Silver Star Mountain

South Cascades

The top mountain to hike in the SW corner of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest is Silver Star Mountain. These mountains are the far west of the Cascade Range, at the edge of the urban areas of Vancouver and Portland. The summit is adjacent to the Yacolt State Forest, so jointly managed with all kinds of recreational activities. The highest peaks are relatively low in elevation but due to the 1902 Yacolt Burn, the most destructive fire in modern state history, the area never recovered, and has burned additional times. This means meadows and big views! One source says that when the fire occurred, the street lights in Seattle (100 miles away) had to be turned on at midday. Silver Star Mountain was also once the site of a fire lookout, but all but the foundation remains.
There are many ways to hike up Silver Star Mountain, but the highest and quickest is from the north. From Yacolt, head south to Moulton Falls County Park. Take County Road 12 where you can choose either DNR or USFS access points. Both merge together further up the mountain as the final few miles is shared. For DNR, go 1.9 miles to a right turn on Dole Valley Road (follow DNR roads on map). For the USFS roads, continue 7.5 miles on County Road 12 to Sunset Campground. Turn right passing right through the campground and going over a bridge for the East Fork Lewis River. On the other side, turn left on FR 41 and follow for 3.4 miles to a very sharp right turn. Now on FR 4109, it drops, crosses Copper Creek, then climbs up to the DNR/USFS ownership boundary and road access.
Reports vary over the years, the road is usually requires a high-clearance vehicle. It's got a few rough spots and larger water-bars. Many leave cars at the DNR/USFS boundary 4-way intersection and commute up in SUV's. The trailhead has great views.
Last 2.5 Miles Of Access:
Distance: 2.5 miles
Summit Elevation: 4,390 feet
Elevation Gain: 1,500 feet rt
Road Access: High Clearance Advised
There is a small natural rock arch just below the north face of the north summit. The arch is visible only from below on the Bluff Trail. Behind the arch is a small cave about 8 feet deep that once inside frames Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens. Just a little west of the Silver Star summit is Sturgeon Fin, the area of the highest point in Clark County. A bit further is Sturgeon Rock, a sharp peak with basalt columns on two sides.
Bonus sights:
A trail leaves the parking lot or you can walk the abandoned lookout road. Take the trail for this part. After several switchbacks, the trail merges with and follows that old lookout road. Soon a nice hiking trail leaves the road called Ed's Trail. You can follow it or follow the road. Many hike the trail up and the walk the road down. The trail follows the eastern side of the ridge while the road will take the western side. Both are scenic and meet back up just below the summit. At that point, the Bluff Trail leaves going east. For the top, follow the old road (very rocky) uphill and left an a monster cairn, up to the summit. Several campsites are along the way and noted on the maps below.
Because of the low elevation, you can possibly have year round access if the roads are free of snow. But usually, access would be May to December. With upper trails, snow can stay as late as July but the trails are popular with winter hiking and snowshoeing.
When To Go
Former Lookouts
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Sunset over the Oregon Coast Range
Camp on the old lookout concrete slab
Final few feet up Silver Star Mountain
In route to the summit, the far point
Walking the old fire road
Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier
Mount Hood with the Columbia River Gorge between
Mount Jefferson
Moon setting over Portland
Getting darker, watching the lights come out
DNR Map of trails
Map showing trails and some campsites
Silver Star Mountain had a lookout long before the first structures. The Morning Oregonian newspaper reported about the lookout in September 1929, saying that he was watching the progress of the Dole Fire as it approached the National Forest. The first structure was built in 1934, it was an L-4 cab. In 1943 it served as a Aircraft Warning Service Station "Oboe 1-1". The AWS utilized existing facilities owned by the Columbia National Forest. Improvements added, using AWS funds, included sleeping quarters and a woodshed. Upon the end of service the Forest Service retained the site for continued use as a fire detection point. The second lookout in 1955, a R-6 flat cab. It was removed at some point but the foundation is still there.
Lookout History
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Silver Star Lookout 1964 (Second lookout)
Southwest View 7-12-1934
Southeast View 7-12-1934
North View 7-12-1934
First Silver Star Lookout
First Silver Star Lookout