Above the clouds on Silver Star Star Mountain

Saturday, June 15, 2019

While I much prefer the trails on the north side of Silver Star Mountain, the trailhead access via Road 4109 is now impassible for my Outback. So today we hiked up from the Grouse Vista Trailhead with Greg’s friend who was visiting from out of town.

As we started hiking up the rough rocky trail at 8am we were totally socked-in:

Silver Star Mountain Hike

When we reached the open stretches, it was pea soup with no views:

Silver Star Mountain Hike

Silver Star Mountain Hike

Silver Star Mountain Hike

Two-thirds of this trail is in the forest:

Silver Star Mountain Hike

The flowers were looking nice:

Silver Star Mountain Hike

Silver Star Mountain Hike

Silver Star Mountain Hike

Someone had come along and snipped off branches crowding the trail, then left them in the middle of the trail instead of tossing them to the side:

Silver Star Mountain Hike

The same person had also strung dozens of pieces of yellow flagging along the trail:

Silver Star Mountain Hike

There is some kind of race up here every June and we suspected that this person was readying the route for that race. I have NO IDEA why the very obvious trail needed what amounted to dozens of pieces of litter. We saw the guy on the summit later, with a roll of yellow flagging and clippers.

At 9:30 we ran into some people hiking down and they reported that the summit was above the clouds. Great news! And soon enough we started seeing evidence that we were emerging from the clouds into the sunshine:

Silver Star Mountain Hike

Blue sky!

Silver Star Mountain Hike

Indeed, when we reached the summit we discovered that we were above the inversion and it looked INCREDIBLE. Mt Hood:

Silver Star Mountain Hike

Mt. Adams:

Silver Star Mountain Hike

Silver Star Mountain Hike

Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier:

Silver Star Mountain

Sturgeon Rock:

Silver Star Mountain Hike

Here is an iPhone panorama with Mt. St. Helens just barely visible left of center, and Mt. Adams right of center:

Silver Star Mountain Hike

And another panorama showing Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood:

Silver Star Mountain Hike

After enjoying the warm and beautiful conditions at the summit we finally tore ourselves. Before heading back we dropped down the north side for half a mile to check out the wildflowers:

Silver Star Mountain Hike

Silver Star Mountain Hike

Silver Star Mountain Hike

Silver Star Mountain Hike

Then we turned around and headed back down the south side to our trailhead. As we hiked down the clouds started clearing up and we now had views, albeit of clearcuts:

Silver Star Mountain Hike

I’m still disappointed that the Forest Service has decided to limit access to the north due to their lack of road maintenance. That’s such a better hike. The steep rocky route on the south side that we did today is pretty treacherous in spots. I fell once and almost fell a few other times. But I’m glad we got up there to see the views and the flowers. This is definitely one of my favorite spots in the Pacific Northwest.

Grassy Knoll

June 9, 2019

Today we returned to Grassy Knoll, a great early summer hike with views and wildflowers. A new sign has been installed at the trailhead:

Grassy Knoll Hike

There is a nice patch of wildflowers right at the trailhead:

Grassy Knoll Hike

Grassy Knoll Hike

There is a very nice viewpoint one mile in with Mt. Adams being the star of the show here:

Grassy Knoll Hike

Grassy Knoll Hike

Red Mountain Lookout:

Red Mountain Lookout

Gifford Peak:

Gifford Peak

Penstemon like to grow here:

Grassy Knoll Hike

We continued north, passing yet more wildflowers:

Grassy Knoll Hike

Grassy Knoll Hike

Grassy Knoll Hike

Then we had our first view of Grassy Knoll:

Grassy Knoll Hike

This is always such a lovely spot, where the trail emerges from the trees into a beautiful patch of wildflowers with a view of Mt. Hood:

Grassy Knoll Hike

Grassy Knoll Hike

Grassy Knoll Hike

More flowers as the trail continues:

Grassy Knoll Hike

Grassy Knoll Hike

Grassy Knoll Hike

We sat on the summit for awhile and enjoyed the view of Mt. Hood. We had the place all to ourselves:

Grassy Knoll Hike

Grassy Knoll Hike

Grassy Knoll Hike

There is a partial view of Mt. Adams up here:

Grassy Knoll Hike

Grassy Knoll Hike

View to the west:

Grassy Knoll Hike

Three Corner Rock:

Three Corner Rock

Cool clouds overhead:

Grassy Knoll Hike

We continued up the trail a bit to another nice patch of flowers before turning around:

Grassy Knoll Hike

Grassy Knoll Hike

We got back to the trailhead at 3pm, having only seen three people the entire day!

Before heading home we stopped to check out the Giant Trees of Lost Creek (articles here, here, and here) and the trail that Russ Jolly built there:

Big trees

Big trees

Big trees

Cedar and doug fir growing together:

A cedar and a fir

Notches had been cut out of fallen trees to create passage:

Notch

Natural log bridge over a creek:

Log trail

We didn’t have time to explore the whole loop, but we’ll be back. Very cool spot!

Ed’s Trail on Silver Star Mountain

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Greg and I hiked up Silver Star last weekend via the Grouse Vista Trailhead. Mom and Dad wanted to see the grand wildflower display on Silver Star Mountain. They don’t hike at all anymore and they wouldn’t have been able to handle the rough trail from Grouse Vista, so we knew we had to take them to the north side, even though the road is utter crap.

