Home  •   Field Guide  •   Forums  •    Unread Posts  •   Maps  •   Find a Hike!
| Page | Discussion | View source | History | Print Friendly and PDF

Franklin Ridge from Larch Mountain Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Big hemlock on the Larch Mountain Trail (bobcat)
Rock penstemon (Penstemon rupicola), Sherrard Point (bobcat)
The lower traverse on the Franklin Ridge Trail (bobcat)
Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus), Franklin Ridge Trail (bobcat)
The East Fork Multnomah Creek at the crossing, Multnomah Spur Trail (bobcat)
View to Sherrard Point from the crater's boggy meadow (bobcat)
The loop hike on the north slopes of Larch Mountain (bobcat) Courtesy: Gaia Topo

Contents

Hike Description

This extended loop combines the views from Sherrard Point, the relative remoteness of the Franklin Ridge Trail, and the big trees of the Larch Mountain Crater. You’ll be hiking downhill first, and the lower half of the hike will be within the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness and the zone of the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire. Be forewarned that the Franklin Ridge Trail is exceedingly brushy although the tread should be easy to follow. You can also begin this hike a little lower than the busy Larch Mountain Trailhead at the Larch Mountain Road 315 Trailhead.

Begin your hike by visiting Sherrard Point before the hordes arrive. From the upper corner of the parking area, near the payment kiosk, a paved trail heads through shady noble fir, silver fir, and Douglas-fir forest. At a junction, make a right to head up the first flight of a total of about 120 steps. You'll pass above a steep, dry meadow blooming with paintbrush and penstemon. The trail switchbacks and then takes you up concrete steps to the fenced viewpoint area at the very top of Sherrard Point. Blooming on the steep rock faces are Howell’s daisies, alumroot, rock penstemon, matted saxifrage, and Cardwell’s penstemon. There’s a view of a tarn below and the crater meadow. You can see west to Washougal and east along the Columbia River Gorge. The Cascade peaks are in view. Concrete slabs name them, and give their heights and distance (for Mount Saint Helens, it’s the pre-eruption height!).

Return to the junction below the steps, and keep right this time on the Larch Mountain Trail. You’ll rise to the old auto turnaround, lined by a stone wall. Once upon a time, there were splendid views from here. Cross the turnaround to continue down to a picnic area of old mossy grates and tables, keeping right at another junction. You’ll be descending the east rim of Larch Mountain’s crater in a dense young forest of silver fir. The trail drops more steeply to cross gated Road 315.

The road is buttressed by a rock wall where pikas may be chirping at your presence. By and by, you’ll encounter some impressive Douglas-firs and hemlocks and pass a couple of picnic/camp sites. Rhododendron, salal, huckleberry, and bear-grass dominate in the understory. When you reach the junction with Multnomah Creek Way, sign in at the wilderness permit box.

You’ll keep descending the Larch Mountain Trail below a mossy talus slope among large Douglas-fir and western hemlock. The West Fork of Multnomah Creek rushes below to the right. A couple of small springs trickle onto the trail in an area of huge Douglas-firs. Then you’ll enter the 2017 fire zone, which quickly becomes a slope of tall charred snags and a dense understory of fireweed and blackcap raspberry. Even the grand old Douglas-fir at the top of an open talus slope was killed by the fire. After crossing the talus, you’ll reenter scorched forest and switchback down to cross a single log bridge over the West Fork Multnomah Creek. The trail runs through a thicket of salmonberry and thimbleberry to pass above a campsite and cross the East Fork Multnomah Creek Bridge. Looking to your left, you can see the confluence of the two creeks just before you come to the junction with the Franklin Ridge Trail. (The junction was unsigned in 2021.)

Turn right on the Franklin Ridge Trail, and rise gradually in a area of ground fire where the undergrowth, including sword fern, bracken, Oregon grape, thimbleberry, and devil’s club, has come back with a vengeance. After a slight descent, the trail winds up through bracken and thimbleberry to make a sharp bend right at the former junction with a connector trail that led down to the Trails Club’s Nesika Lodge.

