I wanted to write this while it was still early in the year, so you can appreciate the weather we encountered! It was a beautiful, clear, 80 degree day in Portland which means we were looking for a hike! It was time to head a bit north, back into the Washington side of the Cascades.
We chose what is supposed to be one of the most spectacular views of the Columbia River Gorge and the surrounding mountains (at least 4 of them!) on a clear day—we headed to the Silver Star Mountain in the Gifford Pichot National Forest. We chose to go via the Grouse Vista Hike due to the fact it was mid range distance at 3.2 miles out and aggressive elevation gain of 2,000 ft. The drive up was long and slow, since it was utilizing gravel logging roads, but when you get to the trailhead you see it is clearly open to the public with a dozen vehicles on this pre-season day.
The trail goes straight up 500 ft in the first half mile then settles in to a doable grade for most of the remainder. Early on you are rewarded with some great valley views in an open meadow-like field that still shows signs of what must have been a massive forest fire that tore through in the early 20th century.
[Beth- There were also rock faces that would be a climber’s dream; we actually ran into a guy who was climbing through the crevasses looking for a wallet he dropped the day before. Talk about bad luck!]
[Beth- The most surprising thing to us was when we encountered snow! And now just slushy remnants of months ago, but legitimate 2 foot deep snow covering the entire trail. It was pretty packed down for most of it, but it was slippery. It might’ve been more work to traverse the snow than to climb that first 500 ft.]
The snow on the trails was surprising and plentiful! As soon as we moved into the shaded side of the trails, we were up to mid-shins in the stuff. The air temp when we started was 67 F, so we were sweating in shorts and t-shirts at the beginning of the hike! Although the snow as deep and cold, the air was still warm enough, especially with the uphill battle we had to get up these snow-covered paths.
The last leg to the top was the snowiest, knee-deep for most of it! The bright sun was doing it’s job melting the snow, and it provided a good, hard pack for us to walk on top for most of it. After that last snowy leg, the whole mountain opened up into a saddle. THIS was the view that made the whole thing worth it! Silver Star Mountain is claimed to be one of the best views in the Columbia River Valley, and I believe it. We were able to see everything on this clear sunny day- Mount Hood to the East, Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier to the North, and Mount Jefferson and 3 Sisters to the South–we were able to see more but they remain unidentifiable to me. Take a few minutes to check out these panoramic shots.
After spending some time enjoying the breath-taking views on the windy ridge and eating some nuts and fruit, we started our way back down. We met several other dog-friendly groups that were making their way to the top! Plenty of people dressed similarly skimpy, so we didn’t feel so bad. The trip down was still a lot of work. In fact, this was the coldest part of our trip because we kept sinking into mid-shin deep snow! Our ankles were getting very cold, so we were glad to pick up the pace to get to the lower, dry trails.
We got back to the car and made the slow drive down the logging trails back to the main roads!