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Silver Star Mountain via Grouse Vista Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Revision as of 22:21, 23 March 2007 by SasquatchBot (Talk | contribs)

Hikers near the summit of Silver Star Mt, with Mt. Jefferson in the distance. Jeff Statt
The Grouse Vista Trail as it emergencies from the forest to an exposed section. (Sturgeon Rock in the background)
Pryamid Rock
Mount Saint Helens and Rainier with the Silver Star summit in the foreground. Jeff Statt
USGS Silver Star network map
  • Start point: Grouse Vista TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Silver Star Mountain
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Out and Back
  • Distance: 6.42 (round trip)
  • Elevation Gain: 2034
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: May through November
  • Backpackable: Yes
    • (camp site options are limited)
  • Crowded: Yes
  • Family Friendly: No
    • (using shorter option only to Little Baldy)


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 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!

Of the many hike options in the Silver Star area, three are most established: The Grouse Vista Trail, Silver Star Trail #180 and the Bluff Mountain Trail.

The Grouse Vista Trail option, from the south, is considered the most difficult of the three, gaining over a 1000 feet in just over three miles. It 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 (Clark County)). There is a short set of steps then enters the forest. 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 Sturgeon Stairway 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 - 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. Just before you pass along the east side of Pyramid Rock it'll appear that the trail take a u-turn and heads upward and back south. While you could eventually get to Silver Star this way (or if you feel inclined - to scramble up Pyramid Rock) we'll instead continue straight on the 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 Trail 180 - Grouse Vista 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 Trail 180 - Sturgeon Stairway Junction. At this junction, there will be a well-travelled path diverting off to the left (southwest) and a very faint trail heading back into the woods heading south.

The trail to the left is Sturgeon Stairway, and will take you down to the base of Sturgeon Rock. (For a longer loop option, take this trail on your way back down - scramble up Sturgeon, then continue downtrail until it picks up the Tarbell Trail. If you head left (south) it will meet back up with the Grouse Vista Trail at the junction mentioned earlier in this hike description.

(The faint trail heading to the south eventually takes you to the Silver Star Indian Pits. At last report, this trail is a grown-over mess, so it is not recommended.

You will continue straight, heading generally northward. It's not long now (.13) miles 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 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 Rainier and St. Helens at it's side.

You can return the way you came.


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