Saddle Mountain–a north coast landmark & hiking challenge (2010)
The biggest advantage in camping at the base of Saddle Mountain is the chance to be the first hiker of the day to make it to the top. The park has 10 cozy tent sites tucked into the deep forest. All are walk-in sites near a fully plumbed restroom (no showers). Even with those concessions to civilization, the quiet surroundings make you feel like whispering.
The trail is breathtaking, both in scenery and huffing and puffing. The hike is only 2½ miles to the 3,283-foot summit, but the trek is challenging. Less than a mile from the summit, if you don’t have a clue already, you discover why this relatively short hike is rated difficult. You make not one, but two ascents, dipping into the saddle of the mountain’s grassy slopes. Cable railings help ease the climb on the soft gravel, but good hiking shoes, and maybe hiking poles, are recommended.
It’s not unusual to start your hike through a cloud bank. If you feel sprinkles, the breeze is blowing water drops off the Douglas-fir, Sitka spruce and western hemlock forest. You may find the sun about the time you see a wild floral display unlike any other. With the kind of green landscaping that only nature can tailor, the colorful array of wildflowers is at its peak mid-summer, depending on the weather.
The view at the summit can still be stunning, even if the cloud bank is below. From left to right, you can see four Cascades peaks—Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood. If the fog clears, you may also have the good fortune to see the mouth of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean shoreline.
If you go:
Seasonal, first-come, first-served camping. Water available. Rate (subject to change) $10 per night (May 1-Sept. 30.)
Wear sturdy hiking shoes and layered clothing. Take sunscreen (you may need it near the top).
For more information about the campground and directions to the park, visit the park web page and brochure (links below).