Larch Mountain is the ride many use as one of the final training runs for Cycle Oregon. For all but the very fit and very light, this route is a challenge. From Lewis & Clark State Park, it is pretty much 23 miles uphill followed by 23 miles of downhill. Just past the 9th mile (where you would turn left to go to Crown Point) there is a sign that reads “Larch Mountain, 14 miles.” Don’t believe this sign. Both times I climbed this mountain I became fixated on the mile markers. And mile marker 14 is about a half-mile shy of the goal which is uncool. Someday I’m going to fix that damn sign.
The first 15 miles are pretty easy. The next few become more of a chore. The final 5 are the steepest (5-6% grade) and require some determination. If you start seeing spots or feel like your heart is about to explode, there is no foul in taking a quick rest (or several quick rests if needed). The good news is that, even if you struggle, if you can ride up Larch Mountain in Aug., chances are you’ll be able to tackle Cycle Oregon. Total elevation gain is more than 3,900 feet. Food and water are essential for this ride. Bring a lot of both.
The ride starts at Lewis & Clark State Park. The route is easy — turn left out of the parking lot and continue up the Scenic Columbia River Highway. When you hit the turn-off to Crown Point, resist the urge to go downhill. Instead, keep right. You’ll see the sign that says Larch Mountain 14 miles. Keep going on Larch Mountain Rd. until you get to the top. Failure is not an option.
We used to start at McMenamins Edgefield, which adds a few more miles. Unfortunately, the food at the Edgefield is horrible even by McMenamins standards, which are very, very low to begin with. After a ride like this, you deserve better.
If you’d like to see it on the map, here it is: