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Dizzying Heights and Colorful Delights

by Grant McOmie

Bio | Email | Follow: @KGWNews

Posted on July 3, 2009 at 7:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 4 at 2:35 PM


We climb to new heights this week - high above the Willamette Valley - to reach a mountain peak that you may have missed.

A mountain noted for dizzying views of the sprawling valley and high Cascade Mountains too, so put on your hiking boots, don't forget the camera as we journey to the top of Marys Peak.


It's the size of it all that steals the scene on a back road adventure that rises and winds for daylong getaway.

You're on the trail to the mountain called Marys Peak; highest point on the Oregon Coast Range and it may just steal your heart along the way.


It is something special on a day when soggy skies clear and sun beams light up a scene that's filled with so much vibrant color: from crimson paintbrush to brilliant blue larkspur or stunning yellow wallflowers.

Many wildflower species are at your side as you explore the lush meadows, dense Noble Fir forests and the many hiking trails that link all of it together.

In fact, more than twelve miles of trails criss-cross Marys Peak, nearly all of them connected to the spacious parking area where many folks begin their adventures.


The most popular trail is the mile-long Summit Trail that leads you up a moderate grade. Soon, you're face to face with an amazing scene: a bird's eye view of the grand Willamette Valley.


You easily spy the small town of Philomath - then the larger Corvallis, Oregon just beyond.


Even a hazy day cannot diminish the stunning size of the many Cascade Mountain peaks you can see: Rainer, St Helens, Adams, Hood, Jefferson and the Three Sisters are easily picked out against the eastern skyline.

While to the west, Newport's beaches are often seen with the breaking surf line just 26 miles away.

It is a glorious view, no doubt about that - but all these high Cascade Mountain peaks may leave you wondering, what about the namesake: Marys Peak.

Well, who was "Mary"?

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Some anecdotal stories suggest an Indian legend linkage - for this place has been called a "house or home of spirits" by the ancient peoples.

Other tales suggest a lineage that dates back a century or longer when pioneers first settled the Oregon country. There is a nearby townsite of Marysville and a nearby Mary's River, but the fact is no one really knows for sure, and so the history behind the naming of Marys Peak remains a mystery.


It's no secret that the wildflower show draws a real crowd - not just of people - but swarms of butterflies seem to hover just above bloom top across the open meadows.


The fragile insects come in many sizes and colors, but keep an eye out for the larger Swallowtail Butterfly for it's a favorite and hard to miss.

Nor is the summit of Marys Peak with its distinct array of metallic antennas for radio, cell phone and broadcast television transmissions.

Marys Peak stands tall at more than 4,100 feet and that makes the trees, the insects, flowers and grasses distinct - even rare for the Oregon Coast Range.

That alone makes the site worth a visit.


Perhaps you'll consider a longer stay. If you packed a tent, sleeping bag and food, nearby Marys Peak Campground's secluded sites offer an affordable overnight stay.


At the least, do bring hiking boots and a camera on this getaway - they will provide you a comfortable and enjoyable way to savor Marys Peak: a unique mountain of dizzying heights and colorful delights.

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You might consider making the "Marys Peak" adventure a part of your entry in a unique travel contest. It's called the Oregon 150 Challenge and it offers a unique dream vacation as a grand prize.