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Larch Mountain Crater

6.4-mile loop
1300 feet elevation gain
Open May through November
Use: hikers, horses, bicycles

Left: Mt. Hood from Sherrard Point.

The panoramic viewpoint atop this 4055-foot volcano deserves its fame. Mount Hood looms across the Bull Run Valley while four other snowpeaks mark the horizon. But the charms of Larch Mountain’s crater are less well known. A moderate 6-mile loop explores a huge old-growth forest, a meadow of marsh marigolds, and a mossy creek hidden in the throat of the old volcano.

Larch Mountain had a much smaller crater when it stopped erupting some 4 million years ago. During the Ice Age, however, a glacier scoured the peak into an enormous bowl, breached the mountain’s north flank, and exposed Sherrard Point—the volcano’s central lava plug. When the ice melted, a lake was left that gradually silted in to become a marshy meadow. Trees around the meadow grew to giant size, protected from fire and windstorms by the crater’s wall.

Rather than start this loop from the crowded parking area at the summit—which would mean ending the hike with an uphill trudge—it’s more fun to start at a secret trailhead near the crater’s base.

To find this lower trailhead, ...

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