Hike to Larch Mountain's Summit
Oregon › Multnomah Falls Parking Lot
Added by Ted S
- Distance: 14.4 mile round trip
- Elevation gain: 4,010 ft
- Views of Mount Hood, Adams, Jefferson, Rainier and St. Helen's
- Endless waterfalls & creek sights along the trail
- All day adventure & excellent training hike
- An accomplishment you can share
Done as a loop or one way shuttle (in summer/fall), the full Larch Mountain experience starts at the large (but still always full) Multnomah Falls parking lot. There you'll have the chance to grab a final snack, use the restroom, and fill water bottles before joining all the "tourist" hikers on the paved walk up to the top of the falls, where they tend to stop and this adventure truly begins.
What the crowds don't know as they turn back around is that the Multnomah Falls is just the first in the series. Within 10 minutes of departing the overlook, you'll have wandered past a small, but immensely powerful fall, under a rock overhang and up to another sizable fall with several more to follow. No, none of them are near the height of Multnomah, but you can get a whole lot closer and even go in during the summer (watch for the swift current and cold temps).
This continues on for miles to come with falls named and unnamed as you snake up up the mountain. Eventually the trail turns away from the water though it remains a fairly spectacular view the entire way to the top with a variety of pacific northwest terrain types depending on the section and time of year.
As you near the top, the trees thin out and you enter a wooded picnic area before stepping foot onto pavement - there is a parking lot, restroom and water up top (you can drive here, but why?!). It's a few hundred more yards up some large wood and dirt stairs to the vista point where you can see incredible views of the Cascade Mountains.
This hike is done year round though you will find snow (and potentially significant amounts) starting late fall and lasting through spring. The summit road closes with this change making for even fewer crowds and more fun!
- Plan for an all day, extended & remote hike that may have snow depending on the season.
- Ample water (2-3 liters and then some)
- Extra snacks for a long day
- Hiking boots, trekking poles, traction (for spring / winter)
- The rest of the 10 essentials, be safe, please!
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ReviewsLeave a Review
Get out what you put in
This is a good hike for people training for bigger mountains, or someone who enjoys a good PNW forest hike. I would recommend starting at Horsetail Falls rather than Multnomah Falls. I think it adds a couple miles to the trip, but it’s worth it to hike in and around some of Oregon’s most famous waterfalls, including Ponytail and Triple Falls.
Easiest way to gain 4,000' in the Gorge
This is a great training hike (or trail run) for folks coming from Portland looking to pack in as much distance + elevation gain in as short a time as possible. I've completed this route twice - once in January and once in September. Both times I was slowed to a tiptoe over the rocky areas passing some of the waterfalls. These areas are incredibly slippery regardless of footwear and I have seen people fall on both of my trips, one nearly off the cliff and into the river. Be careful and take your time!
Want the best of Larch? Go in Winter
The reviews below bring up some good points about Larch -- the way up is really more of a forest climb that starts with waterfalls but soon becomes pretty repetitive. Arriving at the top to find the parking lot is a bit of a let down as well which is why I highly suggest making this hike in the winter when it becomes an entirely different world. Walking through the snow for miles, it's common to have the place to yourself and since the road up top is closed till spring, you'll know everyone you encounter "earned it" too. Even the walk becomes more interesting, often with ice (gear up appropriately) around the falls and a majestic winter landscape higher up.
A bit disappointing
Everything you've heard about the views from the top are true - they're spectacular. Hood is right in front of you, and you can easily see from Rainier to Jefferson on clear days. But, I was a bit disappointed when I finally reached the top of Larch after ascending thousands of feet. There are almost no views the entire way up, and then the only place on the summit with a view is the viewing platform itself - a roughly 10' x 10' concrete platform surrounded by fencing and about a five minute walk from the parking lot (which itself is only a half hour's drive from Portland). So, while the views are great, for all the effort of hiking up there is virtually zero solitude and no chance even to explore the summit or find an "alternative" viewing point. (For the same reason, I would actually warn photographers off of coming here without a specific shot in mind - there's no foreground save for a bit of rock extending off of Sherrard Point, but it's pretty sketchy to get to.)
Minimal Risk, Maximum Reward
Larch mountain offers the most versatile views in the Columbia gorge area, giving you a panoramic view of the cascades and both sides of the Columbia river. The drive is lengthy, ascending through the woods with multiple twists and turns. However, the hike to the summit from the parking lot is extremely short and makes it a great destination for photographers and sightseers.
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