 2 minus fitness level to reach lakes.
Distance: 4.7 miles roundtrip to Ancient Lakes. Six miles roundtrip to Dusty Lake. Eleven miles RT to Columbia River.
Elevation: Start at1000 feet; Ancient Lake 821 feet; Dusty Lake 832 feet, Columbia River 600 feet.
Recommended Season: Best in spring and fall after wetting rains. The soil around here gets very sandy, dusty and loose in summer. And it gets hot here in summer. But the area is one of the region’s earliest fun zones to visit in early season and one of the best late-season places to visit. Spring and fall are the best fishing seasons.
Access: From the west, drive Highway 28 about 2.5 miles past the Crescent Bar turnoff to milepost 25. At rest area on top of the Trinidad Grade (several miles west of Quincy) turn right on 10 NW, immediately curve right and go around the back of rest area. In 0.4 miles turn left on V street. After 0.9 miles go right on 9th and just stay on it (after 0.5 miles it goes down a hill toward river, then it veers right). After 1.1 miles the road turns into a good gravel road, and after 4.6 miles it ends at a small parking lot with a sani-can and a gate across the road. There are no other facilities except the sani-can). Hike/Ride/Run starts just past the gate road.
Trip Instructions: From the gate closing the road to motorized vehicles, go south on the main road which follows along the Babcock Bench. At 0.6 miles, turn left on a dirt road and go east into this coulee if you want to go to Ancient Lake. Ancient Lake is 1.75 miles farther up this coulee.
If you want to visit Dusty Lake, go 1.5 miles along the main dirt road and then turn left and head east into the second coulee. Dusty Lake is 1.4 miles farther up the coulee and is stocked with rainbow trout and is a popular fly-fishing destination.
To get to the Columbia River, follow the road along Babcock Bench for 4.3 miles until you’re directly below the Gorge at George ampitheater (visible and prominent above you). Look carefully here for an old, faint overgrown road heading North for 100 yds and then hooking WNW toward the river. This overgrown road is flat for awhile, then drops slightly, and eventually drops quite steeply. The road is OK for mountain bikes for 0.8 miles, then it drops steeply for 0.4 miles and the soil gets very loose (easiest to leave a bike at this point). Nice views of the Columbia during this route.
Fishing. Dusty Lake has become a popular fishing destination and has earned a reputation for large trout. Nearly half of the fish caught here 15-20 inch carryovers. At one time brown trout were the predominant fishery but in 1999 the lake was rehabilitated to offer rainbow trout. Now rainbow are predominantly caught here but brown trout are sometimes still taken as well. Fly fishermen are particularly fond of fishing here but spinning gear and fishing with bait are fine as well. The lake is deep, and rimmed by cliffs so it doesn’t receive as much sun and is slower to warm up. May, October, and November are the best months to fish it. You must walk in (part of the reason the fishing is good) and float tubes are a good way to access areas that are difficult to reach from shore. Ancient Lake, meanwhile is a mixed fishery where you can catch sunfish, largemouth bass, bream, bluegill, rainbow trout, perch and crappie. Whether you’re spinning, fly fishing or baitcasting the chances of catching fish is reasonable because you need to hike in to fish it.
Ownership: The area is managed by the North Columbia Basin State Wildlife
Fees/Permits: Parking at the trailhead requires a Discover Pass, which can be purchased at State Parks and anywhere fishing licenses are sold.
Additional Information: For more information on the hike and, possibly, a recent condition report about the hike see this Washington Trail Association (WTA) trail report about this hike. Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance also has good information about this trip here
Other: Besides hiking, the routes mentioned here are excellent mountain bike rides (fairly easy ability level). There are also excellent advanced rides on challenging single-track on the rock shelves and sinks above (east) of Dusty and Ancient Lake. There’s lots of exploration potential. For example, the picture below shows a little different loop hike you can take around the coulee containing Ancient Lake
Reporter & Date: Original report by Andy Dappen April, 2005. Last updated June 2010.
Leave It Better Than You Found It: This should be every outdoor user’s goal. Pick up trash left by others, pull noxious weeds along your route, disperse old fire rings (they encourage more fires), throw branches over spur trails and spurs between switchbacks (make it harder to do the wrong thing than the right thing).
Important Disclaimer: Treat this information as recommendations, not gospel. Things change, conditions change, and those contributing these reports are volunteers–they may make mistakes, fail to give complete information, or may not know all the issues affecting a route. If things go wrong, you are completely responsible for yourself and your actions. If you won’t assume that responsibility, you are prohibited from using our information.