Silver Star Mountain via Grouse Vista Hike
From Oregon Hikers Field Guide
- Start point: Grouse Vista Trailhead
- End point: Silver Star Mountain
- Trail Log: Trail Log
- Hike Type: Out and Back
- Distance: 6.0 miles (round trip)
- Elevation gain: 2040 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Seasons: May through November
- Backpackable: Yes
- (camp site options are limited)
- Crowded: Yes
- Family Friendly: Yes, for older kids
Silver Star Mountain is one of the best 360 degree summits within a day's drive of Portland, boasting a rocky, exposed viewpoint of five major cascade volcanoes. It is also a great wildflower area in the spring, and huckleberries abound in the fall. Further, there are enough unique and sometimes fanciful rock outcrops along your journey that you'll wish you brought a geologist along!
The Grouse Vista Trail option, from the south, is a little longer and more elevation gain than Silver Star from the north, but the Grouse Vista Trail road is easier. The Bluff Mountain trail is somehwat longer. The Grouse Vista trail is also the option with the most diverse terrain - alternating between exposure and shade, passing by large geologic formations, and keeping most of panoramic views available from the Silver Star summit under wraps until the final approach. The hike can probably be divided in three sections: 1) Steep and forested, 2) Exposed and flat, then 3) Very steep and in-and-out of the trees. Each section is just about a mile long.
Starting from the Grouse Vista Trailhead head due north. (There is a trail leading south with a trailhead sign for Larch Mountain. Before you've even begun, you reach your first trail junction. The Tarbell Trail diverts off the the left. This connects to the west Chinook Trail network and the Silver Star Mountain via Sturgeon Rock Loop Hike. If you want a longer return option you may return this way. (Details later).
As you continue straight, you notice the trail is full of loose rocks - so you'll want good boots and trekking poles. You are following the path of an old forest road, but the road's condition is so eroded and grown over that you almost wouldn't know. The ascent here is a bit steep in places, and there are no switchbacks. There is one seasonal creek on this section of trail, but do not rely on it for drinking water. There are no other source of water the rest of the way.
After about .8 mile, the trail levels out and you begin to see views off to your left (west) of the city of Vancouver, and of a radio-tower-topped Larch Mountain behind you to the south. At just over a mile the forest will open up to a massive meadow. In spring this is a gorgeous field of wildflowers, and in the fall, it's filled with ripe huckleberries. You'll also be treated to two unique geologic formations: Pyramid Rock to your right and Sturgeon Rock in the distance to the north.
At about mile 1.4, a trail goes right and up. This trail goes on the east side of Pyramid Rock, allows access to the top of the rock, and connects back to the main trail at about mile 2.3. This would be an alternate for the return trip or for another time. There are fewer people and it requires a bit of route finding.
We'll continue straight on the main trail, which is a smaller, but still well-worn, path. It levels out and actually drops about 50 foot of elevation as you walk the west side of Pyramid Rock and follow along the ridgeline.
Continue for another mile. The trail eventually dips into the forest again and zig zags a bit as it starts taking on elevation. At the top of a particularly steep section you'll get to the Silver Star-Grouse Vista Trail Junction where you'll pick up Trail #180. Go left (northward) at this fork. The next .2 mile will be the steepest push before getting to the Silver Star-Indian Pits Trail Junction. The faint Indian Pit Trail (#180E), which heads south one mile on a ridgeline to an open scree slope and the Silver Star Indian Pits. An old road heads west from here. This road is the former route of the Sturgeon Rock Trail.
You will continue straight, heading generally northward. It's not long now (.1 mile) before you meet up with the trails approaching Silver Star from the north side. At the unmarked junction you'll turn right, heading east up the final push to the summit, which you should see after about .3 mile.
As you approach the summit, the views to the north, east and south open up wide to you with Mount Adams, Mount Hood, Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens sitting respectfully at their benches along the horizon. On a clear day you can see Mount Jefferson due south.
The trail hits the middle of a saddle. There is a dual-summit of sorts. Take the left spur to the "true" summit which has the remnants of an old lookout tower. Then turn back and hike up the short 'south summit' (called Star 2 on the USGS maps) for the great photo-op of the north summit with Rainier and St. Helens at it's side.
You can return the way you came.
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