The trail immediately begins with steady and steep switchbacks through the forest. We have been here before so we know to take our time and pace ourselves for the 2.8-mile vertical assent. Luckily, the temperatures are mild and there’s a nice breeze.
After about a half mile, the trail crosses over a massive rock field from an old slide. Someone has taken the time to move large rocks into positions to form perfect little seats so we stop and enjoy the view of the Santiam valley to the south. We continue on, and after a few more switchbacks we come to a large outcropping where we can climb out and overlook the rock field that we just traversed.
A little further up the trail there is a second large rock outcropping with even better views of the valley and the Little North Santiam River below. We continue climbing through the dry but shady forest. The trail is lined with Oregon grape, salal, and various ferns and as we climb higher, Pacific rhododendrons and bear grass appear as well as lupine.
We come upon another very large rock field, which the trail skirts, and then crosses over. The rocks can be loose, so we step carefully. There are some very cool stone cairns marking the trail, someone has obviously gone to a lot of work building them.
The trail climbs still steeper and finally pops out atop a very rocky ridge. Mt Jefferson looms to the east along with Battle Ax and the Cascade Range. On a clear day it is said you can see Mary’s Peak to the west 65 miles away, but today it is hazy.
This is where we reward ourselves with lunch and a nice long break. The actual summit of Henline Mountain is to the Northwest. To reach it, go back down the trail 20 yards and there is a fork to the right where a rougher trail leads atop a ridge for another 1.1 miles. We chose not to attempt it and save it for another day.
How to get there:
From Salem, travel east on HWY 22 for approximately 23 miles passing through the town of Mehama and turn left at the blinking light onto North Fork Rd. Drive for about 20 more miles, veering left at the fork onto Rd 2209. The trailhead and message board will be on your left and the parking is on your right, along side the road. (This is a well-traveled road, for it also takes you to Opal Creek.)
Distance and Elevation Gain:
I consider this a difficult hike; it’s 5.6 miles round trip and 2,200 feet in elevation gain. The rocky peak, our destination, is the site of an old fire lookout, at 4,100 feet.
Fees and Permits:
A wilderness pass is required and you can fill out the paperwork at the trailhead. Parking is free. There are no bathrooms. This is a steep hike but we did see both dogs and children. We spoke to the dog owners who said they wish they had packed more water for their four legged friends.