Canopy fire hit the ridge itself and, if anything, the undergrowth becomes even denser, including trailing blackberry, fireweed, wild cherry, and Scouler’s willow. The ridge narrows, and views appear through the scorched trees east across the deep valley of Oneonta Creek. Yeon Mountain, Nesmith Point, and Palmer Peak stand out, while on a clear day Mount Adams will come into view. The tread is sometimes a little rocky, but the brush is a greater challenge. At one point, you’ll pass through a tangle of burned vine maples. Woodpeckers flit between the burn snags prospecting for beetle grubs. The trail levels on the ridge and, to your left, there’s a rocky outcropping, a good lunch spot that offers a vista towards Mount Adams.

From here, there are more low rock outcroppings, and the trail switchbacks and winds up. Soon the path levels again, and you’ll pass under surviving canopy with a more open understory. In one spot, there’s a dense carpet of tiny baby hemlocks. There are some large hemlocks and Douglas-firs up here as the trail drops off the ridge and traverses through salal and Oregon grape out of the burn zone to arrive at the junction with the Oneonta Trail.

Turn right on the Oneonta Trail here, and angle down through old-growth forest with impressive Douglas-firs, noble firs, and western hemlocks. Then the trail rises through a tongue of the 2017 burn, and you’ll pass through a tangle of old blowdown. Exit the fire zone finally, and reach the Oneonta-Multnomah Spur Trail Junction at a massive Douglas-fir.

Turn right on the Multnomah Spur Trail #446, and descend a rocky tread to an area of springs that run on to the trail. You’ll note some impressive cedars before you reach the East Fork Multnomah Creek. The crossing should just be a rock hop unless there’s been recent rain, in which case you may have to ford. The trail then rises and then drops under big trees until it comes to the junction with the Multnomah Creek Way Trail just before the bridge over the West Fork Multnomah Creek.

Turn left on the Way Trail, an eroded, gullied, rocky route that sometimes becomes a running brook. The moss-carpeted old-growth forest of the Larch Mountain Crater is all around. The trail follows close to the alder-fringed boggy meadow of the crater. There are glimpses of Sherrard Point through the trees. A spur on the right leads to a swampy meadow where cotton grass, elephant’s head lousewort, bog orchid, asphodel, and paintbrush all bloom in summer; however, the meadow is waterlogged at other times of the year. Back on the trail, the route crosses a turnpike through a bog blooming with groundsel and false bugbane. Hike along an eroded channel before crossing it. (Look to your left here for a classic example of a nurse log.) Large Douglas-firs and hemlocks continue to impress. A creek runs to the right, and you’ll cross a dry channel. After winding up, the trail recrosses the creek and switchbacks at a massive hemlock. Then make a traverse to the left, rounding the nose of a ridge to rise in a quiet forest. Soon you’ll drop to join an old logging railroad grade to pass over a source of the East Fork Multnomah Creek. The trail heads through a cutting and crosses an embankment to pass into a dense younger woodland. Rock buttresses shore up the railroad bed, and you may note a pond down to the left. Eventually, you’ll turn right through a narrow cutting and reach the Oneonta-Multnomah Creek Way Trail Junction on the boundary of the Bull Run Watershed.

After you turn right, the Oneonta Trail soon departs from the railroad grade and levels on the crest of the rim. A massive, 10-foot wide cedar stump sprouts a number of nursing young ‘uns. Then a spur to the right leads you to a rock with a view to Mount Saint Helens and Mount Adams over the trees. The trail joins an old road bed and rises gradually to pass a kiosk and emerge at Larch Mountain Road. Turn right to walk 0.3 miles up the verge of the road to the Larch Mountain Trailhead.


Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Bridal Veil, OR #428
  • Green Trails Maps: Columbia River Gorge - West #428S
  • Geo-Graphics: Trails of the Columbia Gorge
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service/Bureau of Land Management: Columbia River Gorge
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Zigzag Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass (or America the Beautiful Pass) required
  • Restrooms, picnic area
  • Share trails with mountain bikes
  • Road is gated usually sometime in November and reopens in late spring, depending on snow conditions

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • none

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.