Silver Star is an exposed, twin-summited mountain in Southwest Washington's Skamania County. In 1902, the Yacolt Burn cleared the mountain, leaving open meadows to be repopulated with summer wildflowers. The view from the top is a stunner – affording a 360 degree panorama that encompasses the Gorge and many prominent Cascade peaks. What makes Silver Star truly memorable, however, is that it boasts arguably the best wildflower show in the area; on display from mid-June through August.
Though not far from Portland as the crow flies, the drive to the trailhead is long and somewhat difficult. The last several miles of driving are done over confusing, single lane, pothole-laden roads. A low-clearance vehicle will be able to make it, but it will be slow going. However, if ever a hellish drive to a trailhead was worthwhile, it’s this one.
There may be several options to the summit of Silver Star, but Ed's Trail is without a doubt the most scenic and unique. Climbing Silver Star from the north, Ed's Trail stays just below the ridge crest as it leads through scenic meadows and around rocky outcroppings. The trail takes hikers through a natural rock arch and briefly into a shaded forest before the final climb to the summit. Coming back down a jeep road on the other side of the ridge gives hikers a five star 5.5 mile, 1,250 foot elevation gain loop hike.
Appropriate dress is always recommended in the Northwest, but especially so when you get into the particularly high elevation areas, like... you know, mountain summits. Bring lots of layers - wicking base layers, warm mid-layers, and weather-proof outer layers. Lot’s of water too. Unlike most stream-laden hikes down below, there is no water access up high on Silver Star.
From Battleground, head north on the 503 for 5.5 miles and turn right, onto SE Rock Creek Road. Drive 8.5 miles and turn right onto Sunset Falls Road. Continue another 7 miles to the Sunset Falls Campground. Make a right here, and cross a bridge over the Lewis River. Just after the bridge make a left onto FS 41 and travel 3.5 miles to a hard, downhill right onto Road 4109. Drive a rough 1.5 miles to another junction. Turn left here and drive the final 2.7 miles to the end of the road and the trailhead.
Start hiking at the far (west) end of the parking area near the map kiosk. Follow the trail for a half mile until it joins up with an old road and continues ascending. After 1 mile of hiking, the road banks sharply up to the right. Just after this bank, turn left at the signed junction with Ed's Trail. The next 2 miles of hiking are epic. Walk through meadows, under a rock arch, and up a scrambly rock staircase. The trail eventually enters a forest before reaching a 5 way junction. Turn left here onto a jeep road, and make another left 200 yards later. Walk up this rocky road .25 mile to the twin summit. Trails lead up to each highpoint. Walk back down past the previous 5 way junction. Stay on this old jeep road as it briefly ascends, and then gently descends 2.7 miles all the way back down to the trailhead parking area.
For pre-hike nourishment, consider Jo Brown's Cafe in downtown Vancouver, Washington. The sweet little greasy spoon just off of I-5 serves house-made sausage and omelets big enough for two. Post-hike, hit Vancouver again for Thai-themed Happy Hour at the Tiger’s Garden. $3 micro-brews and $3 menu items are tough to beat.