When Saddle Mountain reopened after a lengthy closure, Portland hikers were chomping at the bit to experience this demanding yet rewarding outdoor destination 1.5 hours outside of the city.
Starting point: Saddle Mountain State Natural Area
Distance: 5.2 miles
Route type: Out-and-back
Elevation gain: ~1,900 ft
Trail surface: Dirt, rock, and wire mesh for traction
Wheelchair accessible: No
Dog friendly: Yes, on leash
About 15 million years ago, basaltic lava — the same that formed the Columbia River Gorge — flowed into the Pacific, creating violent explosions that resulted in outcroppings of rock like Saddle Mountain. At 3,290 ft, it’s one of the highest points in the Oregon Coast Range. Chinook peoples called it Swallalahoost; it was known as the nest of a Thunderbird and the source of their creation myth.
Why you should try it
During the spring, rare wildflowers like western red avens and rosy lewisia sprout, splashing color among the slopes. Equally stunning hues emerge among the alder and maple trees in the fall. But the main reason anyone puts in the significant effort to get to the top is the view. On clear days, you can soak up vistas of the sea and gaze to the east where Cascade peaks stand like titans (even Mount Rainier is visible).
Several stretches of this trail are very steep, including the last half mile to the summit, so if you have hiking poles, bring them. Also, be aware there is a gate that closes from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and no overnight camping is allowed.