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Larch Mountain Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

TKO put tools to trail here.png
The Larch Mountain Trail squeezes between a wall of andesite and Multnomah Creek (bobcat)
Ecola Falls along the Larch Mountain Trail (Steve Hart)
One of the many small cascades on Multnomah Creek (Tom Kloster)
Creek crossing near Multnomah Basin (bobcat)
Area of crown fire above the West Fork of Multnomah Creek, Larch Mountain Trail (bobcat)
The big talus slope, Larch Mountain Trail (bobcat)
Sherrard Point with a covering of snow (bobcat)
Mount Hood from Sherrard Point (on Larch Mountain) (Jeff Statt)
Map of the hike—note there are several loop options with nearby trails (click to open in full size)


Hike Description

For a hike that gains almost exactly 4,000 feet, this excursion seems relatively forgiving for those in decent shape. The gain is, in fact, constant, and usually not steep enough to quicken your heart beat once you set your pace. The goal is the volcanic plug at the top of Larch Mountain known as Sherrard Point. The mountain itself is one of the three Boring stratovolcanoes (the others being Mount Sylvania and Highland Butte) and is the highest point in the west Gorge; thus, the views are expansive. In addition, throw in some imposing old-growth Douglas-firs and hemlocks, and a variety of Gorge blooms at Sherrard Point in the summer. The lower 4 1/2 miles of the route was scorched by the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire, with the understory burned out in lower sections and areas of crown fire as you get higher up. The Larch Mountain Trail crosses the westernmost tongue of the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness. A car shuttle will make this a seven-mile traverse hike.

The Larch Mountain trail was constructed in 1915 by members of the Eastside Progressive Businessmen's Club. Many of those involved became founding members of the Trails Club of Oregon. Portland residents might recognize the names of a few early members such as store owners Julius Meier and Aaron Frank, newspaperman Henry Pittock, and Columbia River Highway Builders Sam Lancaster and Simon Benson, the latter contributing $3,000. The trail route was flagged out by the "mountain man" Ralph Shelly. Today the Trails Club still maintains Nesika Lodge on a spur trail off of the Larch Mountain Trail. While the stone lodge itself survived the 2017 fire, the dormitory buildings and most other structures did not.

The trail begins at Multnomah Falls Lodge, a historic building built to serve early automobile travelers in 1925. From a photographer's viewpoint, get a head on vista of both the lower and main tiers of Multnomah Falls and the picturesque span of the Benson Bridge. From here, the trail is a gently sloped 2/10 mile paved path to the Benson Bridge, put in place in 1914 by Simon Benson, one of the builders of the old highway. This part of the trail has one switchback, although one small flight of a few stairs blocks the way to wheelchairs beyond the lower falls viewpoint. You'll pass below a rock net and can look up to see the seasonal Shady Creek Falls, which splash down a cliff just west of Multnomah Falls.

Beyond the bridge, the asphalt trail switches up steeply for another mile to a ridgecrest (There are 11 switchbacks to be exact). At the first switchback, you'll come to the Larch Mountain-Gorge Trail Junction. After the Eagle Creek Fire, logging crews cut many of the trees on this slope and the views are more open although some of the logged trees seem to point dangerously down the steep slope. At the third switchback, a once shaded viewpoint with a bench offers a view to Multnomah Falls. At the fourth switchback, a scree slope shelters a busy colony of pikas, which tend to disappear when the midday crowds show up. As you ascend higher on the slope, look for Columbia River views. Post fire, the trail seems more precipitous and the drop-offs more lethal as much of the buffering understory was incinerated during the blaze. At the crest, you'll see a few trees that were killed by the 2017 fire. From the top, the trail drops slightly to a signed junction where you'll go right for the Multnomah Falls Viewpoint. The asphalt follows a new side path that switchbacks down twice to the Multnomah Falls Upper Viewpoint, a balcony of sorts at the lip of the falls looking down on the lodge and the less motivated visitors below. A ten-foot uppermost tier of Multnomah Falls splashes down into a shady pool encased by columnar basalt here.

On returning to the main trail, turn upcreek and cross a rock-faced culvert over Multnomah Creek. Pass the old junction with the Perdition Trail, a lower link to the Wahkeena Trail across the face of the Gorge that was severely damaged by the 1991 Multnomah Falls Fire and permanently closed. The next three miles of the Larch Mountain Trail parallel Multnomah Creek offering numerous scenic views. The trail passes Lower, Middle and Upper Dutchman Falls, followed by a unique trip through a creek washed overhang called Dutchman Tunnel. Just beyond the tunnel, you'll come to Wiesendanger Falls. (A plaque honoring Albert Wiesendanger, a Forest Service ranger, can be found in Dutchman Tunnel.) The trail switchbacks four times above Wiesendanger Falls, and soon passes the lip of Ecola Falls. The tread is rocky in places, but the climb isn't nearly as steep as it was in the beginning. Views up Multnomah Creek from here reveal a scorched understory and blackened tree trunks. Another quarter mile brings you to a trail junction with the Wahkeena Trail and then another creek bridge, this newest version made of steel and installed post-Eagle Creek Fire in 2018.

