Grant’s Getaways: Hike to New Heights
Grant takes us on a trip to the Oregon Coast Mountains.
CLATSOP COUNTY, Oregon – This is the perfect time of year for a beautiful backcountry drive along a river that you may have missed. It is a getaway that offers hikes to dizzying heights and camping pleasures.
On a clear day, even from afar, Saddle Mountain steals the scene across the Oregon Coast Ranges: a distinct landmark that’s hard to deny!
It’s even harder for hikers to resist on an Oregon State Park trail that will steal your heart.
Shelley Parker, OPRD Ranger, said Saddle Mountain is popular for its wildflowers, hikes and spectacular views.
“It’s something that has to be experienced. It starts off as a fairly steep climb but then levels off when you discover a coastal rainforest with Sitka Spruce and Doug Fir. You see some remarkable geological features with large boulders and rocky outcrops, and you will see some really amazing mosses and lichens that you won’t see anywhere else.
Photos: Saddle Mountain
Each step of the two-and-a-half kilometer Saddle Mountain Trail reveals a timeless place born of events 16 million years old.
The site dates from a time when a thick layer of Columbia River basalt poured into the ocean from far eastern Oregon. Finally, the ground rose and the mountain was born.
Today, basalt shatters into pieces, cracks, crevices and bands that show eons of geological time.
The trail opens onto grassy meadows covered with a riot of wildflowers.
Although water is scarce, the cool springs ooze and replenish a surprising number of plants with a distinct sound that also calms the soul.
If the weather is on your side, you will be face to face with the namesake: the saddle then the summit with bare double peaks looming in front of you.
“The trail is a steep climb the last half mile,” Parker noted. “It is certainly not for those who are afraid of heights! It is quite rewarding to get to the top because you have made the ascent but also you have a spectacular panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean and the mountains of the Waterfalls The view every day is different, in the spring the ocean is often obscured.
As the sixth highest point in the Oregon Coast Range, Saddle Mountain serves up drifting clouds so close, you’ll feel like you can reach and touch them.
That means it can be downright cool too! So dress warmly and in layers and make sure you wear sturdy hiking boots with good ankle support for your ascent and descent to the parking lot.
“It is definitely one of the jewels of the Oregon coast!” Parker added.
You can choose to extend the stay of the park in one of the 10 primitive campsites. Each is perfect for a tent. There is no room for trailers, although trailers are permitted in the parking area. But be aware that there are no connections for water or electricity.
Let Saddle Mountain State Park be the start of your road trip.
Next: The nearby Lower Nehalem River Road is accessible in Elsie, Oregon.
A few kilometers down the road that you will meet Henry Rierson Spruce Run Campground. It’s a great place to call it a day!
Ron Zilli said that the Oregon Forestry Department manages the campground: “Most of the time on the weekends you can always find a spot here – you may not have a spot adjacent to the river, but there are 31 places here and most of the time you can find a place here.
Spruce Run campsites (many are by the creek) cost $ 20 a night and each is available on a first come, first served basis; no reservations are accepted.
Four miles down the road you can get lost on purpose with a rod and reel and a chance to catch fish at Lost Lake
“Lost Lake is supplied by Oregon Fish and Wildlife and offers fishing for anglers and canoe fishermen. It’s a shallow water lake but a great place near highways and accesses and when you are there you feel miles away from anywhere.
The Lower Nehalem River Road winds its way pretty much like a dizzying affair overlooking the Nehalem River and once back to the arrow-shaped National Road 26.
Look for “Camp 18”, a popular resting place known for its restaurant and these days – something new.
Mark Standley said that the Camp 18 Lumberjack Memorial Museum is a place to remember those who gave their lives to logging in Oregon.
A museum centerpiece greets you at the entrance: a life-size bronze of a hard-working lumberjack with actual logging equipment, even a full-sized tree.
It’s a remarkably precise work of art: the lumberjack’s pants and sleeves cut short so they won’t catch on limbs or the brush – a firm grip on his working chainsaw with an ax that falls within reach .
“It’s just awesome,” Standley noted. “Most people come in and find it so amazing as a way to keep those journaling memories alive. It’s just a good thing.
This is what you are going to say about this backcountry road, where the Nehalem river flows into the sea and the mountains rise to the sky. It’s a beautiful stretch of Oregon that will keep you coming back for more.
Be sure to follow my adventures in Oregon via the new Grant’s Getaways Podcast:
Each segment is a storytelling session where I tell behind the scenes stories from four decades of travel and television reporting.
You can also learn more about many of my favorite Oregon trips and adventures in Grant’s Getaways book series, including:
“Escapades I grants, “Photograph by Steve Terrill
“Grant’s Getaways II, “Photograph by Steve Terrill
“Grant’s Getaways: 101 Oregon Adventures, ”Photograph by Jeff Kastner
“Grant’s Getaways: A Guide to Wildlife Viewing in Oregon, ”Photograph by Jeff Kastner
“Grant’s Getaways: Adventures in Oregon with the Kids, ”Photograph by Jeff Kastner
The collection features hundreds of outdoor activities across Oregon and promises to engage a child of any age.
My next book, “Grant’s Getaways: 101 More Oregon AdventuresWill be released in 2022.