We soon find out that it is indeed worth every bounce and scrape. Just don't take a regular passenger car if you don't want to risk losing your muffler.
While this hike in the Cascade foothills northeast of Vancouver, Washington, is popular in the summer for its stunning volcano views, on a misty late fall day I say it's equally stunning.
Plus you'll have more solitude.
With low clouds and mist hovering overhead, we start up the Silver Star #180 trailhead late morning this December day. On our way up, we passed two cars coming down (two gals said they never found the trailhead and turned back...glad we persisted) and just one other is here.
After a short flat stretch, the trail switchbacks a short distance up a mild grade until we emerge out of the trees and onto the beginning of what is essentially a long and varied ridge.
The Silver Star trail along the ridge, which can be accessed from the south, east, and north, traverses an ancient, extinct volcano. (My brother remembers studying the Silver Star granodiorite at the University of Washington Geology Department.) Remnant exposed rocks and bluffs add to the drama up here.
On a clear day I'm told the views of the Portland, Oregon, metro area and surrounding volcanoes (Hood, St. Helens, Rainier, Adams) are magnificent. But I think there's enchantment in the mist that rises and falls for much of our hike.
Ultimately we gain a little over 1,000 feet in elevation before reaching the summit, but it's all pretty mellow. Not long before reaching the saddle between the false and true summit, we descend a bit into a subalpine fir forest.
While we don't have any views from the summit (marked by the concrete foundation of a former fire lookout), we get a peak-a-boo view during the approach.
|True summit to the right.|
|Marley does his best Rin Tin Tin imitation at the summit.|
An especially cool phenomena is a halo effect, which isn't easily captured in photos. I try, however. Each one of us sees our shadow encircled in a halo (or maybe we're all just saints :).
Perfect ending to a perfect afternoon hiking.
Have you done this hike? Would love to hear in the comments below about your trip there, other favorite hikes, or whether you're familiar with the halo phenomena.
Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons!
When You Go
According to other guidebooks, trip reports, and trail signs, we hiked about 5.5 miles to the summit and back from the north trailhead. The elevation at the summit is about 4,364 feet above sea level. Here's a link to a map of the area. I recommend checking out a guidebook or Portland Hikers.org website for specifics on the hike and getting there. It didn't seem that far, but perhaps we were just too exhilarated by the beauty around us. The road up there is quite rough, so be forewarned. But it's a lovely drive out from Battleground up the East Fork Lewis River.