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Larch Mountain via Grouse Vista Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Mt. St. Helens and the top of Rainier from the Tarbell Trail (bobcat)
Grouse Creek, Tarbell Trail, Larch Mountain (bobcat)
Frosty fringes on salal, Tarbell Trail, Larch Mountain (bobcat)
Comm towers at the summit, Larch Mountain (bobcat)
The trail to Larch Mountain from the Grouse Vista Trailhead (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Grouse Vista TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Larch Mountain
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 5.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1205 feet
  • High point: 3,496 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Late spring to mid-fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

The short ascent to the summit of Larch Mountain begins at the Grouse Vista Trailhead, but sees far less hiker traffic than the Silver Star Mountain via Grouse Vista Hike – it can also serve as an adjunct to the latter hike, making for good day’s outing. Unfortunately, the summit of Larch Mountain hosts a fenced microwave station and offers only very limited views through the encircling fir trees. The trail is often rocky and keeps to ridge crest forest for the most part. However, splendid vistas can be had towards Silver Star Mountain, Sturgeon Rock, and Mount Saint Helens from an opening above a massive talus slope, this viewpoint perhaps being the highlight of the hike. Larch Mountain is the highest free standing point in Clark County although there are higher prominences on Silver Star Mountain's southwest ridge; the summit of Silver Star Mountain itself is in Skamania County.

There are no larches on this Larch Mountain, nor are there any on the Larch Mountain at the western end of the Columbia Gorge in Oregon or the Larch Mountain in Oregon’s Coast Range. What all three mountains have in common is a crowning cap of noble/silver fir forest, but the timber industry saw fir as an inferior lumber product and chose to market noble fir as “larch”, a denser, stronger and therefore much more desirable wood.

Take the Tarbell Trail next to the information kiosk. This wide path follows the crest of the ridge under Douglas-firs and western hemlocks in a carpet of salal, bracken, and bear-grass. Red huckleberry bushes dot the understory. The area was scorched by the 1902 Yacolt Burn and was slow to regenerate, but here and there a few larger trees survive. Drop a little and then rise again past a junction with an old track. Soon pass the 11.0 mile marker of the Tarbell Trail. The tread is eroded and rubbly most of the way. Ascend steeply on the crest and drop again, noting a clearcut on the left. You’ll notice an ATV trail leading off into the cut from which you can get a great view of Mount Hood. Cross an old berm and pass an intersection with an old road track. Keep right at another intersection and notice Grouse Creek flowing through an open bracken meadow below to your right. Cross a small stream and then reach the footbridge that spans Grouse Creek.

Pass some bigger trees, including a large hemlock and a Douglas-fir next to the trail. Silver firs and noble firs have also entered the forest mix. The trail begins to rise gain after crossing another creek. A thicket of spindly cherry trees affords glimpses of Mount Hood to the south. There’s a large silver fir on the left side of the trail before you pass the 12.0 mile marker on the Tarbell Trail. The trail makes a sharp turn in a bear-grass/huckleberry meadow. This open space affords the best views of the hike: from west to east the entire ridge of Silver Star Mountain is visible, from Sturgeon Rock to the Indian Pits, across the deep valley of Grouse Creek. Mount Saint Helens dominates the skyline to the northwest, while Mount Rainier’s snowy cap pokes above the horizon. Larch Mountain’s massive northeastern talus slope tumbles below.

Reenter the forest, here mostly silver and noble fir. Pass, on your right, a magnificent bear-grass meadow that blooms spectacularly in late spring. Continue up to the signposted Tarbell-Larch Mountain Trail Junction, where you keep left. 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.


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


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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