OverviewAltoona Hill is a low elevation peak located in Wahkiakum County, Washington. The mountain is a popular destination for logging and hunting, but seldom for peakbagging. However, some peakbaggers have gained interest in Altoona Hill because of an aspect of its prominence. Although Elk Mountain, located only approximately five miles northeast of Altoona Hill, is "officially" recognized as the county's greatest prominence point (CoGPP), Altoona Hill remains a candidate for the Wahkiakum CoGPP using the "dirty" rule determining prominence.
Elk Mountain has 825' of clean prominence with a maximum possible prominence of 880'. Altoona Hill has 800' of clean prominence with a maximum possible prominence of 890'. The "clean" rule for determining prominence makes Elk Mountain the "official" Wahkiakum CoGPP due to it having more clean prominence than Altoona Hill (as well as nearby Crown Point, another CoGPP candidate using the "dirty" rule). However, due to the overlapping range of possible prominence (825'-880' for Elk Mountain, 800'-890' for Altoona Hill), Altoona Hill might be the true CoGPP but until/unless firmly determined (which is not likely) the peak will remain a candidate only using the "dirty" rule.
Altoona Hill and the surrounding area is owned and controlled by Hancock Forest Management. Hancock allows non-motorized public access to the peak. The mountain can be summited any season during the year, and its low elevation allows it to remain snow-free during most of even the harshest Winter seasons.
There is a 50-foot closed-contour for the summit area, so the actual elevation is between 1200'-1250' elevation. With the amount of old logging and forest debris littering the mountaintop the actual location of the true summit is difficult to determine. It is best to trek across most of the mountaintop to help ensure the summit has been attained.
Getting ThereFROM ROSBURG, WA:
1) From Highway 4, turn south onto Altoona Pillar Rock Road.
2) After 5.0 miles, a sign appears that warns trucks, trailers, and RVs to not proceed any further along the road due to limited turnaround spots. A pullout is found on the right (west) side of the road, as a turnaround spot for larger vehicles. If using a large vehicle, it might be best to park at this location and then continue on foot or bike.
3) After 0.7 miles further, prior to Altoona Pillar Rock Road ascending away from the Columbia River shoreline, an unmarked logging road appears on the left (north) side of the road. Turn onto the logging road.
4) Steeply drive uphill for 0.1 miles until reaching an entrance gate. Park alongside the road, making certain not to block the road or gate.
NOTE: Due to the short width of road and the possibility of other vehicles arriving, it is highly recommended to turnaround prior to parking the vehicle.
-> Hike/bike by the entrance gate.
-> Within 0.1 miles, sharply turn left and uphill. This leads to what is shown on maps as Pigeon Bluff, a ridgetop viewpoint from which Astoria, the Astoria Bridge, the Columbia River estuary, Saddle Mountain (the Clatsop CoHP in Oregon), and the Lewis & Clark National Wildlife Refuge can all be seen. Pigeon Bluff would also be a great place to see a sunset.
-> After approximately 2.75 miles from the entrance gate, the road forks. Turn right (ESE) towards the forested mountaintop of Altoona Hill.
-> After approximately 3.25 miles from the entrance gate, the road reaches its crest and begins to head downhill, located southwest of the summit. There are remnants of an old, overgrown, abandoned logging road angling slightly uphill on the left (north) side of the road.
-> From that location, begin hiking NNE off-road for 0.25 miles through thick young forest to the summit area of Altoona Hill.
-> Several locations (including old stumps) are possible candidates for the true summit, but those locations are separated by enough distance and treecover that the exact highest point is difficult to determine. It is best to walk along all/most of the mountaintop, to be certain the highest point was actually reached.
TOTAL ROUNDTRIP HIKING DISTANCE: Approximately 7.0 miles
Red TapeHancock Forest Management owns and controls the lands and roads at, and near, Altoona Hill. For current access restrictions, feel free to contact Hancock Forest Management at: 360-795-3653
Active logging operations are present throughout the slopes of Altoona Hill. However, public access is granted. There are several general rules:
1) If planning to reach the summit of Altoona Hill, public access to some of the roads used on the summit route is only open during weekends, while logging activity is at a minimum (if at all present).
2) Access is only allowed during daylight hours.
3) If any logging machinery, vehicles, and/or personnel are encountered while travelling the Altoona Hill logging roads, they reserve the "right of way". Unfortunately, because many of the logging roads on the mountain are single-lane, if there is no place to immediately pullout a vehicle on the side of a logging road when logging operations need to pass by, that vehicle will need to back-up to the nearest pullout or side road so that the logging operations' "right of way" is maintained.
Because access to the mountain is controlled by logging operations, public access may be restricted, and/or any of the mountain roads may be made inaccessible, at any time.
Due to the vast amount of logging activity that takes place on the mountain slopes, Altoona Hill has multiple logging roads present. Some of these roads may or may not show on current topography maps. It is possible that other summit approach routes exist, even if not clearly evident.