Fun Trail Facts
While I always thought of it as "Mary's Peak," the correct spelling is indeed "Marys Peak." The reason for this is that the United States Board on Geographic Names stopped using possessive apostrophes in place names back in 1890 in order to not show ownership of geographic features. This is not without debate, as referenced in a recent Wall Street Journal article.
Marys Peak Summit Hike
County & State
Benton County, Oregon
Coast Range | Volcanics
Siuslaw National Forest
Latitude & Longitude (DEC)
For the Summit Hike, this may be one of the family-friendliest hikes with the greatest rewards you'll find (assuming better weather than we got)
~ 1.5 Miles
Out and Back
Access to Trailhead
It couldn't be easier; Extremely well-maintained paved road all the way up the mountain that drops you off right at the trailhead. Ample parking.
Waking up this morning, I didn't think we'd be going anywhere; It's pretty amazing what small patches of blue in the Oregon skyline does to rational judgement. Gear was hastily packed and I rushed to the store for goodies to feast upon. Getting back home, it was a rush to get boots on and hit the door.
Rain and sunshine kept swapping scenes during the drive, giving me hope we would have at least some views at the summit and relative dryness under the canopy when we hit the trail. When we got closer to Corvallis (itself wonderfully dry and sunny), I abandoned all hope when I saw our destination shrouded in dark clouds, a fog mound without the mound. I knew we were playing against the house, but it looked like the weatherman was showing a Queen and we had 16.
I stopped with the inner dialogue and brought the lad into the fold. I think I'm still getting used to the fact that he is as sharp as he is, and that ownership in these decisions is important for him as well. He wanted to continue, so ahead we went. Driving up the turnoff from the highway toward the Coast, we made our ascent up Marys Peak and into the clouds. All of my plans of starting down the mountain dwindled and we drove up to the campground so that we could hit the Meadow Edge Trail. Upon getting out of the car to go pay our five bucks for the day-use fee, the boy's demeanor went south quickly. Even bundled up, the saturation of mist and bone-chilling wind were too much for him.
It was executive decision time. Make him rough-it, or acquiesce? I put him back in the car and we drove up to the viewpoint. We got out, paid our fee, and the excitement of seeing some snow on the ground overcame anything else that was bringing him down. Some quick snowballs later, we were on our way up to the top.
WIth avalanche lilies, Indian paintbrush, field chickweed, and penstemon popping up along the hike, we had a great time pointing out the different colors. It was a welcome distraction from the cold wind that came and went. Moving up the short hike and passing the other trails we were destined to take before the climate intervened, I had a chance to embrace that he was having a good time despite the weather. Had I pushed him, I can say that this would not have been the case. Score one for parenting.
After passing a couple of folks on their way down, we finally made it to the infamous rock garden near the summit, a lithosolic (weathered rock fragments on steep slopes) community that is on the south-southwestern side of the top. The explosion of flowers in this barren little area is jaw-dropping, especially considering that the area is surrounded by snow above and below.
A quick jaunt down the trail, and we were back through the meadows and at the observation area parking lot. Before going all the way back to the car, a quick turn was taken and we arrived at a plaque memorializing the Benton County veterans of World War II who never made it home. That was a perfect opportunity to tie in the importance of Memorial Day with my son, and I'm thankful it turned out just as it did.
Today was the perfect balance achieved by a little bending from both of us, and not an ounce of real complaining.
I think I beat the house this time.
- A great read! History, geology, and botany, oh my!
Portland Hikers Field Guide - Marys Peak Summit Hike
Wildflowers of Marys Peak Meadows, a Pocket Guide
Peakbagger.com - Marys Peak, Oregon