My sister-in-law, Nancy, who is so much more fit than I am that she probably has no idea of how trepidatious I can be about a hike, wanted to go up Silver Star Mountain this week. This hike, via Grouse Vista Trail, is rated Difficult on some sites, and I just started doing Moderate hikes. To top it off, the longest hikes I have done so far have been seven miles, and they were both on almost completely flat surfaces. Both times, I was really tired when I got back to the car, so I wasn’t sure I would have the endurance to do the 6.8-mile hike, let alone the ability. But Nancy talked me into it, and Maja, who is also able to do more than I can, agreed to go.
The payoff of this hike, if you make it to the top (which I didn’t) on a clear day is a gorgeous view of up to five mountains, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Jefferson. (I was hoping to include Nancy’s photo from the top, but she never sent it, so you’ll have to do with mine.) The view from where I stopped was pretty nice also.
Silver Star Mountain via Grouse Vista Trail
Yacolt Burn State Forest and Gifford Pinchot National Forest, WA
Distance: 6.3 miles in and out (I went about 4.5 miles)
Panting stops: Too many to count!
Elevation change: 2096 feet if you do the whole trail (I did about 1000 feet)
On a gorgeous fall day, we tackled the Grouse Vista Trail up Silver Star Mountain. The trailhead is where the Tarbell Trail meets the Grouse Vista Trail, so if you go north (across the road from the parking area), you are on Grouse Vista, and south is Tarbell Trail to Larch Mountain. At the beginning of the hike there is a steep section that is also rocky after you reach the place where the Tarbell Trail branches off toward Hidden Falls. (The day we were there, that trail was blocked off two miles in from this junction, before you get to Hidden Falls, because of logging.) The day we were there, the rocky section of this first steep stretch was running water down it, almost like a very shallow creek, but on the way back we found someone had done a better job of diverting it across the path instead of down it. The steep stretch continues for about the first 0.8 miles of the trail. We didn’t find the footing difficult on the way up because most of the rocks seemed to be embedded in the mud. The way back down, however, was much more difficult, because we were tired. The trail continues to be rocky most of the way, with some stretches of forest duff.
After the first 0.8 miles, the trail levels off, and you begin to see nice views to the south. It eventually opens up into a large meadow, where you can see Pyramid Rock to your right and Sturgeon Rock to the north. The trail cuts around the front of Pyramid Rock and you walk below it. For a short period, you drop down in elevation a bit. Along the meadow, the walking was easy, although the path was quite a bit narrower and in one place almost obscured by bear grass. However, I was so tired from the first ascent that even after a rest and a snack, I felt drained and decided to stop shortly after we rounded Pyramid Rock.
My second-hand understanding of the rest of the hike is that the trail dips back into forest ahead and that there is a one more really steep section at the Silver Star-Grouse Vista junction where the rocks are larger and loose. This section lasts 0.2 miles, and is described on one site as “an open scree slope.” Both of my hiking partners said I had been wise to stay back and wait for them. (I waited for Maja, who went another half hour forward and then came back to get me. Nancy was the only one to make it to the top.) At the junction, you take the Silver Star Trail (#180; Grouse Vista is Trail #180F) to get to the top.
For me, being so tired, the most difficult part of the hike was coming down the last 0.8 mile slope, because I had to pick my way across the rocks that had seemed relatively easy to traverse on the way up. I was so tired that by the time I got to the part of the path that reverted to a nice forest floor that I couldn’t actually walk normally, and I felt lucky to be able to make it to the car. I figure that maybe in five years I can make it to the top of Silver Star on this trail! However, it was a beautiful day and great to be outside in the forest.
How to get there
Turn south on N. Railroad Avenue. Go 2.5 miles and turn left on NE Sunset Falls Road, which is just across from a parking lot for Moulton Falls Park. Go 2 miles and turn right on NE Dole Valley Road. After 2.5 miles, stay on Dole Valley Road as it continues to the right. After 2.6 miles, turn left on L-1200. The trailhead is on your left about 5.1 miles down this road.
Take WA-500 east. Turn right on NE Fourth Plain. Go 1.2 miles and turn left on NE Ward Road. At 3.3 miles, go straight onto NE 182nd Avenue. After a mile, turn right on NE 139th Street. Go 2.4 miles and make a slight left onto NE Rawson Road. Go 3.3 miles and go straight to take L-1400. After 2.5 miles, still go straight to be on L-1500. in 0.3 miles, turn left on L-1200. The trailhead is on your left about 5.1 miles down this road.
Parking and facilities
There is parking for about four cars at the trailhead. The only facility is a pit toilet.