“It’s only 5 miles round trip?” Amanda snorted as she looked at the information panel at the Saddle Mountain trailhead. “Pfft! This hike is for toddlers!”
She was kidding, of course. Saddle Mountain is closer to 6 miles round trip with about 1,800′ of climbing; the last half-mile is quite exposed. Toddlers would have totally quit after a couple of miles.
Some short hikes feel short. Other short hikes, like Saddle Mountain in wildflower time, can take most of the day. With over 300 plant species and excellent views from the summit, there’s a lot to stop and look at. It’s dense with awesomeness.
While it was clear and warm in the valley, marine clouds squatted over the Coast Range, providing cool misty northwestern hiking ambiance. I was again reminded why I bring a warm hat, rain jacket, and gloves on all of my hikes, no matter the weather forecast. Microclimates!
It was too cold and damp for peanut butter sandwiches on the summit (plus, there was nothing to look at and only cliffs for little dogs to leap off), so we hiked down and lunched at one of the *four* picnic tables along the trail.
Since it was Friday, we didn’t see many people but you can tell that the trail gets a lot of use. Years ago, Oregon State Parks (who has jurisdiction over the area), started augmenting the trail tread with rock-filled chainlink fence and wooden stairs because of erosion issues. I think that most of the pilot interventions have been abandoned, but 90% of the upper trail is now comprised of the chainlink trail tread. From above, it looks like an asphalt trail.
Some wildflowers are peaking now, but others are just emerging. It’s bound to be good for another two to three weeks.
If you’re over the age of three and want a nice, slow (because you’re going to stop every ten feet to examine something interesting and/or catch your breath) hike, it’s a great time to visit. Toddlers – pfft! – you’re just going have to have to find something else.
Saddle Mountain State Natural Area
free parking; no Forest Pass required