Polk County Highpoint Trip Report

Date: November 1, 2008
Author: Edward Earl

The summit of Laurel Mtn is on posted property, occupied by an FAA radar facility. I called Dan Goddard at the FAA (503-258-6965) to arrange permission. I found him to be friendly and cordial. After a brief conversation, he approved my request to hike to the summit of Laurel Mtn. He asked me why I wanted to go there, and I explained that I wanted to climb to the highest point in each county in OR, and that Laurel Mtn was the highest point in Polk county. He says that they get a few requests per year (some of which are probably from other county HPers) from people seeking recreational activities on Laurel Mtn, which they generally approve. He instructed me to park clear of the gate on the summit road, and to remain outside the fenced compound.

I don't recommend trying to stealth this one; permission is easy and straightforward; and failure to take this simple step can complicate the situation for future county HPers. When phrasing your request, make it clear that you need no key and that you don't need to go inside the fenced compound on the summit; you only need permission to hike the road to the summit.

Heading W on the main drag through the tiny town of Falls City OR, the road splits on the W side of town. The L branch, which you don't want, immediately crosses a bridge. I took the R fork, which is poorly-signed Black Rock Rd. Call this point mile 0.0. At 0.3 mile the pavement ends at a sign saying 3 miles to Black Rock Bike Area. At 3.9 miles I entered Weyerhauser land at a sign full of road and recreation regulations. At 6.7 miles is a 3-way fork; the R fork is gated and I took the middle fork. At 7.7 miles, I went straight at another fork. At 10.2 miles, the overall heading of the road changes from W to N as it rounds the S and W sides of Riley Pk. At 10.6 miles, I went right at a fork; this is "point 2927" just N of the center of section 12. At 12.8 miles, I stayed straight through several junctions as I passed to the L side of a gravel pit. At 13.1 miles, I went R at a fork, following a sign that said "Laurel Mtn 8-7-6.2". At 14.2 miles I went R at a fork, and at 14.5 miles was the FAA gate. I parked on an amply-sized level turnout on the L side just before the gate. Though unpaved for over 14 miles, the road to this point is easily passable by any street-legal vehicle.

The hike to the summit is straighforward, gaining about 300 feet elevation and taking about 15 minutes each way. The highest ground is just off the R side of the road as you approach the fenced area. I was unable to locate the BM.