Larch Madness

The view from the lookout at the top of Larch Mountain is awesome

On a clear day, the view from the lookout at the top of Larch Mountain is awesome

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.

View from the top? Hardly. View from Women's Forum. Always pleasant -- except that there are 15 miles and several thousand feet of vertical to go.

View from the top? Hardly. View from Women's Forum. Always pleasant -- except that there are 14 miles and several thousand feet of vertical to go.

Don't believe it. 14.5 miles to the top

Don't believe it. 14.5 miles to the top.

Nothing special about this sign -- unles you just biked your way up to it.

Nothing special about this sign -- unless you just biked your way up to it.

Directions are easy -- from Troutdale, head east on the Scenic Highway. Whenever there is a fork in the road, go uphill

Directions are easy -- from Troutdale, head east on the Scenic Highway. Whenever there is a fork in the road, go uphill.

Newly-remodeled restaurant right outside Troutdale -- Tippy Canoe -- is a good place to replenish

Newly-remodeled restaurant right outside Troutdale -- Tippy Canoe -- is a good place to replenish.

 

If you’d like to see it on the map, here it is:

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6 Responses to “Larch Madness”

  1. contessa says:

    OMG Larch mountain is tough on good days, but yesterday’s heat put that hill in an entirely different consideration set for me. Lots of H2O, E-lights and bullish determination (OK, + some peer preasure from Leanne and Eledge) are the only reason I made it up. Definitely bonked for the first time. Not a pleasant experience.
    The smelly, rotting deer roadkill which was being consumed by flies, crows and buzzards past mile 13 was emblematic of my day.
    I personally would have prepped for that ride differently, but proud of all who made it and glad that sucker is behind me.

    Thanks for the SAG home from Tippy Canoe.

  2. The Pearl says:

    [...] Columbia River Gorge (along the historic highway, past blackberries and lavender in the summer) up Larch Mountain, out to Multnomah Falls, or the full Bridge of the Gods [...]

  3. [...] Sauvie Island the motorists tend to be courteous which makes for an enjoyable riding experience. Larch Mountain, that’s another story altogether. Larch is a grinder with nearly four thousand feet of [...]

  4. fotistika times…

    [...]Larch Mountain is a Classic Portland-area Climb | PDX Cycling[...]…

  5. Stopkidding says:

    Did Larch mountain based on your route suggestion. This was my toughest training ride of the season. I was slow, but made it to the top. Makes me feel a bit confident for Cycle Oregon next week. Thanks for the good work! Keep it up.

    PS: The only thing on my mind through the climb was the 14 miles sign marker is wrong! So I was mentally prepared for 14.5 and that made ALL the difference ;)

  6. admin says:

    Congrats. All that hard work is about to pay off. Stop by the Blogmobile and say “hello.”

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