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Burnt Lake Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

TKO put tools to trail here.png
Mt. Hood and Burnt Lake (bobcat)
Lower end of the Burnt Lake Trail (bobcat)
Small stream crossing on Burnt Lake Trail (chadahooche)
Oval-leaved blueberry (Vaccinium ovalifolium), Burnt Lake Creek (bobcat)
Lost Creek Falls (pdxgene)
Broad-leaf montia (Montia cordifolia), Burnt Lake (bobcat)
Burnt Lake Trail to Burnt Lake (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: North Burnt Lake TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Burnt Lake
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 6.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1420 feet
  • High Point: 4,100 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Summer into Fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes, for older kids
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: Yes



The rough and rutted road to the North Burnt Lake Trailhead never deterred the throngs of day hikers and weekend backpackers that head up the Burnt Lake Trail. The road was repaired and graveled over in 2015; thus expect even very low clearance vehicles to make it to the trailhead these days. Overnighters at Burnt Lake need to camp in one of the designated sites as the lake shores have seen much traffic: restoration is underway, so avoid sensitive areas. The trailhead is accessible early in the season, but the bowl wherein Burnt Lake nestles holds snow until much later, which means route finding can become an issue, especially if you plan to continue up to East Zigzag Mountain. This is an excellent hike for forest wildflowers in June/July.

Burnt Lake is named after a 1904 forest fire. An even larger blaze, accidentally started by a local homesteader in 1906, scorched a wider area around the lake. In those days, the forest understory was more open, but most of the big trees remaining were killed by the 1906 fire.

The Burnt Lake Trail #772 begins wide and gentle on an old road track in a lush forest that was burned over in the late 19th century. Start to the right of the trail sign, where you pass through a stile. The principal tree cover here is Douglas-fir, western hemlock, silver fir and vine maple. Review the map board and sign in at the wilderness permit box. Burnt Lake Creek runs down to the right and is shaded by red-cedar. Large, scorched stumps, mainly cedars, are all that remain of the magnificent old-growth forest. Lady fern, devil's club, sword fern, starry solomon plume, oxalis, and bunchberry form a lush groundcover. Gradually ascend. A spur to the right leads down to a tributary of Burnt Lake Creek. Cross the creek after this and round another large cedar snag. Then, cross several small creeks using plank walks. Another spur to the left leads down into the Lost Creek valley for views from the top of multi-tiered Lost Creek Falls and a campsite. To get a head-on view of the falls requires more of a scramble and bushwhack to the creek bed.

The trail switchbacks up from here and makes a traverse, crossing a creek and then becomes a long gradual ascent. Brooklets gush from springs above the trail. The path dips to cross a creek reeking of skunk-cabbage. The trail crosses a plank bridge and enters a Sitka alder clearing. Cross Burnt Lake Creek and head up to Burnt Lake, keeping right. At a spot marked B, No Camping Here, one can go left to the shore and get a classic view of Mount Hood reflected in the still waters. The montane forest encircling the lake is composed of silver fir, cedar, hemlock, Sitka alder and mountain ash. The trail heads up to a junction with the circular path around the lake. You can take this path, which is very brushy in spots, around Burnt Lake to reach other designated campsites. There are at least five small tarns in the vicinity of the lake: the largest, reached by a short, brushy bushwhack, are at the foot of a talus slope just southeast of the lake.

Many day hikers, and most of those camping overnight here, will continue to the viewpoint on East Zigzag Mountain (see the East Zigzag Mountain Hike). Be cautioned, however, that early in the season, when the slopes are still snow-covered, it is very easy to go off track on the way back down from East Zigzag Mountain and find yourself plunging into the trailless drainage of the West Fork of Burnt Lake Creek.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass (or America the Beautiful Pass) required at trailhead. Pass must be acquired beforehand as they are not sold at the trailhead.
  • Self-issued wilderness permit
  • Designated camping only at Burnt Lake


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Government Camp, OR #461
  • Adventure Maps: Mt. Hood Area
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Zigzag Ranger District
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North: Trail Map & Hiking Guide
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood Wilderness

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • PDX Hiking 365 by Matt Reeder
  • 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • 100 Hikes: Northwest Oregon by William L. Sullivan
  • Day Hiking Mount Hood: A Year-Round Guide by Eli Boschetto
  • 105 Virtual Hikes of the Mt. Hood National Forest by Northwest Hiker
  • Best Hikes Near Portland by Fred Barstad
  • Hiking Mount Hood National Forest by Marcia Sinclair
  • One Night Wilderness: Portland by Douglas Lorain
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • 100 Classic Hikes in Oregon by Douglas Lorain
  • Portland Hikes by Art Bernstein & Andrew Jackman
  • Exploring Oregon's Wild Areas by William L. Sullivan
  • Hiking Oregon's Mount Hood & Badger Creek Wilderness by Fred Barstad
  • 100 Oregon Hiking Trails by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 70 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 62 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Oregon's Columbia River Gorge: Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Best Hikes With Dogs: Oregon by Ellen Morris Bishop

More Links

Page Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.