- Rating: Difficult
- Activity: Hike
- Distance: 5 miles round-trip
At 3,283 feet, Saddle Mountain is the tallest peak in Oregon’s northwest corner, a topographic siren in the Coast Range that lures peak-baggers from miles away. And who can blame them? The wind-whipped summit would be a prime place to shoot one of those eye-popping IMAX films, what with its front-row view of five Cascade volcanoes, including Mounts Rainier and Jefferson, and the endless blue Pacific. Accessing such film-worthy vistas, though, doesn’t come easy. Hikers must endure a relentless climb through a forest thick with firs and white-barked alders to a precipitous series of crumbling switchbacks before arriving at the mountain’s bald crown. Until 1966, a fire lookout tower once stood here, but it couldn’t prevent four of the most intense fires in U.S. history—collectively called the Tillamook Burn—as they raged across the landscape between 1933 and 1951. Those infernos did, however, prompt one of the world’s largest reforestation projects: In 1949, Oregonians planted some 72 million seedlings in what eventually became the Tillamook State Forest. Today Saddle Mountain presides over this second-growth forest, while its mossy flanks are a sanctuary for endangered wildflowers like frigid shooting star and Saddle Mountain bittercress, which continue to thrive with a tenacity rivaling that of any trekker aiming to reach the rocky top.
ROUTE: For maps, go to www.oregonstateparks.org. Also check out the Saddle Mountain Summit trail listing on this map for more route information.
DIRECTIONS: Take U.S. 26 west for 64 miles and look for the Saddle Mountain State Park sign. Turn right and drive 7 miles to the trailhead.