The aptly named Saddle Mountain is the highest peak in northwest Oregon. The summit offers views that stretch from Astoria and the Pacific Ocean, to the Cascade peaks of Mt. Rainier, Adams, St. Helens, and Hood. The 6-mile, 1700-foot elevation gain hike to the top is a definite sweat-breaker and a favorite during the peak wildflower month of June.
Views, wildflowers, and exercise in equal portions make this hike so appealing. The trail starts out in a dense forest consisting primarily of big leaf maples and alders. The path is surrounded by an understory thick with salmonberry, oxalis, and sword ferns. This beginning section of trail is overlooked and underrated with so much of the attention going to the grandiose views. Take the time to enjoy this lush area.
As the trail ascends, the surroundings slowly morph into a combination of forest and rocky outcrops dotted with flowers. Further along, vast meadows of flowers and views of the final climb inspire, and in some cases, slightly intimidate. Make no mistake; the final ascent is a steep one that might make younger kids a little trepidatious. There are cables to grab onto along some of the more arduous climbs, as well as cyclone fence covered trail segments. That last bit might sound odd, but it does give your shoes almost Spiderman-like gripping ability.
Finally, the view from the summit is unique in that it affords you the chance to simultaneously view the coast as well as all major Portland area cascade peaks. A well placed picnic bench is also stationed at the summit. Be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen on this one. Once you get out of the forest, you’re good and exposed for quite a while.
To get there take Highway 26 west out of Portland for about 65 miles. Near milepost 10, make a hard right at the sign for Saddle Mountain State Park. Travel this narrow, winding road for 7 miles to the parking lot and trailhead at the end.
The hike starts uphill and after 0.2 mile comes to a side trail leading off to the right. It’s worth it to take this additional 0.2 mile spur, as it leads to the only view to be had of the mountain in its entirety. Once back on the main path, continue climbing for two miles before arriving at open wildflower meadows. Shortly thereafter, you get a view of the saddle, and the final ascent to the summit. Enjoy the view and head back the way you came.