Drive East from Portland on I-84. Take the Corbett exit located a few miles after the sandy river. Follow this up the hill through the town of Corbett, where at the top of the hill you take a left (east) on Crown Point Highway. Follow this for three or four miles until you reach Larch Mountain Road. here veer right onto Larch MT RD, and continue another 14 miles or so up the hill to the Larch Mountain Trailhead.
For a scenic alternative forget I-84 and take Crown point highway all the way from Troutdale, you can pick it up just on the other side of the Sandy river.
This hike is a nice wooded hike with some gradual elevation gains. There are soem spectacular view from Sheppard Point, which unfortunately is only .25 miles from the Parking lot, and thus somewhat crowded. From the fenced in lookout platform you have views of St. Helens, Rainier, Adams, and Mt. Hood, as well as a good portion of the Gorge cutting through beneath you.
Unfortunately I was there on a cloudy day and only got a glimpse of the top of Adams.
The trails themselves are less crowded, but definitely not empty.
The trails from larch mountain also connect with several others from the Gorge and thus you could manage several longer day hikes or several great backpacking trips from this point. Connecting down to Multnomah falls is probably the most common option, which is about 8 miles, but all down!
The loop trail basically starts at Sheppard point (the top) and gradually travels down about 1000 feet into a wooded basin sitting below the mountain, then up the opposite ridge. Both ridges are farily moderate elevations and not steep by any means.
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If you have a group of people who would like to do a hike half as long, have half start at the top and half at the bottom and exchange keys in the middle. We did this once at it worked well. I really felt sorry for the people going downhill, though. Most of them had sore thighs when we met up later to get our cars back.
Your site is realy very interesting!
Somehow I always end up hiking up the Larch Mountain trail in the winter. I think it's just that there are enough people who continually hike this trail that you can typically follow it as there are almost always footprints in the snow to the top. The snow depth can be quite heavy, though, and one year it was so deep that the fence at Sherrard Point which usually is at eye level was only peeking out of the snow by six inches or so. That was freaky since it's a huge drop on the other side.
Great place to go 4x4'n! lots of snow and ice. Do not forget to bring traction device's.