Larch Mountain – Columbia River Gorge

Reminiscing…

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Now that we are in the Holiday season I find myself with even less time to get out and play. So to “get my blog on” this week I decided it would be best served by reminiscing about one of my favorite hikes in the Columbia River Gorge – the almighty Larch Mountain.

Larch Mt is one of my favorite hikes in the Columbia River Gorge due to its close proximity to the city and diversity of scenery along the trail. This hike can be done a few different ways –

Popular Starting Points: Larch Mountain

Multnomah Falls*

Horsetail Falls

Angel’s Rest

These are a couple of my favorite approaches. Multnomah Falls is definitely the shortest amongst all. However, Multnomah Falls (15 miles RT) is usually crowded and makes for a longer hike having to weave in and out of the numerous people making the “short” hike to the top of the falls. The “short hike” to the top is a far too common misconception amongst tourist as well as many Portland Metro Goers. Despite people even being able to visually see where the top viewpoint (noting the elevation gain) and seeing the mileage marker sign of 1 mile at the trailhead.

*A side note* – I have hiked up this trail passing women walking in high heals, pregnant women, people that were pulling up their 16 year old son in a wagon, morbidly obese people who look like they are going to collapse out of exhaustion, and many other misfits – but hey, at least they are out there right? Multnomah Falls recently has updated the one mile climb up with signage on each switchback to show what # of switchback you are on and the distance to go so people can decide if they still feel its worth it…

The trail follows up Multnomah creek most of the way up providing for beautiful views of multiple waterfalls and vistas. At the top – Sheppards Point 4,050 ft – views of Mt Hood, Mt Adams, Mt St Helens, Mt Rainer… on a clear day.

The first and last 2 miles are the most strenuous. Generally speaking – in the Columbia River Gorge, the first mile of most trails are steep and strenuous climbing to the top of the ridge of the gorge.

Just beyond the top of Multnomah Falls the trail traffic slows. The trail parallels Multnomah Creek for most of the way as it continues a slow but steady incline up to Sheppards Point. There are many waterfalls ranging in size – each very unique in their own way.

Three bridges cross over Multnomah Creek as the trail winds through the rugged hills up to Larch Mountain. Shortly after the third bridge crossing there is an open rock clearing. At this point it begins to steadily become steeper.

The next big trail juncture is 2 miles from Sheppards Point. The last 2 miles of the trail climb through a highly dense forested area with little visibility of the surrounding area making it difficult to navigate in the dark or when snow is on the ground.

I have gotten out of some sticky situations by understanding the topography of the area. I have hiked this trail in June on an 80+ degree day and 2.5 miles from Sheppards Point we hit snow. By knowing the topography of the area I knew it would be more efficient to stay along the ridgeline rather than following up the trail through the dense snowy forest. Many people have gotten lost in this area by coming into similar situations – the dense forest turns people around and disables their sense of direction completely.

I will be the first to say I have been lost. I actually like to phrase it more like “I was temporarily misguided.” I believe that being lost in somewhat of a controlled environment (comfortable weather; within close proximity of civilization; readily prepared – food, first aid kit, emergency blanket, etc) only strengthens your abilities to navigate and survive in more extreme situations. In some of my experiences of being lost people have the tendency to make irrational decisions that can potentially be damaging. It is absolutely quintessential to think clearly through each decision and action taken.

For all day hikes I go prepared with –

  • Day pack
  • Water (water treatment – iodine tablets)
  • Food (energy bars, trail mix, candy, etc)
  • First Aid (athletic tape, alcohol pads, pain reliever)
  • Clothes (Layers, rain jacket, fleece, gloves, beanie hat)
  • Knife
  • Whistle
  • Emergency Blanket
  • Headlamp
  • Fire (matches/lighter)

View pictures here:
PDX Hiker Facebook Fan Page –


Happy Hiking!

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