Marys Peak Oregon: East Ridge Trail

Last Winter a good friend and I attempted to hike to the summit of Marys Peak, but our hike never happened. We barely made it 2 miles down Marys Peak road before we were turned back by about 2 feet of fresh snow. I'm now attending Oregon State University, so naturally I wanted to end my first week of classes with an awesome hike. Marys Peak was the logical decision.
East Ridge trailhead at Marys Peak

Having looked at the Forest Service's website and seeing that usage was high I figured that it would be similar to Mount Pisgah near Eugene. Not to take anything away from Mount Pisgah, but I generally don't like to see more than one or two other people on my hikes.  This made it even more surprising when I showed up at the East Ridge trailhead and there was only two other cars. I was even more impressed by the forest.

Note the blue diamond, this trail can be used after snow falls 

Having only glanced online about this area I knew that it was both the highest point in the Oregon Coast Range and Benton County. Also I noted that there is a road all the way to the top along with some buildings and towers. This really didn't detract from the hike all that much. The East Ridge trail begins in a dense forest of Vine Maples with some large Douglas-Firs. Promptly the forest opens up and you have very clear views both up and down the moderately steep side of Marys Peak. There are a few pretty large Douglas-Firs in this area.

Relatively dense forest along East Ridge trail. Marys Peak

Much more open forest dominated by the Douglas-fir

Soon after you enter the more open forest you will come to a bench and a switchback trail junction. If you want to stay on the East Ridge trail continue up hill. Or if you would like to delay your accent you can continue towards the North Ridge trail. Because I started in the afternoon I kept on the East Ridge trail. This is there the trail switchbacks approximately 4 times over the next mile. Not long after the second switchback the forest dramatically changes from mostly Douglas-Fir to Noble Fir. The Coast Range of Oregon is known for quite a few trees, but the Noble Fir isn't one of them, it's such a rare eco-system that it's preserved as a Botanical Special Interest Area by the Siuslaw National Forest.

Native Noble Fir forest Marys Peak

Along the East Ridge trail at Marys Peak
 Seeing a nearly pure stand of Noble Fir is rare enough, let alone in the Coast Range. This, in and of itself makes the hike worth it to me, but it only gets better as you near the summit of Marys Peak.

Summit Loop Trail/ Conner's Camp trail junction near the summit of Marys Peak

The first meadow you enter along the East Ridge trail at Marys Peak

The view southeast from the first meadow

I didn't realize how much of a Wilderness area feel that the hike had until I reached section of the hike where you road walk to the summit. It's unfortunate that this road and the buildings that occupy the top will likely never be removed.

Despite the road and buildings Marys Peak still offers impressive views in all directions. Much of the Willamette Valley was obscured by smoke from wildfires currently burning east of the Cascades.

Pacific Ocean in the distance from the summit of Marys Peak

Smokey view of the Willamette Valley from the summit of Marys Peak

Just before the road walk east towards the Willamette Valley.
After spending awhile at the picnic table talking with an awesome couple who are recently moved to Cascadia. My hunger took over and I headed off the summit east towards what turned out to be an unofficial trail back to the road. There are many different routes that you can take to the summit of Marys Peak, I plan to write about them all. No matter which trail you use, there is no way you will be disappointed.

Directions from Philomath: Follow Highway 34 for 10 miles. Turn right onto Marys Peak Road. Follow for 5.5 miles turn right just after a trailhead sign. 

Hike Distance: 6.17 according to my iPhone

Hike Type: Out and Back

Elevation Gain: Approximately 1,900 feet

Highest Point: 4,097 feet

Usage: Heavy at the summit, saw about ten people. East Ridge Trail only saw four.

Difficulty: 3 out of 5

Fees: 5 dollars or a Northwest Forest Pass

Shoes of choice: Vibram Fivefingers KSO Trek

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