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Larch Mountain Crater Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

(Redirected from Larch Mountain Crater Hike)
Large hemlock in the crater's old growth forest (bobcat)
False lily-of-the-valley (Maianthemum dilatatum) (bobcat)
A small lake in the Larch Mountain Crater (Don Nelsen)
View to Sherrard Point from the crater's boggy meadow (bobcat)
The loop hike down into and out of the Larch Mountain crater (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo/USFS)
  • Start point: Larch Mountain TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Multnomah Creek
  • Trail log: Trail Log
  • Hike type: Loop
  • Distance: 6.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1310 feet
  • High point: 4,055 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: May - November
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

Larch Mountain is second in height only to Mount Hood looking west from Portland. Its distinctive profile can be seen from the many parts of the city. What's less known is that, like Mount Hood, Larch Mountain is a volcanic peak with a crater of its own, albeit very eroded and now supporting old-growth forests, ponds, bogs, and flowery meadows. In fact, Larch Mountain is the largest of the three shield volcanoes in the Boring Lava Field, a collection of more than 90 volcanoes in the Portland area that were active between 2.7 million and 57,000 years ago. The loop hike described takes you into the crater of Larch Mountain itself as well as around the greater rim and then up to the volcanic plug of Sherrard Point.

This hike starts at the Larch Mountain Trailhead. Walk below the restrooms, passing a few mossy picnic tables scattered about. At a trail junction, keep left and head down the ridge on a wide trail in a dense silver fir forest. Soon you'll cross gated Road 315 blooming with rhododendron and bear-grass. Listen for the pikas who live in the rock wall that buttresses the road. (Road 315 leads out to Larch Mountain Road, where there are pullouts you can park your car.) Then continue on down past a campsite clearing with a couple of picnic tables. When you reach the junction with the Multnomah Creek Way Trail #444, turn right.

Hike down in Douglas-fir, western red-cedar, western hemlock, and noble fir forest. A couple of impressive cedars stand guard at Multnomah Creek, which you'll cross on a footbridge in lush creekside growth of lady fern, salmonberry, and skunk-cabbage. Just across the bridge, you'll find Multnomah Spur Trail #446. Stay to the right, and continue on Trail #444 traveling upstream in old-growth forest. There are glimpses of Sherrard Point through the trees. A spur on the right leads to a swampy meadow in the old crater. Cotton grass, elephant’s head lousewort, bog orchid, asphodel, and paintbrush all bloom here in summer, but the meadow is waterlogged at other times of the year. There’s a clear view of the volcanic plug at the summit from the meadow. Back on the trail, the route passes through a bog blooming with groundsel and false bugbane. You're soon under big old-growth trees, especially Douglas-firs and hemlocks. The trail is quite eroded here and ascends along a dry, rocky creek bed. Wind up in these lush, ancient woods and switchback at a giant hemlock that has its top snapped off. The trail begins to undulate in a noble fir/silver fir forest before rising again to join the bed of an old logging railroad. Now you're hiking on the level with the margins of this track festooned with blooming avalanche lilies in early summer. Pass over a couple of small creeks choked with devil’s club. At an opening, there’s a view across a Sitka alder-cloaked slope to prominences on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge, including Table Mountain and Birkenfeld Mountain. Notice some of the mossy rock buttressing to the old railroad grade. The trail leaves the rail bed temporarily among large stumps nursing hemlock saplings and then returns to the level grade. Then you'll pass through a cutting and reach the junction with the Oneonta Trail #424, on the border with the Bull Run Watershed (do not hike off trail here).

Turn right here and head up Trail #424 for almost a mile in secondary forest to Larch Mountain Road. Large stumps still exhibit springboard notches. A spur leads right to a rock on the rim that offers views over the trees to Mount Saint Helens and Mount Adams. Then you'll hike along an old road bed and steadily rise to reach Larch Mountain Road. Turn right and hike up the road for 3/10 of a mile to the parking area at the Larch Mountain Trailhead. From this area, take the lower paved trail for Sherrard Point. The 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!).


  • 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

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass (or America the Beautiful Pass) required at Larch Mountain Trailhead.
  • Restrooms, picnic area, information kiosk
  • Share trails with mountain bikes

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • Day Hikes in the Columbia Gorge by Don J. Scarmuzzi
  • Oregon Hiking by Matt Wastradowski
  • Washington Hiking by Craig Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Craig Hill & Matt Wastradowski
  • Day Hiking: Columbia River Gorge by Craig Romano
  • Day Hike! Columbia Gorge by Seabury Blair, Jr.
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • 100 Hikes: Northwest Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Hiking the Columbia River Gorge by Russ Schneider; revised by Jim Yuskavitch
  • Columbia River Gorge: 42 Scenic Hikes by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon's Columbia River Gorge: Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Best Old-growth Forest Hikes: Washington & Oregon Cascades by John & Diane Cissel
  • A Walking Guide to Oregon's Ancient Forests by Wendell Wood
  • Trail Running: Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • Mountain Biking Portland by Scott Rapp
  • The Dog Lover's Companion to Oregon by Val Mallinson

More Links


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.