Silver Star Mountain - South Loop

Date: July 18, 2009
Distance: 8.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 2015 ft
Time: 5:15 hours
Difficulty: Difficult
Weather: Hot and clear
Maps: Silver Star Trail Map
My Route:

From Grouse Vista Trail Head:

  1. Grouse Vista Trail, ignoring all side trails 2.6 miles
  2. At 4 way intersection, keep strait .5 miles
  3. At 3 way intersection turn right. .4 miles
  4. Find the summit, be amazed
  5. Return the way you came .9 miles
  6. At the 4 way intersection, turn right onto Sturgeon Trail (called Silver Rd on DNR maps) 1.4 miles
  7. Keep to the left at intersection with a small side trail
  8. At Tarbell Trail turn left 2.3 miles
Notes:
I can not say enough about this hike. It's absolutely beautiful. A new favorite! How did I live here for so long without ever doing this?

The Grouse Vista Trail doesn't waste any time gaining elevation as it goes through the forest. After about a mile it emerges from the trees into a wild-flower wonderland. Indian paint brush, tiger lily, lupine, bear grass, lovage, hairbell and something that looks similar to dandelion cover the ground. It is spectacular. The bear grass was by far my favorite. We met some people at the summit that told us that the bear grass was even more amazing 2 weeks ago. I'm gonna go ahead and block out time in the first week of July next year to see that.
Wildflowers on route to Silver Star.

Walking up on this scene, it's clear that something magical is coming up soon.

As the trail approaches the saddle between the two Silver Star summits, Mt Adams comes into view. That alone would be awesome, but soon Rainer appears as well. And then Saint Helens. Then Hood!
St Helens, Rainer, Adams (yes, Rainer is there, just hard to see in the hazy photo)

The north summit also allows for a 360 view of 4 mountains! The day was a bit hazy and muggy, so the photos don't do nearly justice to these views. Unspeakable!
Looking north

We made the loop down via Sturgeon Trail and Tarbell Trail. These offer a little more shade and distance. Don't be fooled into thinking that this return route is less steep than the Grouse Vista Trail. Nearly all the decline is on Sturgeon Trail, which is steep, uneven and rocky. Full concentration is required to avoid falls. I wonder how may ankles have been sprained here.

Stay left on the Sturgeon trail - Sturgeon rock in the background

I can see my house from here!

Wildlife sitings: 5 snakes and bunches of butterflies.

I was prepared for a really tough hike. It turned out to be not really as hard as I'd gotten myself siked up for. Not easy, or even moderate, but not a killer. The rocky terrain makes it difficult to fall into a steady cadence, so the route does take more energy to keep moving than you might expect for the distance and elevation gain. Also, we were so in awe of the summit that we stayed up there for almost a whole hour! So we were rested and fed for the hike down. The Sturgeon Trail down was by far the hardest part of the hike, not breathless like the uphill portions, but slow. Next time I come out to Silver Star (next week maybe? It's so great I know I'll be back soon!) I'm going to not bother with the loop and stick to the more scenic, shorter and easier Grouse Vista trail both ways.

The route is largely exposed, so sunscreen is a must and a hat doesn't hurt either. I drank nearly 2 liters of water on the hike and finished them off on the car ride home.

Trail Head:
Trail access leaves something to be desired, at least for people like me who get white-knuckled driving on pity gravel roads. Next time I do this I'll convince someone with an SUV to drive. My civic held up just fine, but it was a stressful drive!

View PDX Day Hiker in a larger map
Google lists some of the old abandon roads - including the grouse vista trail- as roads, so be weary of any driving directions google gives you!
Here is my suggested route through Hockinson
  1. Get yourself to 139th and Ward Rd in Hockinson (be aware a section of Ward is closed for construction through Fall 2009)
  2. Take 139th east
  3. Follow signs toward Larch Mountain and/or Larch Mountain Correctional Center
  4. At the prison, the road becomes gravel, keep following it.
  5. At an intersection with a paved road, stay to the right onto L1200. The road gets worse at this point, follow 5 miles to the trail head, which you can't possibly miss.
Other routes through Battle Ground or Washougal are commonly listed in guidebooks and other websites.

There is no water or bathrooms at the trail head.

What I said about these trails before: Silver Star Mountain Hikes, Grouse Vista Trail Head Hikes, Gifford Pinchot Hikes
Other resources for this and other nearby hikes:
NW Hiker
Washington Trails Association
Summit Post
Big Foot Field Research on the bigfoot siting at Silver Star.
Gifford Pinchot National Forest
Department of Natural Resources Map
Guidebooks:
Gifford Pinchot Trail Descriptions Page 60
100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington Hike # 15
100 Hikes in Washington's South Cascades and Olympics Hike #65
Afoot & Afield Portland/Vancouver: A Comprehensive Hiking Guide Trip #10

Overall: ★★★★★

Have you been on this or a nearby trail?

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