Grass Mountain is one of Oregon's 73 prominence peaks
, coming in at #56 on the list with 2163 feet of prominence. It is not a place that appears grassy but who knows, the mountain may be named after some guy named Grass or it could be a place where people were caught smoking some. Prominence peak chasing is a fun pursuit and if you are at all into this strange form of peakbagging, you will find the information contained here to be helpful.
Leave your ice axe, crampons and rope at home but in late winter or early spring you might want to bring some snowshoes.
Grass Mountain is located southwest of Corvallis and not all that far from Mary's Peak
, in the coastal mountains. It is bordered on the south by the Alsea River and on the north by the Yaquina River. It isn't a difficult hike but does entail close to 6 miles of hiking with close to a thousand feet of elevation gain so it is a good hike to take your 8 year old grandson on (which I did)
Typical of the area, much of the hike is through forested areas and only breaks out into a grassy area (maybe the source of the mountains name) near the summit. Trees block the views in any direction other than to the south but at one time a lookout once stood watch over the area. There are still some concrete footings in the area. Just north of the concrete footings, a rock appears to be the highest point. Right next to it I placed a plastic jar register with memo pad and pen. I couldn't find the main benchmark but a witness benchmark can be found on the big rock I referred to.
Consider combining this one with either Mary's Peak or Prairie Mountain
, both of which are Oregon Prominence peaks.
From I-5, head into Corvallis and take the turnoff for the town of Alsea
on highway 34. This is a road used by many to get to the Oregon Coast and passes Mary's Peak state park as you head for Alsea. The road you will need to watch for is 1.7 miles west of Alsea and it takes off uphill to the right. About a mile up the road, the road forks, the left going to a private holding so take the right. (see Pauls directions below)
The road is in great shape but may have logging traffic on it during the weekdays so be forewarned and be watchful. Another fork comes at the 3.5 miles (from highway 34) and stay right. The road gets very windy and will gain and then lose some elevation before you get to the next important road junction, a T in the roadTurn left
but mark in your mind where you turned off from as you could miss this on your way back down. My odometer said it was 9.7 miles to this point but odometers vary and this will put you in the ball park.
Stay on the road for 0.8 mile, watch for an older road on the left which leads to a gate where you begin your hike. At one time this was the only road but a newer segment that continues on uphill can confuse you. The gate is reached in two tenths of a mile after you turn off of the newer section of road so if you drive further than that without seeing the gate, you are on the wrong road. I hope that helps but see Pauls directions as that should help even more. The route will be covered a bit later.
Recently Paul McClellan posted his findings (see comments) from his recent visit (Aug 2015). I've put them here:
0.5 mi: take the right fork (vs 1 mile)
5.9 mi: take the right fork (vs 3.8)
9.0 mi: stay left at a fork in a large clearcut
9.7 mi: turn left at triangular junction (your "T" junction)
10.7 mi: junction with older road.
Its obvious that some of my original mileage posted above has changed and would refer you to what Paul has posted. Also take a look at the trip report posted on peakbagger.com by Edward Earl.
Edward put this on his TR
: At OR-34 near Alsea, I turned N on gravel Follet Rd. The turnoff is immediately W of MP 38 (miles start at 0 at the W end of OR-34 in Walport), immediately E of the Alsea Christian Fellowship, or 0.3 mile W of Mill Creek County Park. Zero or note your odometer at the turnoff. At 0.5 miles I went R at a fork. At 5.9 miles is a fork where a gated logging road goes L; I went R, of course. The road is identified by a BLM sign as 13-8-23.1. At 6.4 miles, the road makes a sharp L through a notch. At 9.6 miles I made a sharp L turn at a triangle intersection on a ridge. It is necessary to go around two sides of the triangle because of fallen trees blocking the third side. A small white sign identifies the correct road as 13-8-15. I then went left at a fork immediately thereafter. At 10.1 miles I decided to pull off at a wide spot and start hiking. I could have driven farther, but I wanted to Earlize the peak to 1000' gain.
There is no need to provide a separate page for the route as it is mainly a road walk past the gate. See Dennis Poulin's map for an overview of the road.
Walk past the gate as it gradually gains elevation to a T junction
Go right and continue walking up the road and when you encounter a big yellow post
in the middle of the road, go past it,
down into a wash out and back up onto the road as it continues once again to head up the hill. You'll pass a road that comes in from the right so stay left as the road goes up the hill into an interesting forested area.
This was my favorite part of the whole hike and you will need to step around and over some deadfall that has fallen onto the old lookout road. Continue on up the road until you reach a sharp bend and then the road will will swing northeast towards the old lookout area. The track is becoming overgrown and you may need to duck a few times but soon you will come out of the overgrown section and find a large grassy area just off to the right.
Then the old road will reach an area where you leave the road and will find the old concrete footings. Just beyond the footings, a rock that contains the witness benchmark and has a register laying nearby will culminate your effort to add this prominence peak to your collection if you are chasing the prominence peaks. My grandson felt it was quite the adventure to reach the top but was somewhat disappointed to find that it wasn't a sharp pinacle with drop offs on every side. I think he enjoyed the grassy area the most with its views over to Prairie Peak to the south.
Roundtrip: 5.4 miles Elevation gain: 1000 feet Grandson's pace: 3 hours
There are no views from the summit on this one so there won't be any summit views. : (
It is probable that about 30 people have been to the top of this one in the past few years and names of those who have picked this one up are listed in the summit register itself, the register kept at peakbagger.com and the one at Lists of John. Many of those that have signed the Lists of John one are not found in the peakbagger offering.
Grass Mountain Lookout and Hayden Bridge
A State Forestry fire lookout tower was built on top of Grass Mountain in 1935. It was a 40 foot wooden tower structure with a 14x14 cab. In 1955, the BLM clearcut approximately 7.5 acres of forest lands immediately around the tower to improve visibility. The tower was decommissioned and dismantled in 1968. All that remains are some concrete footings and rebar amidst the fern like undergrowth that covers the rounded summit.
If anyone who reads this knows anything additional about this lookout or has a picture of it, please let me know.
While in the area, be sure and check out this local attraction,
The Hayden Bridge.
Grass Mountain isn't observable from highway 34 but you do get views of it from Prairie Peak
(south) and from Mary's Peak (east). This is a forested area and historic grazing probably accounts for the high percentage of non-native grasses on the open meadows that are found near the peak.
I give credit to Dennis Poulin
for the majority of all the pictures that are posted on thispage.
Note: Consider doing this mountain on the same day along with Prairie Peak and since Mary's Peak in also nearby and is on the way from Philomath on highway 34, you could possibly get all three prominence peaks that are in the area.
Red Tape and weather (Alsea Oregon)
There is no red tape to deal with on this hike but it might be wise to park so as to not block the gate even though the condition of the road beyond the gate has a couple of rather large wash outs indicating that this road is no longer used.
Camping: Not an ideal place to try and car camp but others have done it. Plenty of motels in the neighboring towns and Mary's Peak has a campground.
You could combine this one with Prairie Peak and with Mary's Peak, both of which are nearby.