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Difference between revisions of "Silver Star Mountain via Bluff Mountain Hike"

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

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[[Category:Exposed Hikes]]
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[[Category:Southwest Washington]]
 
[[Category:Gifford Pinchot National Forest]]
 
[[Category:Gifford Pinchot National Forest]]
 
[[Category:Columbia River Gorge]]
 
[[Category:Columbia River Gorge]]
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[[Category:Exposed Hikes]]
 
[[Category:Difficult Hikes]]
 
[[Category:Difficult Hikes]]
[[Category:Southwest Washington]]
 
 
[[Category:Viewpoint Hikes]]
 
[[Category:Viewpoint Hikes]]
 
[[Category:Difficult Hikes]]
 
[[Category:Difficult Hikes]]
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* Trail Log: [[Silver Star via Bluff Mountain Hike/Log|Trail Log]]
 
* Trail Log: [[Silver Star via Bluff Mountain Hike/Log|Trail Log]]
 
* Hike Type: Out and Back
 
* Hike Type: Out and Back
{{Distance|12.4 miles}} (round trip)
+
{{Distance|12.4 miles}}  
 
{{Elevation gain|1660 feet}}
 
{{Elevation gain|1660 feet}}
 +
* High point: 4,375 feet
 
{{Difficulty|Difficult}}
 
{{Difficulty|Difficult}}
 
* Seasons: May through November
 
* Seasons: May through November
* Backpackable: Yes
+
* Backpackable: No
** (camp site options are limited)
+
* Crowded: At the summit
* Crowded: No
+
 
* Family Friendly: Yes  
 
* Family Friendly: Yes  
  
 
=== Hike Description ===
 
=== Hike Description ===
[[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 has tons of huckleberries 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 [[Bluff Mountain]] approach may be the longest of the several options ending at the summit of [[Silver Star Mountain]], but is exceptional for a few reasons: 1) it tends to be much less traveled; 2) you can "climb" three mountains in a day! and 3) you get to hike atop a fun, jagged, exposed ridgeline. Abundant wildflowers are an added bonus in late spring and early summer, and there are views various drainages that feed into the Washougal River to the east and south.
  
Of the many hike options in the Silver Star area, three are most established: The [[Silver Star via Grouse Vista Hike|Grouse Vista Trail]], [[Silver Star Hike|Silver Star Trail #180]] and the Bluff Mountain Trail, described here.   
+
The Bluff Mountain trail (#172) starts at the [[Bluff Mountain Trailhead]] and follows along an abandoned forest road for the first three miles.  Despite this non-aesthetic, gravel rock pathway your view all around you is fantastic right from the startYou peer down the wide open valleys of Copper Creek to the west and Bear Creek and the Washougal River to the east as you traverse the top of a ridge.  In springtime, the abundant bear-grass is in bloom, and if you keep your eyes open you can spot columbine, tiger lily, yellow rattle, paintbrush, hawksbeard, lovage, and other northwest gems. Huckleberry, bracken, thimbleberry, and young noble firs crowd the path. There’s a long drop on the road after you've passed around the slopes of Howie Point, and the trail heads off to the right before the end of the road bed. Smooth hawksbeard, a dandelion-like Eurasian invasive, paints these slopes bright yellow in the summer.
  
The Bluff Mountain trail may be the longest of the three options, but is exceptional for a few reasons: 1) it tends to be much quieter, 2) you can "climb" three mountains in a day! and 3) you get to hike part of the way atop a fun, spiny, exposed ridgeline.
+
After about two miles you'll see [[Bluff Mountain]] become pronounced in front of you. At mile three, you'll be upon it as the trail starts to veer to the right (west) of it. If you feel so inclined, you can scramble up to the top to get some quick views.  However, that climb will be anti-climatic in retrospect after summiting [[Silver Star Mountain|Silver Star]]. You're at about the half way point. The trail gets far more interesting from here as you continue on open slopes scoured by the massive Yacolt Burn in 1902.
  
