A popular hiking trail between Portland and the Oregon Coast has reopened after a two-year closure.
The Saddle Mountain State Natural Area was closed in 2021 due to a damaged footbridge, a faulty septic system and several other facility issues.
Ben Cox, the park manager for the Oregon State Parks Nehalem Bay Management Unit, said the park had been in a state of disrepair even before that, and had closed due to pandemic restrictions in 2020.
“And then Saddle Mountain actually reopened afterward,” he said. “But the lingering effects from the pandemic, in terms of how our labor resources were impacted, were a partial factor in the long-term closure.”
The parks department also made the decision to close a decadesold campground at Saddle Mountain, after repeated theft and vandalism made it too difficult to maintain.
On Wednesday, the park reopened as a day-use area. Cox said crews have made improvements and repairs to the 2.7-mile trail to the summit, and they’ve made the hike safer for visitors and rescue teams.
He said the 3,200-foot summit offers an incredible view from the Pacific to the Cascades. But there’s just as much to see on the way there.
“You come into some exposed meadows where there are a number of different species of wildflowers and plants that are endemic only to Saddle Mountain,” Cox said. “It was isolated during an ice age and it just has its own little ecosystem there.”
Saddle Mountain is also a recovery site for the threatened Oregon silverspot butterfly.
“We do caterpillar releases up there each spring,” Cox said. “And so seeing those those adult silverspots flying around up there is quite rewarding.”
Cox offered a reminder to potential visitors that the hike up Saddle Mountain is not just a leisurely stroll.
“It is still an arduous, 2.7-mile hike that gains over 1,600 feet in elevation,” he said. “You should come equipped with appropriate footwear. And trekking poles are not required, but it’s certainly not a bad idea.”
He added that crews are still finishing up some of the work at Saddle Mountain. But they opened Wednesday because the parks department wanted “to return some recreation during this recreational season up there and get people up on the trail.”