On Sunday Karl, Deb, Dad, Mom, and I piled into Karl’s truck and drove up there. Road 4109 is even worse than last year. I got my Outback up that road last year, but I probably wouldn’t have made it up this year. This is what the road looks like now, as photographed on our way down. This is the worst of the ditches:

Road 4109

Nice driving, Karl! We made it! There was only one other truck there when we arrived at 8:30.

Silver Star Mountain

Unfortunately we were very much in the clouds with no views:

Silver Star Mountain

We headed up the trail:

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

There were wildflowers all over the place:

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Visibility was very limited:

Silver Star Mountain

The vegetation was sopping wet (we ran into some backpackers who said it rained pretty much all night), which had some beautiful effects:

Silver Star Mountain

We turned off of the old road and headed up Ed’s Trail. We were lucky to be here during a good beargrass year:

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

The wildflower show continued:

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

I love this part, where the trail crosses a huge meadow:

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

We cut over to the old road from Ed’s Trail in order to avoid some scrambling sections coming on Ed’s Trail:

Silver Star Mountain

Shortly after that we stopped for a break on some rocks above Ed’s Trail, which you see at the bottom of this photo:

Silver Star Mountain

Then we continued hiking the old road towards the summit:

Silver Star Mountain

Almost to the summit! (Notice the two switchback-cutters popping out onto the trail up there):

Silver Star Mountain

We made it! The “views” were pretty cloudy:

Silver Star Mountain

Here’s Karl looking out over Star Creek. Normally you’d be able to see Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams out there, but not today:

Silver Star Mountain

We followed the old road all the way back to the car, hiking past thousands more wildflowers:

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Sturgeon Rock:

Silver Star Mountain

On the way down the clouds lifted a bit, but not enough for us to see Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

As we neared the end, though, a bit of Mt. St. Helens came out:

Silver Star Mountain

Mt. Hood hiding in the clouds:

Silver Star Mountain

Mom wasn’t a fan of these really rocky sections, but she and Dad did great!

Silver Star Mountain

We got back to the trailhead at 2:30 and then we bumped our way down the road. There were seven cars parked along the road, having bailed on their way up when it got too rough. Some of the cars were partially blocking the road.

We stopped in Battleground at Double Mountain Brewing for some post-hike food and beer:

Double Mountain Brewing

I could have done without the clouds, but the flowers were beautiful. So glad we were able to get Mom and Dad up there to see them. Great day!

Video:

Silver Star Mountain via Grouse Vista

June 24, 2018

The first time I visited Silver Star Mountain in 2006 I went with my sister and we took our Dad’s pickup because the road was described as being pretty rough. Back then we drove Road 41 and Road 4109 from Sunset Campground and it was a bit of an adventure, with rough potholed roads.

I’ve been back numerous times since then, eventually switching to a slightly different route via Road 1100 (much better road) that connected up with Road 4109 for the last 2.7 miles. Those last 2.7 miles have been getting worse and worse over the years, and after driving it last year in our Outback, Greg and I vowed we’d never drive that road again. (I actually traveled on that road the next weekend, but not in my car.)

So Greg and I headed to the Grouse Vista Trailhead today to hike up that way (here is a description of the hike). The road access is much better. We got up very early to avoid the crowds and the heat and started hiking at 7:30am. The trail is an old road and it starts out steeply, climbing up through the trees. Large rocks litter the old roadbed.

Silver Star Mountain

This cute rabbit was on the trail ahead of us. He held still for a surprisingly long time before finally hopping away.

Silver Star Mountain

After gaining 600′ in three-quarters of a mile the trail leveled out a bit for awhile:

Silver Star Mountain

Around the one-mile mark we emerged out into some open areas and we could see ahead to Sturgeon Rock (left of center):

Silver Star Mountain

Looking back down the trail:

Silver Star Mountain

Ugly clearcuts:

Silver Star Mountain

Then we were back in the trees:

Silver Star Mountain

And back into the open. The wildflowers were nice on this stretch:

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

The steep rockiness continued. This trail is in very bad condition.

Silver Star Mountain

After 3.1 miles and 1700′ elevation gain we reached the junction with the summit spur trail. Last push to the summit!

Silver Star Mountain

We lucked into a clear day with views of the Cascade volcanoes. Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier:

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams:

Silver Star Mountain

Mt. Hood:

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Sturgeon Rock with yucky haze on the horizon beyond:

Silver Star Mountain

After leaving the summit we took the side trail towards the Indian Pits hoping to see beargrass, but there wasn’t much there so we didn’t go all the way. Mt. Hood loomed in the distance:

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

Back on the main route we descended back to our car, passing numerous people heading up. It was really warming up by this point and I was glad to be going down, not up. Here’s a shot looking back up the trail (that’s Sturgeon Rock in the background):

Silver Star Mountain

Silver Star Mountain

We got back to the car at 1:30. The final mile was pretty grueling. It was impossible to maintain any rhythm on the descent because of all the rocks on the trail. I had to pick my way along, navigating the rocky obstacle course. It was as mentally challenging as it was physically exhausting since I had to concentrate on every step so that I didn’t fall on the rocky trail.

Although this route has better road access, the trail doesn’t even compare to the route on the north side, which is MUCH more scenic, with way more views and flowers. But of course that trailhead requires driving on a wretched road.

Here’s video of our hike: