According to McArthur, Rocky Top was named in 1863 by Thomas J. Henness, a pioneer of the North Santiam Valley, because of its formation at the summit. This makes sense, since the eastern ridge leading to the summit has many rocky crags and several tall pinnacles. There’s one main pinnacle that you’ll notice in a couple of the attached pics. The rock is pretty crumbly and probably not suitable for anchoring to, although the scramble offers several challenging free climbs.
There was a lookout structure at the summit at one time with an awesome view of the North Santiam Valley below. A couple of remaining anchor rods still exist at the summit. I wasn’t able to find any info on the lookout other than it was a one-story building with a pointed roof…
From Salem, go east on 22 through the old town of Gates. After leaving Gates, continue on Hwy 22 and drive for about 3.5 miles to a small community called Niagara. Take a left onto road #2211. Look for the old water wheel in the creek. Follow this gravel road, which is in excellent condition due to the constant logging in this area, for 8 miles where you’ll find a large intersection / parking area. You’ll also see a small trailhead sign.
A trail parking permit is required for those who insist on purchasing one.
When To Climb
There’s no access to this summit, on a “normal snow” winter, from mid November to late June. On a “light snow” season you might get close enough to snowshoe to the summit.
I believe Fisherman’s Bend Campground (BLM) is the closest official campground (2-miles west of Mill City). I myself would park & sleep, or camp using the “leave no trace” rule.