Larch Mountain – Portland, OR

I think its odd that Dunkin’ Donuts is such a huge purveyor of coffee on the East Coast. I was in Boston for a wedding last winter, and was intent on finding a good source to feed my bean addiction. I usually default to Starbucks in such situations, but a lot of people in town kept pointing me towards Dunkin’ Donuts and I felt obliged to check it out. I generally associate Dunkin’ Donuts with giant pieces of sugared carbs (donuts) and giant customers eager to eat anything that looks shiny (America). However, the joint actually has some decent coffee. Nothing near the level of the Portland coffee scene but it definitely hit the spot. Note – for some reason the Dunkin’ staff inists on putting in the cream and sugar for you, so if you are picky about how you dress up the bean make sure to ask for it black so you can do it yourself. I was thinking about coffee when I first rode Larch Mountain because in the fog and rain that was my companion for most of the ride, coffee sounded like a great way to stay motivated. As with many days in Portland, sun and blue skies in the city does not translate to good weather in the Gorge.

I found Larch Mountain through a brochure in a local bike shop advertising the Larch Mountain Hill Climb and decided to check out the course. I have been looking for great climbs since moving to Portland, and Larch Mountain has quickly become one of my favorites. The road ascends through thick Pine forests, slowly gaining altitude over its 16+ miles until the last few miles where the road begins a series of switchbacks. I usually start at Corbett High School and ride along SE Crown Point Highway, from there I bear right onto Larch Mountain and churn for the next 14 miles. The road will eventually dead end in a parking lot. If you dismount and walk on the concrete path that veers into the forest it will bring you to an amazing view of the Cascades. The descent is a blast; it’s fast and easily navigable. The best views are on the way down; wide open vistas of the Columbia River and the Gorge. Larch Mountain is one of those “only in the Northwest” type of rides – a great reminder of why Portland is such a great place to be.

Distance: 16.40 miles from Corbett High School to the Summit

Directions: from Portland take I-84 East to exit 22. Take a right onto NE Corbett Hill Road

From Portland: I-84 to exit 22 and take a right onto NE Corbett Hill Rd. Follow this road to the road up the hill and you will come to an intersection with E. Historic Columbia River Highway. Take another right on this road and Corbett High School will be on your left. Park here, gear up and then head West on E. Historic Columbia River Highway for about 2.25 miles before bearing right onto E. Larch Mountain Road. Stay on E. Larch Mountain until you reach the summit, 14.15 miles later.

Note: The beginning of NE Corbett Hill Road is incredibly steep, and I’ve heard of a lot of cyclists using it as a training ride. My only aversion is that there are a lot of blind corners, and a lot of cars, so be careful with this one.

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