Field Report

Hike of the Week: Silver Star Mountain

Trek into the heart of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest for one of the area’s best wildflower displays.

July 1, 2010

Silver Star Mountain doesn’t take long to make a lasting impression. Right from the trailhead you can peer out over what feels like all of Southwest Washington. Directly to the north, Mount St Helens, with its snowy, flat-topped crown rising above rippled green hills dominates the northern horizon. And just to the east, hung like a white-capped wave, you’ll spot Mount Adams.

From here, the views only get better. Crest the summit of this 4,390-foot peak perched in the midst of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, and you’ll spot more still more Cascade volcanoes—Jefferson, Hood, Rainer, even the Three Sisters— orbiting Silver Star’s summit like distant, icy moons.

Still, it’s not the out-of-this-world views that lure most visitors to Silver Star this time of year. It’s wildflowers.

Gutted by the Yacolt fire, a conflagration that stretched some 30 miles from Stevenson to Yacolt back in 1902, the majority of Silver Star’s slopes are largely devoid of the mighty firs and alders that so often crowd out views on nearly every other low-elevation Northwest foothill. And what has rushed in to fill the arboreal void is a reliably spectacular botanical display that washes over the verdant meadows and rocky ridgelines here between late June and mid-July.

In all, some 100 varieties can be found on Silver Star, each owing their robust displays to a combination of rocky subsoil, the historic fires, and healthy amounts of precipitation (the mountain soaks up some 95-inches of the wet stuff each year).

Along the roughly 2.5-mile path to wide-open summit one can expect to encounter Indian paintbrushes, blue lupines, orange tiger lilies, thick stands of Heather, and Bear grass blooms so bushy, that were they colored pink, instead of white, they might be mistaken for fields of cotton candy.

With its sweeping views and rocky ridgelines don’t be surprised if Silver Star also confuses you with the kind of trek you might expect to experience in high alpine environments like Colorado or Wyoming.

Upon completing this hike, there is one thing you will be dead certain about, however: Your desire to return to this peak again and again.

Click here for Trailhead Directions; No fees or permits required.

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