Hike Type: Out and Back
Distance: 5.2 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 1600 feet
Family Friendly: Not for young kids. Well behaved teenagers would be fine.
Crowded: Yes. Get there early.
Saddle Mountain Trailhead is fairly easy to locate. You will want to take HWY 26 to Saddle Mountain State Park Road. It is about 66 miles from Portland. There are signs on HWY 26 alerting you of Saddle Mountain State Park so it is hard to miss. Once you have turned onto Saddle Mountain State Park Road, you will drive 7 miles until the road ends at the trail head parking lot. The road is paved but with lots of dips and pot holes. Drive slowly if you have a car and not an SUV or truck. The road also gets very narrow at times, making it difficult to pass vehicles going the other direction. I bottomed out my front bumper 3-4 times while driving down the road (obviously going too fast).
Saddle Mountain is one of the highest points in the coastal mountains of Northwest Oregon. It sits at 3,283 ft. It is dwarfed by the size of the cascade mountains not too far to the east but don’t underestimate this mountain. It offers a great, quick and challenging morning hike that those from all skill levels will enjoy.
As soon as you start the trail, expect to be climbing up. This is a short steep climb the majority of the way. The trail starts with a slow upward trail that is well maintained through a beautiful thick forest.
After about half a mile, the trail quickly becomes steeper. When I hiked (March 2016) there was a lot of trail damage from recent storms. I had to climb over and under fallen trees as well as trek across what looked like newly constructed bridges. Still, it was easy to navigate and most skill levels will enjoy the minor obstacles.
The further up I went, the trickier the trail became. They use metal netting to hold the trail together but on this slightly damp, very windy day, you had to be somewhat careful of your footing. As I started to get close to the false summit, I saw some remnants of snow.
Once you arrive at the false summit, you are greeted with some fantastic views. The only big negative is the clear cut sections of woods you can see in the distance. But this cliff overhang offers some great shots. It was a little nerve wrecking walking out on it with such high wind gusts that day (60+ mph). But on a calm day, this is a perfect location to get some personal photos. You can also get some great views of the summit peak that is up ahead on the trail.
You then head through the saddle and begin you climb to the summit. The footing at times can be loose so take your time. I was also met with about a foot of snow in some places. Thankfully there were frozen footprints from previous hikers that allowed me to get through without wet feet.
Once you get to the top you are greeted with a fenced in summit. But even with the fencing, the summit is spectacular. You get a 360 view of Oregon. From here you can easily see the Ocean, the Columbia River, Mt Hood, Mt St. Helens and on perfectly clear days, many of the other mountains in the PNW. I had the summit to myself and enjoyed a good 30 minutes of peaceful relaxation staring at the beautiful surroundings.
Overall I recommend this hike to most. It is fairly easy and not to strenuous when you take your time. I do highly recommend going on weekdays or get there very early on weekends. I went on a chilly, damp Saturday morning and saw only one hiker on my way up. But on my decent, I estimate I pasted 50-60 hikers making their way up. It is well worth it to get there early to avoid the crowds.