Mount Hebo

View from Mount Hebo

  • Difficult (to summit meadow)
  • 8 miles round trip
  • 1500 feet elevation gain

  • Difficult (shuttle to South Lake)
  • 8.1 miles one way
  • 1400 feet elevation gain

Views from the 3-mile-long, meadowed plateau atop Mt. Hebo stretch from Tillamook Bay to the white cones of the Cascade Range. This coastal peak is so high that snow often blocks access in January and February. By May the meadows are colored with wildflowers. Like Saddle Mountain to the north, this plateau is a remnant of a gigantic, 15-million-year-old basalt lava flow that spilled from Eastern Oregon to the sea.

Surprisingly, Indians crossing from the Willamette Valley to the coast found it easier to scale this mountain and cross its high meadows than to cut their way through the lowland rainforests. Pioneer Hiram Smith and a crew of Tillamook settlers improved the Indians’ steep path in 1854. It remained the major horse route across the Coast Range until a lower elevation wagon road was built in 1882. The Forest Service rediscovered the historic path in 1975, upgraded it, and opened the 8-mile Pioneer-Indian Trail from Hebo Lake to South Lake in 1984.

Much of the route traverses a dense, 8000-acre Douglas fir forest planted in 1912 after a devastating fire. This was one of the Forest Service’s first reforestation efforts, and unwisely relied on seed collected in the distant Rocky Mountains. Today the trees are not nearly so large as similar-aged, native Douglas fir stock better adapted to Oregon’s coastal climate.

An Air Force radar station that was housed on the west summit of Mt. Hebo during the Cold War has been removed without a trace. During the Columbus Day storm of 1962 the station’s wind gauge measured Oregon’s mightiest gale (170 miles per hour) before the gauge blew away.

To start the hike, drive …

Other Options

Equestrians begin at …

This chapter taken from the book 100 Hikes/Travel Guide: Oregon Coast & Coast Range.