YACOLT, Wash. (AP) - Eric Luchterhand of Portland rested at his car at the end of a 12-mile hike on Bluff Mountain trail to the summit of Silver Star Mountain and back.
“I can’t think of any other place where I can stand and see eight peaks in a 360-degree view,” he said.
His hiking partner, Rachel Moore, also was impressed with the big views from Bluff Mountain trail No. 172 in the southern Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
“Despite the tough footing the majority of the way, the spectacular view from Silver Star makes the entire 12.4 miles really worth it,” Moore said. “We only saw a handful of people the whole day, which makes the trail that much more enjoyable.”
Moore is correct: Bluff Mountain trail is rocky.
And here are other downsides:
. It’s a bumpy drive on road No. 41 for the 10 miles between Sunset Falls campground and the unmarked trailhead. Passenger cars can make it, but high-clearance vehicles are better.
. Most of the year the trail is dry, so don’t count on water available to filter or for dogs.
Now here’s the upside of Bluff Mountain trail.
. The grandeur of the views of Little Baldy and Silver Star mountains, with their open hillsides and rocky slopes, is special. It feels like being in the northern Rocky Mountains.
. The long-distance views of Mounts Hood, St. Helens, Adams, Rainier, Jefferson and the Three Sisters.
. A dazzling display of wildflowers with such a variety of species that the bloom is on from snowmelt in late spring until Labor Day.
Bluff Mountain trail is the eastern, and least-used, of the popular routes up Silver Star Mountain. The most popular way is from the trailhead at the end of road No. 4109. That’s the shortest way up and with the least elevation gain.
There also are trails and former routes coming in from the south, primarily from the Grouse Vista trailhead.
All are good, but Bluff Mountain trail is a long ridge-top route. The first two miles are on a long-abandoned road before the trail proper starts.