Silver Star Mountain via Sturgeon Rock Loop Hike
From Oregon Hikers Field Guide
- Start point: Grouse Vista Trailhead
- End point: Silver Star Mountain
- Trail Log:
- Hike Type: Loop
- Distance: 7.4 miles
- Elevation gain: 2440 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Seasons: Late Spring into Fall
- Family Friendly: No
- Backpackable: No
- Crowded: Only on Grouse Vista trail
Sturgeon Rock is a prominence on the west ridge of Silver Star Mountain that offers views that are just as satisfying those from the crowded Silver Star summit. The ridges here are eroded remnants of the Silver Star Pluton, a 20 million year-old intrusion of magma that has been exposed over time. More recently, after the turn of the 20th century, the Yacolt Burn ravished these hillsides and consumed the coniferous forest. Burn snags feature prominently in the open areas, which offer a smorgasbord of wildflowers in late spring and are slowly being recolonized by noble and silver firs. It's a short scramble to the summit of Sturgeon Rock, where you're highly likely to experience solitude: make sure you save this hike for a clear day. The loop described takes you to the summits of both Sturgeon Rock and Silver Star Mountain in a clockwise direction.
A point on the ridge of Sturgeon Rock is the high point of Clark County (The actual summit is just across the county line in Skamania County). Most maps have Sturgeon Rock erroneously placed lower on the ridge and west of the Tarbell Trail: this includes Washington DNR's Yacolt Burn State Forest map. Maps also have Pyramid Rock in the wrong position: it is actually the steeper prominence just northeast of the marked one.
From the parking area, cross the road and head up a steep old road bed into Douglas-fir and salal woods. Soon, come to the Grouse Vista-Tarbell Trail Junction and go left on the Tarbell Trail, passing the 10.5 mile sign. See below a large water tank under the alders in the creek valley. Cross the small creek and reenter Douglas-fir, salal, Oregon grape and sword fern woods. The trail is wide and well-maintained as you pass through a devil’s club/alder draw. Some noble and silver firs enter the mix. From this point on the trail, Sturgeon Rock, Pyramid Rock and Silver Star Mountain are visible. Pass the Mile 10 sign and walk through a clearing . The trail drops and rises past fire-scarred snags from the 1902 Yacolt Burn. A sign points out Pyramid Rock looming above you. Step over a creek in a vine maple thicket and pass the 9.5 mile sign. The trail rises and you can look left through the trees to see a cascading waterfall before you drop to the wide Rock Creek Bridge. Drop and rise to cross two small creeks and switchback under noble firs and Douglas-firs. Switchback again at another Pyramid Rock sign and head steadily up. Cross a small creek and switchback up four times on an eroded tread. Head into denser woods of Douglas-fir and noble fir. Reach the ridge crest and switchback twice before coming to a junction at an old jeep track. A sign says Hidden Falls is two miles way on the Tarbell Trail.
Go left and uphill on the eroded jeep track, which is rather steep and rocky. Noble firs seem to dominate here among the bear-grass and bracken clearings. Then enter a dense silver fir woodland. The road swings to the right towards the east side of the ridge in a clearing studded with young noble firs. An old track leads up to the left here.
Take this track to reach Sturgeon Rock. Pass beneath two guardian noble firs and ascend in bear-grass towards a rocky outcropping. There’s a scratch of a trail here that then veers to the right to avoid the outcrop. Scramble along a juniper-covered slope and find a steep trail leading up to the ridge crest of Sturgeon Rock. From this crest, there are wonderful views on a clear day all the way from Mount Rainier in the north to the Three Sisters in the south. Find a trail leading upward along the crest and reach the knobby summit. From here, you can get your first view of Mount Adams and Goat Rocks. Also, see down the valleys to Yacolt and logging operations on the hillsides around. Saddle Mountain and, way to the south, Marys Peak, are prominent in the Coast Range. Head down the spine of the rock and find a use trail leading down through the silver firs about 40 yards to join up with the jeep trail.
Go left and up with a few yards of woodland separating you from the columnar basalt buttresses of Sturgeon Rock. Soon, there’s a trail junction and you go left up to the ridge crest north of the rock. Hike along the crest in silver fir woods. Where the trail forks, go left (The right-hand trail leads back to the jeep track, which eventually joins with the Grouse Vista Trail). Reach a saddle and an old road bed at the Silver Star Upper Trail Junctions. The Bluff Mountain Trail, Star Way and Ed’s Trail all are signposted as trails lead in different directions. Go right up the road bed on the Silver Star Trail #180. Come to the Silver Star-Summit Trail Junction, and go left on a rocky jeep track. Pass a campsite on the left where the track veers right. Reach an open area with bear-grass, noble firs and patches of snow. The road switchbacks left and heads up to the Silver Star Mountain summit and old lookout site. The views are similar to those from Sturgeon Rock and, of course, there’s the lovely vista along the spine of the Little Baldy - Bluff Mountain ridge.
When you've had your fill of views, head down to the Silver Star-Summit Trail Junction, go left and drop in silver fir woods. Come to the four-way Silver Star-Indian Pits Trail Junction and the Sturgeon Rock jeep track and keep straight. The track heads down into an open area, with a view of Sturgeon Rock to the right. The trail drops rather steeply in an avenue of Sitka alders. At the Silver Star-Grouse Vista Trail Junction, keep right and drop steeply again. There’s another good view of Sturgeon Rock through the alders. Go left across an open talus slope with vistas up to Sturgeon Rock and the Silver Star Mountain summit. The falls on Rock Creek can be heard. The trail rises below a rocky palisade and then drops to traverse beneath Pyramid Rock with views ahead to Larch Mountain. Rise through boulders below the Rock and view the snag-studded grassy slopes below. There’s a track to a saddle leading up to the left. Keep right on the main track and head into a copse of noble fir, silver fir and Douglas-fir. Come out into an open area again where you can spot the Rock Creek Bridge way down in the valley below. The trail levels as you enter Douglas-fir, silver fir, noble fir and western hemlock woods. Then, drop steeply on a rocky tread. A spring on the left side of the track gushes across the trail in an alder grove. Keep descending on a rocky, ankle-turning tread to pass the Grouse Vista-Tarbell Trail Junction and head down to the parking area.
- Maps: Hike Finder
- Tarbell, Bells Mtn and Silver Star Trail Systems (Washington DNR)
- Silver Star Trails (USFS)
- Washington Department of Natural Resources: The Yacolt Burn State Forest Map
Regulations or Restrictions, etc.
- Discover Pass required
- Search Trip Reports for Silver Star Mountain via Sturgeon Rock Loop Hike
Related Discussions / Q&A
- Search Trail Q&A for Silver Star Mountain via Sturgeon Rock Loop Hike
Guidebooks that cover this hike
- Day Hikes in the Columbia Gorge by Don J. Scarmuzzi
- Day Hiking: Columbia River Gorge by Craig Romano
- Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
- 33 Hiking Trails: Southern Washington Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
- Trail #180C Sturgeon Rock (USFS)
- Silver Star Mountain Loop Hike (Northwest Hiker)
- Sturgeon Rock and "Sturgeon Fin" (Summit Post)
- Sturgeon Rock (Washougal, WA) is Official High Point!!!!! (Summit Post)
- Yacolt Burn State Forest (Washington DNR)
- Tarbell Trail (Washington Trails Association)
- George Lee Tarbell (Clark History)