Above this bridge, the trail follows Multnomah Creek a short distance up the hillside. You'll cross a wide creek: It's hard to keep your feet dry here in the wet season. When the trail drops back to creek level, it splits into two trails. The main trail runs right alongside the creek under an overhang of platy andesite, an outflow from the Larch Mountain shield volcano. During the summer, it's a beautiful walk next to the creek. In the spring, this area floods, so hikers will need to take the alternate route signed as the "High Water Trail" to switchback up the ridge. The two trails come back together opposite the place where Big John Creek flows into Multnomah Creek from the west.

Now you'll enter a patch of lush, mossy forest undamaged by the 2017 fire. Cross Multnomah Basin Road, which leads east towards Nesika Lodge, and enter the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness. (This western section of the wilderness was added in 2009; there's a wilderness permit box here.) Soon pass the Franklin Ridge Trail #427. You'll see the confluence of the East and West Forks of Multnomah Creek and cross the East Fork of Multnomah Creek and then the West Fork, both on single log bridges with handrails.

The trail switchbacks up from the creek in a scorched understory and traverses a long ridge up the west side of the Larch Mountain Crater. The Eagle Creek Fire was especially harsh on this slope, and hundreds of blackened, dead conifers are the vestiges of this intense conflagration. Cross an open talus slope, and pass two massive old-growth Douglas firs that were killed by the fire. Fireweed crowds the trail, but you'll finally pass out of the 2017 fire zone. In this old-growth forest, the verdant understory overflows with wood fern, deer fern, twin flower, foam flower, bleeding heart, and huckleberry. You'll hike up past a mossy boulder field to the Larch Mountain-Multnomah Creek Way Trail Junction and exit the wilderness at a permit box. Continue on the Larch Mountain Trail, and cross a small closed road that leads out to an unofficial trailhead. (Listen for the pikas who live in the rock wall that buttresses the road.) Next, there's a stint on an often boggy tread through a vast stand of silver fir. You'll know you're getting close when you begin to pass a couple of picnic tables with firepits filled with moss and ferns. Keep left at an unsigned junction and, winded and worn out, you'll reach an old turnaround; the Larch Mountain Trailhead is down to your right. There are restrooms there as well as a picnic spot.

From the turnaround, hike up a third of a mile on the paved Sherrard Point Trail #443 to Sherrard Point. The trail dips and passes the spur from the Larch Mountain Trailhead before ascending a series of steps in a summit forest dominated by noble fir. Blooming on the steep rock faces are Howell’s daisies, alumroot, rock penstemon, matted saxifrage, and Cardwell’s penstemon. The view from the top makes it all worth while. Below the point, you'll see a tarn and the crater meadow. The Columbia River can be seen west to Washougal and east past Mount Defiance. On the Washington side, you'll also see Silver Star Mountain, Birkenfeld Mountain, and Table Mountain, while behind them rise the snowy peaks of Mount Saint Helens, Mount Rainier, and Mount Adams. To the south, Mount Hood and the top of Mount Jefferson are visible.

You can return to Multnomah Falls by making a loop around the Larch Mountain crater using the Oneonta and Multnomah Creek Way Trails: This will add about two miles to your day.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Dogs on leash on lower and upper ends of trail
  • For parking near the Multnomah Falls Lodge between late May and early September, a Timed Use Permit ($2 fee) will be required for each personal vehicle between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.
  • For the I-84 parking area, between late May and early September, you will need to purchase reserved tickets from Recreation.gov.
  • Restrooms, restaurant, visitor center at Multnomah Falls Lodge
  • Self-issued wilderness permit at entry to Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness
  • Share trails with mountain bikers around Larch Mountain
  • Picnic area, restrooms at Larch Mountain Trailhead


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Trail Maps (Friends of Multnomah Falls)
  • 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
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Zigzag Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • Day Hiking: Columbia River Gorge by Craig Romano
  • PDX Hiking 365 by Matt Reeder
  • Best Hikes Near Portland by Fred Barstad
  • 70 Virtual Hikes of the Columbia River Gorge by Northwest Hiker
  • Hiking the Columbia River Gorge by Russ Schneider, revised by Jim Yuskavitch
  • Take a Hike: Portland by Barbara I. Bond
  • Columbia Gorge Hikes: 42 Scenic Hikes by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 35 Hiking Trails: Columbia River Gorge by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 70 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 100 Oregon Hiking Trails by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Short Trips and Trails: The Columbia Gorge by Oral Bullard & Don Lowe
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Hiking Oregon's Geology by Ellen Morris Bishop
  • Best Trail Runs: Portland, Oregon by Adam W. Chase, Nancy Hobbs, and Yassine Dibboun
  • Trail Running: Oregon by Lizann Dunegan
  • Best Hikes With Dogs: Oregon by Ellen Morris Bishop

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.

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