The Dark Larch
Unpaved / OMTM 2016 Ride Series, Episode 5.
Mixed Terrain Trails and Travails, A Cyclocross Odyssey

48.8M // 5446ft // 70%G // 100% Rad


Saturday August 20th, 2016 * 9 AM, Dabney State Recreation Area, Troutdale, OR

Main route:
Please RSVP on the event page if you are planning to come! 

The Dark Larch is a mixed-terrain ramble through the lesser known quadrants of Larch Mountain via gravel, singletrack, decommissioned forest roads, goatpaths and more gravel, traversing the site of the 19th century Palmer Mill ghost town. 49 miles in length, with upnesses in the neighborhood of 5446 feet, the Dark Larch packs a surprising dose of wildness into a relatively compact + convenient route.

Things kick off at 9am @ Dabney State Recreation area, just east of the intersection of the Historic Highway + Stark Street bridge + Sandy River, rolling Crown Point/Vista House, through the Guy Talbot S-Curves along the Historic Highway. Things soon pitch upward, climbing Alex Barr through Shepperd's Dell to East Haines, Northwest Brower and eventually Palmer Mill. For the uninitiated, Palmer Mill is an old roadbed, long since closed to motorized traffic, now essentially a gentle singletrack/gravel route leading to the Larch winter gate.

At mile 17.1, we diverge from Palmer Mill onto the rarely-traveled Palmer Mill trail, through the site of the old Palmer Mill ghost town! Palmer Mill trail winds and climbs for two before intersecting Multnomah Basin road. There is a short out-and-back to a vista point near the intersection w/ Devil's Rest Trail #420C (huh-huh...) at mile 19.1.

From here, we cross Larch Mtn road onto the thoroughly decommissioned NF20. And when we say 'decommissioned', we don't mean halfway. Think of it as a 2.5 mile cyclocross skills challenge. Tank traps, ravines, culverts, dips, hillocks, mounds, creek crossings, more dips, singletrack, more creek crossings until intersecting NF 1509, and our payoff gravel descent to Gordon Creek and the stellar singletrack of the North Oxbow trail, a compulsory dip in the Sandy River and the fearsome OXBERG climb. Gordon Creek to Hurlburt to Historic Highway 30 and frosty cold beers by the river outside at Shirley's Tippy Canoe.

Disclaimers, warnings, caveats and wisdoms:

* This route requires GPS navigation. Please download the tcx to your Garmin, or use the fine RWGPS app on your phone.

* Tire sizes of 35c-45c recommended. While we suppose you could feasibly #roadbikesoffroad this on 28c's, it may be frowned-upon in this particular case. If you do ride smaller tires, you may want to take the DL2 route on the return.

* Be very considerate of any hikers or ghosts you might come across - though it's frankly unlikely you'll see any. We want to convey how nice cyclists are on trails that don't often see them.

* You will need to be prepared to filter/treat water for refill. There are many ideal opportunities to do so.

* IMPORTANT: The gravel + powerline descent between NF1509 and Warriner Road skirts the northmost edge of the Bul lRun watershed boundary. This is a Federally protected no-go zone, so it's highly advised not to stray from the course, which does not technically enter the watershed at any point. At one point within the powerline forest you will come to the back of a Bull Run gate. As far as we can tell, this gate is placed before the actual watershed. If this makes you nervous, please return via the DL2 alternate route.

* Dabney State Recreation area does require a day pass ($5)...another parking option w/ no fee would be Glen Otto park @ Historic Highway + the Sandy River, a couple of miles NW of Dabney on the Historic Highway. There are bathrooms and great water at Dabney.

* Since the route is close to Portland and not very long, we encourage you to ride to your ride. It's a 15 mile warmup to Dabney from SE PDX.

Stay safe and enjoy!