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

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

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[[Image:Lupine and paintbrush, Bluff Mountain Trail.jpg|thumb|250px|Lupine and paintbrush on the Bluff Mountain Trail ''(bobcat)'']]
[[Image:Lupine and paintbrush, Bluff Mountain Trail.jpg|thumb|250px|Lupine and paintbrush on the Bluff Mountain Trail ''(bobcat)'']]
[[Image:SilverStarBearGrass.jpg|thumb|250px|Silver Star Mountain from the Bluff Mountain Trail ''(David Koskamp)'']]
[[Image:SilverStarBearGrass.jpg|thumb|250px|Silver Star Mountain from the Bluff Mountain Trail ''(David Koskamp)'']]
[[Image:Pacific ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus), Bluff Mountain Trail.jpg|thumb|250px|Pacific ninebark ''(Physocarpus capitatus)'', Bluff Mountain Trail ''(bobcat)'']]
[[Image:SS09_SummitZoom02.jpg|thumb|250px|St. Helens and Rainier and the summit of Silver Star from Silver Star 2 ''(Jeff Statt)'']]
[[Image:SS09_SummitZoom02.jpg|thumb|250px|St. Helens and Rainier and the summit of Silver Star from Silver Star 2 ''(Jeff Statt)'']]
[[Image:BluffMountainTrailMarker.jpg|thumb|400px|The approximate path of the Bluff Mountain Trail ''(David Koskamp'']]
[[Image:BluffMountainTrailMarker.jpg|thumb|400px|The approximate path of the Bluff Mountain Trail ''(David Koskamp'']]

Revision as of 20:23, 5 March 2021

Looking back at the trail as it passes Little Baldy (David Koskamp)
Lupine and paintbrush on the Bluff Mountain Trail (bobcat)
Silver Star Mountain from the Bluff Mountain Trail (David Koskamp)
Pacific ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus), Bluff Mountain Trail (bobcat)
St. Helens and Rainier and the summit of Silver Star from Silver Star 2 (Jeff Statt)
The approximate path of the Bluff Mountain Trail (David Koskamp
Route of the Bluff Mountain Trail
  • Start point: Bluff Mountain TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Silver Star Mountain
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Out and Back
  • Distance: 11.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2450 feet
  • High point: 4,375 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: May through November
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: At the summit
  • Family Friendly: Yes


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. Most of the hike undulates along the ridge, which means you'll have short elevation gains on the way back.

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, which began in September 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. Little Baldy Mountain is a good turnaround point (about nine miles roundtrip) for those wanting to do a shorter outing with far less elevation gain.

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, after a few switchbacks, 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 600 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.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Yacolt Burn State Forest Non-Motorized Trails (Washington DNR)
  • Washington Department of Natural Resources: The Yacolt Burn State Forest Map
  • Green Trails Maps: Bridal Veil, OR #428
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument & Administrative Area
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Gifford Pinchot National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

  • Pot-holed approach road: drive carefully

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Hiking Washington's Mount Adams Country by Fred Barstad
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • Day Hiking: Columbia River Gorge by Craig Romano
  • 33 Hiking Trails: Southern Washington Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 95 Virtual Hikes of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument by Northwest Hiker
  • Lookouts: Firewatchers of the Cascades and Olympics by Ira Spring & Byron Fish

More Links


Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.