The Bluff Mountain trail (#172) starts at the [[Bluff Mountain Trailhead]] and follows along an abandoned forest-road for the first three miles. Despite this non-aesthetic, gravel rock pathway your view all around you is fantastic right from the start. You peer down wide open valleys as you traverse the top of a ridge. In springtime, the abundant beargrass is in bloom, and if you keep your eyes open you can spot columbine, tiger lily and other northwest gems.  
+
The trail heads down below the cliffs of [[Bluff Mountain]] and rises into woods with some large silver firs. You'll ascend an open brushy slope with goat’s beard and thimbleberry accompanied by the alarm calls of pikas. Then, the path drops again before rising into silver fir, noble fir, and bear-grass woods. You'll see the distinctive [[Little Baldy Mountain]] right in front of you. You'll pass it to the left (the trail does not cross its summit) at just under the four-mile mark. Little Baldy's top is mostly loose talus. If you choose to scramble up to the summit, do so without causing rocks to fall and hit other hikers passing by. After about two miles, the trail narrows and climbs to the tops of a distinct jagged ridgeline, passing through rugged volcanic outcrops as the [[Silver Star Mountain|Silver Star]] summit comes more sharply into view This is certainly the most interesting part of the approach!
  
After about two miles you'll see [[Bluff Mountain]] become pronounced in front of you. At mile three, you'll be upon it as the trail starts to veer to the right (west) of it. If you feel so inclined, you can scramble up to the top to get some quick views. However, that climb will be anti-climatic in retrospect after summiting Silver Star. You're at about the half way point. The trail gets far more interesting from here.
+
At the five-mile mark, you reach a junction with the [[Bluff Mountain-Starway Trail Junction|Starway Trail]] where the lesser-used Starway Trail meets yours. At this trail junction, you are at 3,800 feet of elevation, a mere 250 feet higher than where you parked your car!  You have to climb another 700 feet in the last mile, so prepare for some steep sections. After a while in the sun, you're enjoying the brief respite of this section of trail through a young second-growth forest. Snow in this area can last late into June.
  
Continue on the trail another 2/3 mile as it keeps arcing to the right and heads due west. You'll see the distinctive [[Little Baldy Mountain]] right in front of you. You'll pass it to the left (the trail does not cross its summit) at just under the four mile mark. Little Baldy's top is mostly loose talus. If you choose to scramble up to the summit, do so without causing rocks to fall and hit other hikers passing by. After about two miles, the trail narrows and climbs to the tops of a distinct spiny ridgeline, through rugged basaltic, volcanic outcrops. This is certainly the funnest part of the approach!
+
You will know you've neared your final destination when the trail comes to a [[Silver Star Upper Trail Junctions|junction with three other trails]] at an old road. Turn left and walk up the rocky closed road. Two-tenths of a mile later, you'll come an old [[Silver Star-Summit Trail Junction|road junction]]. Turn left here again, and head up an even rockier road now known as the Silver Star Summit Trail (#180D). Where the road switchbacks under silver and noble firs, you'll see your best bet for a campsite (no water) to the left.  
  
This as good a time as any to talk about the massive Yacolt Burn, the forest fire that devastated this whole area back in 1902. It is the reason that, to this day, all the area peaks remain bald and devoid of substantial vegetation.
+
As you approach the summit, the views to the north, east and south open up wide to you with [[Mount Adams|Adams]], [[Mount Hood|Hood]], [[Mount Rainier|Rainier]] and [[Mount Saint Helens|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 [[Silver Star 2|Star 2]] on the USGS maps) for the great photo-op of the north summit with [[Mount Rainier]] and [[Mount Saint Helens]] as background.  
  
The trail gains and loses elevation dramatically on the ridge that follows past Little Baldy. As the Silver Star summit becomes more sharply in view, the trail runs along the top of a narrow spine, featuring numerous basaltic outcrops. 
+
You can return the way you came.  
  
Finally, at the 5 mile mark, you reach a junction with the [[Bluff Mountain-Starway Trail Junction|Starway Trail]] where the lesser-used Starway Trail meets yours. At this trail junction, you are at 3700 feet of elevation, a mere 200 feet higher than where you parked your car!  You have to climb another 700 feet in the last mile, so prepare for some steep sections. After a while in the sun, you're enjoying the brief respite of this section of trail through a young second-growth forest. Snow in this area can last late into June.
 
 
You will know you've neared your final destination when the trail comes to a [[Silver Star Upper Trail Junctions|junction with three other trails]]. Turn left and walk up the rocky closed road. 2/10 of a mile later, you'll come an old [[Silver Star-Summit Trail Junction|road junction]]. Turn left here again, and head up an even rockier road now known as the Silver Star Summit Trail (#180D).
 
 
As you approach the summit, the views to the north, east and south open up wide to you with [[Mount Adams|Adams]], [[Mount Hood|Hood]], [[Mount Rainier|Rainier]] and [[Mount Saint Helens|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 its side.
 
 
You can return the way you came.
 
