Instead of following the train of hikers heading north up the side of Silver Star Mountain, turn south instead for the lesser-traveled route up neighboring Larch Mountain. There are no larches, but there are plenty of wildflowers, beargrass meadows, a pretty wooded creek, and opportunities for views of several of the surrounding peaks—including Silver Star.
Where the Tarbell Trail crosses FR1200, head south on an old forest road, choosing the rightmost option that heads uphill. The first half of the trail follows this old road. Its steep and rocky in places, but serviceable. There are no views along the lower section, but the sound of gurgling Grouse Creek can be heard in the canyon below, and the trail is lined with numerous berries and wildflowers, bleeding heart most profusely. Past an area where a clearcut slope can be seen nearby, the trail narrows and begins to contour around the northern flank of Larch Mountain.
Proceed through a wooded glen with a bridge over Grouse Creek. The trail then turns north onto an open slopeside with wide views taking in Silver Star, Dole Valley, and Mount St. Helens. This is the best view on the trail. Continue on as the trail turns southward again, thinning and becoming more rocky, then passes through a small beargrass meadow. At an unsigned junction 0.25 mile from the summit, a faint jeep track leads to a wide open meadow surrounded by trees. Complete the climb at Larch Mountain’s 3,496′ summit with views extending over Portland and Vancouver.
-Mapped by Eli Boschetto, BoscoMountainPhoto