With a bird’s eye view of this mountain you can see how it got its name. This mountain has two high points to it. The main summit at 5750’ and the North summit at 5650’ with a ridge line saddle between them that dips down to 5180’. Surrounded by this mountain is Crescent Lake. A shallow silty lake that feeds Crescent Creek that, by the way, was all dried up yesterday. From the trailhead you’ll reach the main summit in four miles and about 2100’ elevation gain. Most of the elevation is gained in three miles, after crossing Maude Creek. The first mile or so is a slight downhill stroll through a newer forest with thick underbrush. After crossing Maude Creek things get a little more interesting. The trail starts to climb through a section of old growth. Enough light gets through to grow low growing vine maple that has now turned a bright yellow and seems to glow when rays of sunlight touches it. After about three miles from the trailhead you’ll come out of the forest into the steeply sloped meadow area. This time of year expect to see ferns turning yellow, grass turning gold, and low growing conifers covering the hill side with hemlock, Douglas fir, and pine trees dotting the southern slopes of Crescent Mountain. With about a half mile to the summit you’ll reach the southern ridge. Leaving the meadow landscaping you’ll enter a forest of short fir and pine with a carpet of bear grass leading you up the ridge to a fork in the trail. Stay right for about a tenth of a mile to the summit. There you’ll find the collapsed pile of lumber that once was a lookout structure although I didn’t know (and I know everything) there was a lookout, nor have I ever seen (and I’ve seen everything) a lookout symbol on any maps. I really can’t speak of the view (I was in fog most of the day) but because of the location I’m sure it’s spectacular, especially this time of year with all the colors.
After finishing a cold or hot one, go back to the fork in the trail and take the left trail north. This will take you along the ridge to the lowest point of the ridge saddle where it will continue north to the Three Pyramids. When you see the trail leaving the ridge veer right and scramble up the ridgeline to the north summit. A half bald hill top that offers great views of the South Pyramid, the main summit of Crescent Mountain and beyond.
Coming from Salem take Hwy 22 East through Detroit, Marion Forks, and on down to Santiam Junction. This is where you’ll take a right onto Hwy 126/20… Go for about 3.5 miles where the Hwy splits. Hwy 126 heads south, while you’ll continue on Hwy 20 for less than a mile and turn right on to road 2067. Continue for about one mile and turn left on road 508. This road is unmarked but does have a “trailhead” sign pointing the way. Follow this road to the end where you’ll find a large parking lot. There are no signs telling you that you are at the Crescent Mountain trailhead except for down the trail a ways. There is a reader board marking the trails entrance though. In case you’re wondering, the trail number is 3384.
The forest-parking pass is not required. A registration box is also available for those who plan to stay longer than the day or for those who have a tendency to get lost.
When To Climb
I believe Hwy 20 is plowed through the snow season. The trailhead is 1.8 miles from Hwy 20, so you could snowshoe or x-country ski in for a long climb. You should know the area well though. Best time, in my opinion, is spring, summer and fall.
In my book camping is allowed anywhere…as long as you follow the “Leave No Trace” rules. There are several pay campgrounds along the North Santiam River.
Rock climbers can leave the rope at home. The meadow area has lots of ferns & grass growing over the trail so rain pants are a must after a rain.
Sweet Home Ranger District 541-367-5506
My cell phone worked well on both the main and the north summits.