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Hike of the Month: Saddle Mountain

After a lengthy closure that brought new vault toilets and trail upgrades, hikers can once again make the trek to the top for sweeping views of the Oregon Coast and the Cascade Range.

A windy and steep trail makes its way up Saddle Mountain's summit in Oregon.

Don’t let this view deter you — it’s daunting, but worth it to make it to the top.

Photo by Ben McBee, PDXtoday

Table of Contents

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.

Quick facts

Starting point: Saddle Mountain State Natural Area
Difficulty: Hard
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
Open: Year-round
Dog friendly: Yes, on leash

Alternating photos show a narrow path atop a cliff at Saddle Mountain.

Whether it’s foggy or clear, exercise extreme caution around the cliffs.

Photos by @amy_balbier | Ben McBee, PDXtoday

Brief overview

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).

Views of logging clear cuts and forest stretch to the horizon and the ocean from atop Saddle Mountain.

Sharp eyes can pick out the Astoria Column silhouetted against the Columbia River.

Photo by Ben McBee, PDXtoday

Pro tips

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.

Let us know

Did you try this hike? Do you know of one we should check out? Send us your thoughts and recommendations — or check out our other monthly hiking guides.

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