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Larch Mountain via Cold Creek Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Bridge over Cold Creek, Tarbell Trail (bobcat)
Campsite on the Tarbell Trail (bobcat)
Cold Creek from the Tarbell Trail (bobcat)
Comm towers at the summit, Larch Mountain (bobcat)
The Tarbell Trail to Larch Mountain via Cold Creek (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Cold Creek Upper TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Larch Mountain
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 11.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2300 feet
  • High point: 3,496 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Summer to mid-fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Hike Description

The Tarbell Trail is a 25-mile loop in the western reaches of Washington's Yacolt Burn State Forest that connects the Rock Creek and Cold Creek Campgrounds with Larch Mountain, the western slopes of Silver Star Mountain, and Kloochman Butte. Most of this forest has been logged at least once, and you may encounter detours around logging operations while on the trail. This section of the Tarbell ascends 2,300 feet and offers views from the big talus slope on the north side of Larch Mountain although there are no expansive views from the summit. Be prepared to encounter mountain bikers as this is a popular route for two-wheelers.

The Tarbell Trail is named after a hermit named George Lee Tarbell, who created a part of the current trail route to access his isolated shack. In July 1925, Tarbell got into an altercation with two young men who were harvesting cascara bark (used to make laxatives) on his property. He shot and killed one of them, but was acquitted in court for reason of self-defense. The current trail route was completed in 1970.

The sign at this trailhead says that Larch Mountain is six miles. The trail parallels Road L1000 for a short stretch in the clearcut and then switchbacks up twice into an understory of salal and sword fern on an old road track. Keep straight at the unsigned junction, and continue hiking under Douglas-fir, alder, hemlock, cedar, big-leaf maple and vine maple, with some large and rotting stumps attesting to a former forest of giants. Pass along a road cutting and cross several small streams before reaching a junction where the trail peels off down into the mossy woods. Wind down and then bend left, heading up the Cold Creek valley amongst alder, cedars, and salmonberry. Switchback up twice in salal-carpeted woods above the creek. At a junction, keep straight and, at another junction, bear right and keep heading up.

You can see a clearcut visible across the valley before you cross Cold Creek on a footbridge. The trail winds up and switchbacks below the clearcut. Recross Cold Creek and head up a sword fern-carpeted hillside. Make four more switchbacks up above the creek to where the trail joins a road bed and drops left across Cold Creek on a wide, sturdy bridge. Head up the hillside, switchbacking three times. Silver and noble firs appear in the woods. Traverse up, switchback, and traverse up again to a road.

The trail crosses the road and reaches an upper portion of the same road. Here, the tread runs alongside the road, freshly graveled, and then joins it. From this point, one has to head right up the road for 200 yards to a junction, from where you go left for 240 yards to the end of a spur to resume the trail proper. Make a traverse and switchback up four times before passing below a rock outcrop. There are three more switchbacks in noble fir, silver fir, Douglas-fir woods on a sometimes rocky tread. The trail emerges at an opening. Traverse up across a large talus slope, passing the Flintstone Picnic Area (one table), from which there are views to Silver Star Mountain and Pyramid Rock. Farther away, Mount Saint Helens and the summit of Mount Rainier will adorn the northern horizon on a clear day. Continue on the talus tread, perhaps disturbing some squeaking pikas, and make a level traverse through a Sitka alder/ devil’s club thicket and enter bear-grass carpeted woods. Cross an eroded, rocky track and reach the Tarbell-Larch Mountain Trail Junction. The trail ascends to a post and road bed at the Tarbell-Larch Mountain Cutoff Trail Junction. Go left here again on a level trail and keep left at a road junction. Continue up the wide, rubbly track to the top of Larch Mountain and its microwave towers. There aren’t many views here: just some glimpses to the west and south. The mountain bike trailhead is one mile down the road that reaches the summit from the west.


Maps

Regulations or restrictions, etc

  • Discover Pass required at trailhead
  • Share trail with mountain bikers

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain

More Links


Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.