On March 27th (yes, there was a bit of hiking lull) we headed back to the Gorge to hike up Larch Mountain.
So, Larch Mountain… yeah, this one kind of kicked me in the arse. It took me a little by surprise. Somehow I failed to notice that the summit was at 4,061 feet. In turn, I failed to realize that there would likely be snow at 4,000 feet in March. Note to self: snow makes hiking one billion times harder. Lucky I had an extra pair of socks with me.
There is an option to drive most of the way up the mountain, then take a short walk to the summit… but what fun would that be? We decided to start at zero, and follow the Multnomah Falls trail, to the Larch Mountain trail, with a little side detour on the Oneonta trail, back to the Larch trail up to the summit viewpoint, Sherrard Point.
Columbia River Gorge (Oregon side)
Summit at 4,061 feet
Total hike distance: A little unclear, GPS says almost 19 miles but I think it was closer to 17 or so
Total elevation gain: 4,321 feet
Click the image for full GPS data.
This trail starts at tourist hot spot Multnomah Falls. The first mile is a paved switchback trail, usually chock full of families with little kids, strollers, ice cream, and sometimes towing Grandma and Grandpa along too. Best to start early on this one to avoid that crowd. That trail takes you up to the top of the falls before taking a left and getting more trail-ish.
Okay, this is more like it.
Holy tall trees, everywhere.
Okay, I know what probably caused this footprint… but I prefer to believe there is a slim possibility that the Sasquatch was indeed here.
As you can see, even toward the beginning there was a layer of snow on the trail. It was a nice sunny day, so all the snow that was in the trees started to melt, essentially causing a downpour for us. So, I wasn’t able to take too many photos in the “rain.” Not to mention the occasional ice chunk that would nail us. After about four miles in, we took a side trip on the Oneonta Trail to add a little distance in to the hike. Another gorgeous trail, covered in snow (which made the trail a little difficult to identify). Not gonna lie, it made me slightly nervous that we were making the first set of tracks in the snow on this trail, but hey, that’s what GPS is for. 🙂 This trail hooks back up with the main Larch trail after a few miles, and then we head up the last pitch to the summit. For the last mile or so, no joke, we were trudging through at least a foot of snow, if not a foot and a half. Yep, legs and feet were soaked, but luckily not frozen. Lesson learned: be prepared with gaiters. After what seemed like forever marching through the snow, we finally made it to Sherrard Point. And yes, there is a parking lot about a quarter mile away from it. In the warmer months I can imagine this place is packed, so I’m glad we got this one in on the off-season (this part is not even accessible by car during the winter, due to the snow).
Mt. Hood from Sherrard Point.
Looking the other way, Mt. St. Helens in the distance.
So the worst part about such an accessible, touristy summit: fences and benches installed. Boo. It makes the summit feel a lot less natural. But given the snow on the ground, it was kinda nice to have something to sit on I suppose.
Enjoying the view, despite the fugly chainlink fence.
He’s about as tired as we were after bounding through all that snow.
Looking down from the summit.
Time to head back down.
The hike back down was much more pleasant, as most of the melted snow/ice had made its way out of the trees. We took the straight Larch trail back down, and had a more or less uneventful descent.
Still some snow, but at least it’s dry overhead!
Still green, even in the winter.
Just to show you how tall some of these trees were.
Crossing back over a rockslide.
Now this was a first. Usually Buckley is running circles around us on these trails, but I think we officially wore him out. He decided a water break was a good time for a nap. And yes, that is his collapsible water bowl he’s using for a pillow.
There’s something about creek crossings that I just love.
A quick glimpse at Weisendanger Falls from the trail.
Of course, when we got back down to the paved Multnomah Falls trail for our final mile, it was absolutely packed with the above mentioned: families, strollers, ice cream cones and diapers. We could barely take three steps without someone stopping us to pet Buckley and express their amazement at his gear (“Oh my God! That dog is wearing a backpack! That is CRAZY!” “Ugh, those lazy people are using their dog as a pack mule, whatever.”). This was a great hike and really wore us out, more so than I expected. I sort of want to do this one again in warmer weather, but maybe early in the day to avoid the crowds. In any case, it’s a Columbia River Gorge must.