Larch Mountain is a popular hiking destination and regionally significant mountain located in Washington. The mountain is located only approximately 12 miles southwest of Olympia, the capitol city of Washington. Larch Mountain is located within Capitol State Forest, an area that got its name because of its close proximity to the State Capitol. For many years there was a vast belief that Larch Mountain was possibly the highest peak in Thurston County. However, Quiemuth Peak and Clam Mountain, both located elsewhere in the county, are higher in elevation, making Larch Mountain the third-highest peak in the county.
Larch Mountain, As Seen From Capitol Peak
Although Larch Mountain is a popular destination for a wide amount of recreational activities (hiking, snowshoeing, hunting, etc.), the mountain is perhaps most notable as one of Washington's 144 peaks with at least 2000' of prominence. With 2316' of prominence, Larch Mountain is the 99th-most prominent peak in Washington. Furthermore, Larch Mountain is the most prominent peak in Thurston County. And as mentioned here
, of all inland
Washington peaks with at least 2000' of prominence, Larch Mountain has the lowest elevation. In addition, Larch Mountain has the third-lowest elevation out of the ~1200 peaks with at least 2000' of prominence that are located in the western contiguous United States.
Of Washington peaks with at least 2000' of prominence, Larch Mountain also has a high percentage of prominence-to-elevation, also known as dominance
. With a prominence of 2316' and an elevation of 2660', that means 87% of the mountain's overall elevation has dominance
(i.e. 2316 divided by 2660 = 87%). Having such a high percentage of dominance
is uncommon for Washington peaks with over 2000' of prominence, with only a few peaks with greater dominance
percentages (such as Mount Olympus, Mount Rainier, and Anderson Mountain).
(Of Washington peaks with at least 2000' of prominence, the mountain with the highest percentage of
dominance is Mount Constitution, which rises from sea level on Orcas Island and, as a result, has 100% dominance with a prominence equalling its elevation.)
Forested Summit Area
There are no views from the true summit of Larch Mountain. However, there is a false summit a short distance to the east that has been logged/cleared and offers good views of the surrounding valleys and low-elevation mountains in the area. The east highpoint also has several communications towers operational atop it. Several trails traverse along several lower slopes of the mountain, as well.
Looking At Eastern Highpoint (False Summit)
FROM OLYMPIA, WASHINGTON:
1) From the intersection with I-5, head west on U.S. Highway 101.
2) Within a couple of miles, take the second exit along Highway 101, the "Black Lake Blvd" exit.
3) Turn left onto Black Lake Blvd (lighted intersection).
4) Drive south along Black Lake Blvd for 4.2 miles, until a stop sign (Delphi Road).
5) Turn left onto Delphi Road and follow for 2.1 miles.
6) Turn right onto Waddell Creek Road.
7) After 2.7 miles, Waddell Creek Road turns left. Do not turn. Continue straight, and the road is Sherman Valley Road.
8) After 1.3 miles, Sherman Valley Road technically ends and the "C-Line" Forest Road of Capitol State Forest begins. There is a "Leaving Public Road System" sign near this location.
9) Drive along the "C-Line" Forest Road for 1.9 miles to a small open area, from which the "C-7000" Forest Road turns sharply right off the main road.
10) Drive along the "C-7000" Forest Road for 3.4 miles, until its end/intersection (~2350' elevation) with the "C-4000" Forest Road.
11) Turn right onto "C-4000" Forest Road, bypassing the gated road (for Capitol Peak) located in-between "C-4000" Forest Road and "C-7000" Forest Road, and follow "C-4000" Forest Road for approximately 1.0 mile until its junction with "C-4400" Forest Road on the left/west side of the main road.
12) "C-4400" Forest Road is gated, and public vehicular access is not permitted. Park at the road junction, or find a place on the side of "C-4000" Forest Road to park, making certain not to block possible passing traffic.
13) Hike up the summit road for approximately 0.25 miles to a road junction. Turn left onto the old forest road that leads towards the forested highpoint.
NOTE: Continuing straight along "C-4400" Forest Road leads to the false east highpoint of the mountain, which has several communications towers.
Old Side-Road Leading To Forested Summit Area...
14) Hike up the old forest road for approximately 0.25 miles until the road's end. A USGS Benchmark can be seen on a short metal post located within a short walking distance of the road's end. A couple of other markers can be found in the area, as well.
Looking At One Of The USGS Summit Benchmarks...
Another USGS Summit Benchmark...
ONE-WAY DRIVING DISTANCE FROM HIGHWAY 101 TO PARKING AREA: 16.6 Miles
ROUNDTRIP HIKING DISTANCE BETWEEN PARKING AREA AND SUMMIT: 1.0 Mile
Beginning during 2011, parking areas and trailheads within and for the Capitol State Forest require a Discover Pass
to be in each vehicle during the visit. Failure to have a Discover Pass
visible within a parked vehicle at these locations can result in a substantial fine. For more information regarding the Discover Pass
, please visit the official website
Trails within Capitol State Forest, including those on and around Larch Mountain, are closed to motorized and equestrian uses between May 1 - November 30.
Hunting is allowed within Capitol State Forest. Please take necessary precautions (such as wearing bright colors) during hunting season. Please contact the Washington State DNR for updated hunting information.
There are multiple established campgrounds within a few miles of Larch Mountain. These include Mount Molly Campground, Fall Creek Campground, Yew Tree Campground, Middle Waddell Campground, Bordeaux Campground, and Margaret McKenny Campground.
A good website
has been created for Capitol State Forest, including maps and other important information. The website can be a very valuable resource for people who want to explore Larch Mountain and the surrounding area.