  
 
=== Maps ===
 
=== Maps ===
{{Hikemaps|latitude=45.6316|longitude=-121.90693}}
+
{{Hikemaps|latitude=45.7447|longitude=-122.1921}}
 
* [https://www.dnr.wa.gov/geo/yacolt.pdf  Yacolt Burn State Forest: Non-motorized Trails (Washington DNR)]
 
* [https://www.dnr.wa.gov/geo/yacolt.pdf  Yacolt Burn State Forest: Non-motorized Trails (Washington DNR)]
  

Revision as of 19:37, 5 March 2021

Looking back at the trail as it passes Little Baldy (David Koskamp)
Silver Star Mountain from the Bluff Mountain Trail (David Koskamp)
St. Helens and Rainier from the summit (Jeff Statt)
Map of the Silver Star area
File:SilverStarTrailNetworkBM.JPG
Silver Star trail network from the USFS
  • Start point: Bluff Mountain TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Silver Star Mountain
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Out and Back
  • Distance: 12.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1660 feet
  • High point: 4,375 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: May through November
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: At the summit
  • Family Friendly: Yes

Contents

Hike Description

The Bluff Mountain approach may be the longest of the several options ending at the summit of Silver Star Mountain, but is exceptional for a few reasons: 1) it tends to be much less traveled; 2) you can "climb" three mountains in a day! and 3) you get to hike atop a fun, jagged, exposed ridgeline. Abundant wildflowers are an added bonus in late spring and early summer, and there are views various drainages that feed into the Washougal River to the east and south.

The Bluff Mountain trail (#172) starts at the Bluff Mountain Trailhead and follows along an abandoned forest road for the first three miles. Despite this non-aesthetic, gravel rock pathway your view all around you is fantastic right from the start. You peer down the wide open valleys of Copper Creek to the west and Bear Creek and the Washougal River to the east as you traverse the top of a ridge. In springtime, the abundant bear-grass is in bloom, and if you keep your eyes open you can spot columbine, tiger lily, yellow rattle, paintbrush, hawksbeard, lovage, and other northwest gems. Huckleberry, bracken, thimbleberry, and young noble firs crowd the path. There’s a long drop on the road after you've passed around the slopes of Howie Point, and the trail heads off to the right before the end of the road bed. Smooth hawksbeard, a dandelion-like Eurasian invasive, paints these slopes bright yellow in the summer.

After about two miles you'll see Bluff Mountain become pronounced in front of you. At mile three, you'll be upon it as the trail starts to veer to the right (west) of it. If you feel so inclined, you can scramble up to the top to get some quick views. However, that climb will be anti-climatic in retrospect after summiting Silver Star. You're at about the half way point. The trail gets far more interesting from here as you continue on open slopes scoured by the massive Yacolt Burn in 1902.

The trail heads down below the cliffs of Bluff Mountain and rises into woods with some large silver firs. You'll ascend an open brushy slope with goat’s beard and thimbleberry accompanied by the alarm calls of pikas. Then, the path drops again before rising into silver fir, noble fir, and bear-grass woods. You'll see the distinctive Little Baldy Mountain right in front of you. You'll pass it to the left (the trail does not cross its summit) at just under the four-mile mark. Little Baldy's top is mostly loose talus. If you choose to scramble up to the summit, do so without causing rocks to fall and hit other hikers passing by. After about two miles, the trail narrows and climbs to the tops of a distinct jagged ridgeline, passing through rugged volcanic outcrops as the Silver Star summit comes more sharply into view This is certainly the most interesting part of the approach!

At the five-mile mark, you reach a junction with the Starway Trail where the lesser-used Starway Trail meets yours. At this trail junction, you are at 3,800 feet of elevation, a mere 250 feet higher than where you parked your car! You have to climb another 700 feet in the last mile, so prepare for some steep sections. After a while in the sun, you're enjoying the brief respite of this section of trail through a young second-growth forest. Snow in this area can last late into June.

You will know you've neared your final destination when the trail comes to a junction with three other trails at an old road. Turn left and walk up the rocky closed road. Two-tenths of a mile later, you'll come an old road junction. Turn left here again, and head up an even rockier road now known as the Silver Star Summit Trail (#180D). Where the road switchbacks under silver and noble firs, you'll see your best bet for a campsite (no water) to the left.

As you approach the summit, the views to the north, east and south open up wide to you with Adams, Hood, Rainier and 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 Mount Rainier and Mount Saint Helens as background.

You can return the way you came.


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The approximate path of the Bluff Mountain Trail (from David Koskamp)
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