Larch Madness

Length: 70 Miles
Direction: Counter Clockwise
Elevation Gain: 5172 ft
Highest Point: 4045 ft
Recommended Gearing: 39X25 or equivalent

DirectionsSee full ride directions
View map and ride data at GPSies.com
Download Print-Friendly Directions

Outstanding view of Crown Point from the Women's ForumAnother gem from Rubber to the Road Vol II, there is no mistaking just what you’ll be doing on this ride by looking at the profile. Larch Madness really only has one blip on the radar. And it’s the biggest climb with the highest elevation in this series. Topping out at 4045 ft, it dwarfs its nearest competitor by about 2200 ft. However the climb itself is spectacular, as is the incredible view at the top.

Begin at Mt Tabor Park and take Burnside and Stark St out to Troutdale. Consider topping up your waterbottles here or at the store in Corbett. This will be your last chance before the climb begins. Once you do begin climbing, whether you find it helpful or hurtful, the mile markers begin to tick off starting at Mile 1. Signs indicate from the bottom that the road is 14 miles long. Perhaps for those traveling in a motorized conveyance, one can offer such information so haphazardly. In actuality, the top is at 14 ½ miles. Believe me, an extra ½ mile at the top is quite noticeable.

When you reach the top, consider a quick trip a little further up the path at the end of the parking lot to the view point. However, a self-registration day fee is required. At the lookout, you’ll have a remarkable 360 degree view of all of the major mountain peaks within a 100 miles. Informative plaques on the stone wall lay in front of each mountain you can see off in the distance.

Another piece of advice for this ride is to consider the long looming descent and your clothing selection. Even on a pleasant day, the weather at the top of Larch can be crisp. If you do visit the lookout, put your warm layers on early as you will cool down immediately. If you plan to simply head back down after reaching the top, put on your warm layers and leave quickly. Capitalize on the warmth you’ve built up from climbing and stay warm on the way down. The descent is gradual enough that you will need to pedal the entire way. So there’s plenty of time to eat and drink then.

Head back through Troutdale on Columbia River Highway and then cruise home on Marine Dr. Or head east instead on this historic highway and add on a trip to the Vista House or Multnomah Falls. You can turn this ride into a 10,000 foot elevation day if desired.

There are annual time trials to the top of Larch Mountain. If you enjoy this climb, give racing up it a shot…and remember to pace yourself.

Numerous shops, restaurants and coffee stops line the revitalized Troutdale downtownLook for this character to find a water fountain in TroutdaleHistory of TroutdaleHouseboats on the Columbia have garages



20 Responses to “Larch Madness”

  1. Jacob Says:

    Oh boy. Did this ride today with a gale force headwind heading out of town. But the beauty of Larch Mtn, is it’s totally sheltered. So the climb was great and I definitely earned the tailwind all the way home.

  2. Ian Mastenbrook Says:

    Beautiful and amazing ride! The climb is perfect! About 5% grade average. Bring a camera for photos on the summit! The summit includes a small trail with stairs you will have to haul your bikes up( it’s worth it!).. Beautiful view from the summit(4063 feet says my Garmin Edge 605). I have a video I took today at the summit- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNxmd8Aj0uE . Also have a video of the decent- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMb3PsWu8kc

  3. Jacob Says:

    Not bad! You and I came within 18 feet on our Garmins. I’d say that’s pretty good. I’ll check out the videos as I haven’t been up there in a while.

  4. Ian Mastenbrook Says:

    My GPS (Edge 606) and my ride partners (Edge 705 with barometric elevation) both said 4063 feet. I looked it up and can’t find an exact elevation. Some say 4055 and some 4060. Oh well, not a big deal. The scenery is sure amazing at the summit!

  5. admin Says:

    Ian, thanks for the video links. Very cool! I took the liberty of posting a link on the River City website. Hopefully a bunch of people will get to see it.

  6. Ian Mastenbrook Says:

    I noticed! I looked at who viewed the video on my Youtube and 5 people viewed it from the link on RCB’s homepage. Thanks “admin”!

  7. Chris Winter Says:

    Thanks for posting these directions. I rode Larch Mtn for the first time today from SE PDX, and they came in very handy.

