OverviewSouth Saddle Mountain is the highest peak in Washington County, Oregon. The peak has two distinct summits: An eastern peak with a spot elevation of 3464', and a western peak with an 80-foot closed-contour ranging between 3440'-3520'. Until/unless officially confirmed otherwise, it is possible that the western peak could be higher than the eastern peak.
The peak has little aesthetic value. Most people summiting the peak are probably those who are interested in county highpoints. South Saddle Mountain is one of the most easily accessible county highpoints in Oregon, especially considering its relatively nearby location to major cities such as Tillamook, Hillsboro, Beaverton, and Portland, making day-trips and combination peakbagging trips very possible. Other people using the approach roads for South Saddle Mountain are typically loggers, hunters, and OHV riders.
South Saddle Mountain was originally named Saddle Mountain. However, to avoid confusion with another Saddle Mountain, the Clatsop County Highpoint (and a much more popular two-summit Saddle Mountain) located 33 miles northwest, the mountain was renamed South Saddle Mountain in 1983. Some maps still show the original Saddle Mountain name on the mountaintop. Current USGS maps show the western peak referenced as Saddle Mountain and the eastern peak referenced as South Saddle Mountain, but both summits are parts of the same mountain.
The eastern peak was once the site of a fire lookout tower. A 90-foot tall "Crow's Nest" tower with enclosed platform was constructed in 1932. The tower also had shake cabin living quarters at the site. The tower and cabin were replaced by a 40-foot tall pole L-4 tower in 1947, which stood at the summit until being removed during 1974. Some remnants of the old lookout site still remain, including a stone fireplace, metal ladder sections, and cables. In contrast, the western peak has several communications towers located at its summit.
A USGS Benchmark disk is found atop the highest rock outcrop on the eastern summit, placed there during 1935. At least one other USGS Benchmark disk is still located near the rock outcrop. No USGS Benchmark disks are found at the western peak.
FROM PORTLAND, OR:
1) Drive west along Highway 26.
2) After approximately 20 miles, turn left (southwest) onto Highway 6.
3) After approximately 18.8 miles, turn left (south) onto the road for Browns Camp and Rogers Camp. Then immediately veer right towards Browns Camp. This is Beaver Dam Road.
4) After 2.2 miles from Highway 6, reach a "T" intersection. Turn right, to remain on Beaver Dam Road. (Turning left would lead to Browns Camp.)
5) After 1.4 miles from the "T" intersection, a road veers to the left marked as "Saddle Mountain Road". DO NOT take that road. Fight the temptation to do so. Instead, continue straight and slightly downhill, still along Beaver Dam Road.
6) After approximately 5.0 miles from the first Saddle Mountain Road intersection, reach a four-way intersection with an open area (on leftside). The main road appears to curve to the right. That road is the C-Line Road. However, go straight south through the intersection up the lesser-looking road. That road is Saddle Mountain Road.
7) After approximately 0.8 miles, reach a "T" intersection. Turn left, to remain on Saddle Mountain Road.
8) After approximately 0.6 miles, reach the open saddle between the western and eastern summits of South Saddle Mountain. Park there.
IMPORTANT NOTE: There are multiple roads that lead to the saddle near the summits of South Saddle Mountain. However, the instructions listed above tend to be used the most frequently, and tends to be one of the more direct routes to the mountain.
FROM SADDLE TO WESTERN SUMMIT:
The summit road is gated. If the gate is open, the road can be driven 0.5 miles until near the summit area. However, the gate may be closed at any time, without warning.
FROM SADDLE TO EASTERN SUMMIT:
1) Two roads lead uphill and eastward from the saddle. Take the right road.
2) The summit area will come into view above the leftside of the approach road.
3) Where it appears best to do so, leave the road and head uphill to the summit ridge. An alternate option is to follow the road 0.3 miles from the saddle to the road-end, and then scramble up rocks to the summit area.
4) The highest rock outcrop (with USGS Benchmark) is located on the eastern end of the summit ridge.
Red TapeSouth Saddle Mountain is located within Tillamook State Forest.
No special permits or fees are required to visit the mountain.
Public access is granted year-round.
However, public visits are requested to occur during weekends and holidays, just in case of logging or quarry activities taking place during weekdays.
CampingThe nearest official campground is Browns Camp, near the approach route for South Saddle Mountain and only a few miles away from Highway 6. The campground is typically open from April 1 - October 31, but dates are subject to change.
However, Browns Camp is primarily a campground for people with off-highway vehicles (OHV). More information is found at this link.
At least nine other official campgrounds are located within Tillamook State Forest. More information is found at this link.