Larch Mountain Crater Loop Hike

I do some stupid things sometimes. But in the moment, when you’re ready to go it just seems more silly to turn around and call it a defeat than to continue forward.

Hike details:
Distance: 7.1 miles starting from Middle Trailhead
Elevation: 4,062 feet
Pass Required: Discovery Pass needed
Bathrooms: Yes, located at the peak
Multiple Routes: Yes
Word of Warning: Road is closed at Mile post 10 from November to late May / early June
Route from Gmap-Pedometer: http://www.gmap-pedometer.com?r=6610541
Nearby attractions: There’s a brilliant view of Vista House from the Woman’s Forum, Vista House and a neat looking general store just outside of Corbett.

A week before, I had mapped out the Larch Mountain Crater Loop Hike, a 6.1ish mile loop that circled underneath the peak and back up with some elevation gain. Larch Mountain is a popular spot along the Gorge as you can drive right up to the top, park and walk about 500 meters to the lookout point. Alternatively, the adventurous distance hiker could hike the 13 miles hike from Multnomah Falls. There’s really only one other hike that stays local to Larch Mountain, and that’s the Crater Loop Hike.

I was going to do this hike solo this time and thought 6 miles was an easy enough distance to make it a trail running adventure. There are two access points to the loop hike: from the peak or from an access trail called “Middle Trailhead”. From the map, it seemed there may be a small parking lot available. The Middle Trailhead put you directly on the loop trail just north and below of the peak. I didn’t want to start at the top and end at the top, I wanted to earn my view. So I aimed for the Middle Trailhead.

It was a beautiful day – overcast but clouds were moving and sunny. As I drove along the rode, I discovered that the road accessing the peak (and the Middle Trailhead) was gated off to cars. Using my iPhone, I gathered the Middle Trailhead was about 1.5 miles from the gate. Here’s where I get so far: do I head home or add the 3 extra miles to the run and follow through?

It was a quiet day. Only a few other cars were parked at the gate, which was reassuring that were other souls on the mountain. I was going to go for it. I had the road completely to myself. Silence except for the soles of my shoes hitting the pavement and my breathe, building due to the incline. Besides a giant turkey (I think that is what it was), there was nothing but the sounds of the forest.

I found what was the Middle Trailhead – note, there is no real parking spot other than a carved out shoulder that could fit a few cars at most. I turned up the trailhead, a rocky firelane-like path that went 0.3 miles to intersect with the Multnomah Creek Way Trail. Here, you can go right 1.5 miles to the parking lot at the top, or head left down into the ancient crater for the longer circular route. I looked to the left and saw what looked like a Sasquatch watching my next move.
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Man up Beth. You came this far – might as well get the most of the day. I started to descend along the Creek Way Trail. Here the trail running was great – the path smooth and dry.

Running this trail, by oneself, with not a soul within miles – you tend to not only second guess your decisions but you are alert the entire time. I was watching for tracks, for movements in my periphery, for movement up on the trail ahead. You don’t have cell phone reception along this trail, so be sure you have a map and are prepared.The route is very well labeled. I had taken a photo of the trail with my phone and set it as the lock screen image so that I wouldn’t have to unlock my phone every time I wanted to see the route.

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After a log bridge, you come to a marsh filled with brush and the sounds of frogs. This is deep into the crater and the former lake, now filled with sediments is just downright eerie when by oneself. I swear the frogs stopped talking when I ran by. After the marsh the trail starts winding upwards, crisscrossing a wet bed of rocks. At times, the path seems to divert, but stick to the stream for the climb when in doubt. Once you start heading eastward and away from the sound of the river, the trail goes flat and follows along a ridge before intersecting with the Oneonta Trail. Head left up a gradual ascent for another 0.9 miles before coming the road (yes, the last bit of the hike is along the road). Another 3/10ths of a mile you’ll reach the parking lot. If you’re legs are wiped, stick to the right of the paved path to the Larch Mountain peak (or Sherrard Point as it’s called).

On a cloudless day, you would be able to see all of the great mountain peaks. On a cloudy day, your view will be limited to the massive forest below. It’s odd to think I was running in that vast forest below, alone. My legs were wiped, but I either took the 1.5 miles back down to the Middle Trailhead or 3 along the paved road. I opted for the 1.5 trail. To finish off the loop head to the right of the parking lot (near the bathrooms). Here, the Multnomah trail winds down for 1.5 miles before coming to the junction with the Middle Trailhead.

By the time I reached the car, I had run/ hiked about 10 miles in all. Not what I was planning for, but it was a good experience nonetheless. I stepped outside of my comfort zone, was cautious and diligent about keeping track of signs, and had some good time with my thoughts.

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