A good reason to head east from Cannon Beach is the 2.5 mile hike up 3,283-foot Saddle Mountain at Saddle Mountain State Natural Area (off U.S. 26, 800/551-6949). On a clear day, hikers can see some 50 miles of the Oregon and Washington coastlines, including the Columbia River. Also possible are spectacular views of Mounts Rainier, St. Helens, and Hood, and miles of clear-cuts. On the upper part of the trail, plant species that pushed south from Alaska and Canada during the last ice age still thrive. The cool, moist climate here keeps them from dying out as they did at lower elevations. Some early blooms include pink coast fawn lily, monkeyflower, wild rose, wood violet, bleeding heart, oxalis, Indian paintbrush, and trillium. Cable handrails provide safety on the narrow final 0.25-mile trail to the summit.
To get to the trailhead, take U.S. 26 from its junction with U.S. 101 for 10 miles and turn left on the prominently signed Saddle Mountain Road. (Although it’s paved, this road is not suitable for RVs or wide-bodied vehicles.) After seven twisting miles, you’ll come to the trailhead of the highest peak in this part of the Coast Range. The trail itself is steep and gains more than 1,600 feet in 2.5 miles. Wet conditions can make the going difficult (allow four hours round-trip) and the scenery en route is not always exceptional unless you look down for the lovely May-August wildflower display; the view from the top is worth the climb.
Camping in Saddle Mountain
The campground at Saddle Mountain is tiny and rustic and offers a secluded option for campers not attracted to the busy family scene at nearby Fort Stevens State Park.
An inland camp, Saddle Mountain offers a good alternative to the many beachfront parks. The park is a real find for the naturalist interested in rare and unusual varieties of plants, many of which have established themselves along the slopes of this isolated mountain.
Campsites, facilities: There are 10 primitive walk-in tent sites and a grassy overflow area for tents. Picnic tables and fire grills are provided. Drinking water (seasonal), garbage bins, flush and vault toilets (seasonal), and a picnic area are available. Leashed pets are permitted.
Reservations, fees: Reservations are not accepted. Sites are $5-10 per night, $5 per night per additional vehicle. Open March-October. Directions: From Portland, turn west on U.S. 26 and drive about 63 miles to just before Necanicum Junction and Saddle Mountain Road. Turn right (north) on Saddle Mountain Road and drive seven miles to the park. The road dead-ends at the park.
Contact: Ecola State Park, 503/436-2844 or 800/551-6949 (this number reaches Ecola State Park, which manages Saddle Mountain).