  8. Jacob Says:

    Great to hear. Glad you enjoyed the ride, or at least I hope you did!

  9. ann Says:

    Eat and drink on the descent? You fly down the hill riding in the drops with tears streaming from your face or you are missing the point of Larch Mt. Eat periodically going up, eat at the top, and then you can eat again if you need to once reaching Women’s Forum (and get water).

  10. Jacob Says:

    Ha, I can understand your approach too. My mission was always to get to the top as fast as possible. I was utterly wrecked for the descent. But if you’re goal is to climb Larch so that you can enjoy the descent, then yes, get the food and water out of the way beforehand! What a great road.

  11. Scott Says:

    I’m curious why most cyclists ride up the Columbia River Highway rather than turning right onto Hurlburt a mile or so east of Dabney State Park, left on Littlepage, and right on Louden, which drops you onto Larch Mt. Road just below milepost 4. It might be a little longer (not sure though), but it avoids most of the narrow and busy Highway going up. Just asking.

  12. Jacob Says:

    Hi Scott,
    Thanks for the variation option. This a a route I’ve also described on the Back Country Adventure ride. So you can easily follow those directions but continue on up the climb instead of turning off.
    I believe a lot of cyclists like to do the full climb beginning from the Historic Highway because they enjoy timing themselves up the climb. I also haven’t found the traffic up the Historic Highway to be significant to warrant a detour. I love the quiet secluded roads too but this is the quickest way to get to Larch Mountain that doesn’t involve significant climbing to arrive on Larch Mt Road.

  13. emir Says:

    I’ve done it back in late summer. It was a great ride going out from NW Portland to Larch Mt. On the way back, some strong winds slowed me down considerably and drained me of any strength. In any event it was worth it. Here is the route.

    http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/22940400

  14. Brian Says:

    Great ride for late summer, this is a 100 mile ride from my house in N Portland.

  15. Jason Says:

    I did this ride yesterday (although we started from Troutdale). It is remarkably consistent: no really steep hills, just one non-stop incline. There were probably an equal number of cyclists and cars once we passed the Women’s Tee (er, I mean Forum). Towards the top the road cuts through some gorgeous forest. The air you will be sucking will be very clean!

  16. Tony Says:

    Rode this route this afternoon, it is a wonderful ride! I did notice that the roads have a lot more potholes than previous years, so watch out so as to not get a pinch flat. The water fountain at the Women’s Forum is a blessing!

  17. Tim Says:

    AWESOME ride! My brother-in-law and I started yesterday at Lucky Lab (NW 19th and Quimby) – 93.4mi ride whoooha!

    We crossed Broadway bridge, then went Alberta to 33rd, to Marine Dr, to grand entrance to Troutdale and Old Gorge Hwy.

    Water / restroom stop in Troutdale at the Glenn Otto park, then another water stop in Corbett at the Women’s Forum Park – where there is a brand new looking water fountain! :-) No water at the Larch mt summit to my knowledge.

    On the return we stopped for a burger and pint in Troutdale at Brewligans – great service, beer and tasty burger too. Then returned the same route via Marine drive. Just remember that even a little westerly wind can make those last 20mi home hard!

    Note to self… more chamois cream next time AND try to take it a little slower on the way up. I was spent!

  18. Long Ride: Western Gorge to Yeon Out & Back - Redux Racers Says:

    [...] from here is even better. Avoid the right fork in the road with signs to Larch Mountain. That ride variation will add another 3,000+ feet of vertical and will be the subject of a future journal entry — [...]

  19. Race Report: Monday PIR Criterium - Redux Racers Says:

    [...] here is even better. Avoid the right fork in the road with signs to Larch Mountain. That ride variation will add another 3,000+ feet of vertical and will be the subject of a future journal entry — [...]

  20. Steve Says:

    I just did this yesterday and it was a great ride. Thanks all for the tips! I wish I would have filled up at the Women’s Forum park. Not many people out on the roads because of the mediocre weather (it was comfortably cool for me). The gate was closed for last 4.5 so it was extra quiet. The last 7 miles to the top are definiteIy the most challenging. It was beautiful, meandering through the trees and by small creeks. It was a blast cruising downhill too. Enjoy!

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