Despite standing just 25 miles from downtown Portland, Silver Star Mountain has a remote feel. Silver Star is shorter and less salient than the iconic, glaciated peaks visible from the Portland area. Yet to pass over the hiking opportunities it presents would be a shame, especially in early fall when the foliage ranges from beautiful green conifer needles to broadleaves ranging from pale yellow to brilliant orange and deep red. Aside from the autumn colors, the Grouse Vista Trail to the summit is host to wildflower meadows in the spring and fantastic scenic vistas. On a clear day, the volcanoes Mount St. Helens, Mount Hood, Mount Rainier, Mount Adams and even Mount Jefferson can be spotted.
Although only 25 miles from downtown Portland as the crow flies, the drive from Portland to Grouse Vista Trailhead covers nearly 40 miles of road and takes more than an hour. After passing through Vancouver, Washington, the route becomes windy and rural, and services taper off. About 7.5 miles from the destination, you drive past the Larch Corrections Center. At this point the road becomes gravel and cell service is unreliable. Be sure to have an offline map of the area.
There is an established parking lot with bathroom and signage where Grouse Vista takes off. Park and pay the fee or display your Washington State Discover Pass. Begin hiking northward on the opposite side of the road from the parking lot. The trail starts steep, and you'll quickly reach a split. Take the right side and continue ascending for a mile. After climbing to 3,000 feet, the trail levels off for a time and you will see exposed rock formations jutting up to your right. Depending on the season, this is where the colors of wildflowers or fall foliage become pronounced. The trail splits at mile 1.4. Stay left and stick to the northwest side for the best views on the way up. During the descent you'll have the option to take the opposite side, but keep in mind that it is less established.
After passing Pyramid Rock, there is a slight dip in elevation. As the trail begins again to climb, there are a few side trails. Turn right onto Silver Star Summit Trail (180D); there should be a cairn marking the turn. Another 0.5 miles of steep hiking will land you on the basalt summit. To the north and east especially, you can see the area of the former Yacolt Burn - one of the most devastating wildfires in Washington history. Much of the wildflowers and deciduous foliage traces back to this fire, and the land's subsequent resistance to reforestation.