That’s where the pavement ends. Calling the rest of the unpaved roadway “gravel” is paying it an unearned compliment, because it’s really closer to “rubble.” While plenty passable, the going gets bumpy — especially if your car doesn’t have much clearance — as you pass the Yacolt Burn trailhead and turn right on Road 1200, driving upward toward the Grouse Vista trailhead.
The trail, an old jeep road opposite the pull-out parking area on Road 1200, is much the same: a rubbly, jagged ascent that makes for complicated walking. Trekking poles are an excellent idea for balance.
The Grouse Vista Trail to the Silver Star summit is 6.2 miles round-trip, with 2,000 feet of elevation gain. It climbs past a connection with the Tarbell Trail and keeps heading upward.
There’s no big profusion of wildflowers here, but you’ll notice a few patches, especially when the trail levels off and transforms into a tight green corridor of trees and shrubs. Intermittent views eventually give way to a huge vista to the north and west as the trail meanders below the dramatic ridge of Pyramid Rock.
The rounded peak of Silver Star Mountain is directly ahead of you, and the stark rectangle of Sturgeon Rock is a little to the left. Behind you, denuded sections of forest are the unmistakable evidence of industrial-scale logging in vast Rock Creek Valley.
A short spur trail here leads up to a saddle trail along the Pyramid Rock ridge. A steep but quick scramble to the south provides lesser-known, still-terrific views of Pyramid Rock, the Silver Star ridge, the Bluff Mountain trail — and far in the distance, layer after layer of mountain ridges with Mount Hood reigning over all.
This wide-open section of trail promises that you’re nearing the peak. But first there’s more steep climbing up a rubbly trail (and, perhaps, banks of snow). A final stretch of open meadow congratulates you with colorful summer wildflowers and, straight ahead, the incredibly scenic ridge that leads to the rocky, rounded summit.
You’ll probably share that summit with other hikers. Thanks to the Eagle Creek Fire that closed big portions of the Columbia River Gorge in 2017, day hikers and backpackers seem to have discovered Silver Star in a big way in recent years. The Grouse Vista Trail is the easiest way to reach it from Vancouver.
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Another way is the 5-mile Silver Star Trail/Ed’s Trail loop, which approaches the peak from the opposite direction, coming down from the north. More wide-open and dramatically scenic than the Grouse Vista Trail, the Silver Star Trail is a great choice for anybody who’s got a really rugged off-road vehicle, given that access is via increasingly difficult Roads 1100 (rubble) and 4109 (deep ruts and big boulders, nearly impassible).
The 360-degree view from the comfortable summit of Silver Star (where there’s a crumbing concrete observation platform) is one of the high-altitude wonders of the Pacific Northwest. Up here, at nearly 4,400 feet elevation, when the weather is clear, you can see five different mountain peaks: Rainier, Adams, St. Helens, Hood and Jefferson.