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Dog River Traverse Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

View of Mount Hood from the Dog River Trail (cfm)
Fall colors on the Dog River Trail (bobcat)
Ponderosa pine glade on the Dog River Trail (bobcat)
Cliffs seen from the Zigzag Trail (bobcat)
The route of the hike using the Dog River and Zigzag Trails (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Dog River TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Zigzag Trailhead
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Shuttle or hike 'n bike
  • Distance: 6.3 miles one way
  • Elevation gain: 1600 feet
  • High point: 3,920 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Spring through fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

This Dog River Trail #675 is well known as a mountain biker's trail and is shunned by many hiking purists. However, the mountain bikers have done a great job at maintaining the trail, and hikers are welcome here. Since there are now so many biking options in the area, the cyclists are more dispersed and this trail gets much less damage than its earlier years. When other trails are busy in the summer and fall, this hike is, for the most part, an exercise in solitude. The route offers a diverse arboreal variety that includes alders, larches, cedars, Douglas-firs, hemlocks, and stately ponderosa pines. Views of Mount Hood are exceptional, with fall hiking providing spectacular swaths of larches and vine maple.

Although this can be done as an out-and-back, this trip is best done as a shuttle or hike and bike, leaving a second vehicle or bike at the higher elevation Zigzag Trailhead, and starting the hike from the lower Dog River Trailhead. Both are located on Highway 35.

At the Dog River Trailhead, there’s a sign about the 1980 flood of the East Fork Hood River and a plaque stating that the trail is maintained by the Live Wire Riders. The trail drops down to the right past a gate on an abandoned road that runs up along Puppy Creek. Walk up the road bed under a canopy of big-leaf maple, cottonwood, cedar, Douglas-fir, and grand fir. The road bends up to the left at a trail sign for the Dog River Trail #675, which turns off into the woods. Pass across Puppy Creek on a footbridge, and make two switchbacks up. The trail then traverses in Douglas-fir and oak woods with wild rose, snowberry, ocean spray, thimbleberry, and vine maple in the understory. A sign to the left denotes you're hiking right along the national forest boundary. You'll pass a couple of large Douglas-firs and ponderosa pines before the trail crosses a gully and enters a more open area of ocean spray, oak, ponderosa and Douglas-fir. Reenter the forest, and then walk across an open oak and manzanita slope. The path crosses another gully, and you'll see the Dog River running in the valley below on the right. The trail descends to cross a draw in a vine maple thicket, and you'll find yourself walking along a flat by the Dog River, which the trail crosses on a footbridge at two miles.

The tread rises up a slope and switchbacks on a ridge before making a traverse in Douglas-fir, grand fir, and ponderosa pine woods. Three kinds of maple - big-leaf, Douglas, and vine - can be spotted growing here. On the ridge crest, you can see Mount Hood through the ponderosas. Keep switchbacking up and then dropping below the ridge crest until at 3.3 miles you come to a rocky viewpoint with a magnificent view of snow-capped Mount Hood. The burned trees you see on the slopes of the mountain are from the 2008 Gnarl Ridge Fire and the 2011 Dollar Lake Fire. Although not visible, the sounds of Highway 35 below can be heard. If you are doing an out-and-back hike this makes an excellent turnaround point.

If you've arranged a shuttle head back into the woods and up the ridge. There are short, sharp switchbacks to an andesite outcrop, and then the trail levels among ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir, grand fir, and larch. The trail comes to a junction. Going left would take you out to Road 620, which would allow you to make a loop from the Surveyors Ridge Trail back to here from the end of the Dog River Trail. For the one-way hike, go to the right into a dense stand of Douglas-fir and grand fir and then pass a forested andesite outcrop. The trail passes through a chinquapin thicket and rises, bordered by boxwood. Pass a big ponderosa, and switchback to a rock outcrop and a junction with a spur trail from Road 620 used by mountain bikers. Hikers should make a right here. The trail soon levels in grand fir and larch woods. Pass through an old clearcut, and drop into a dense slope forest. Cross a footbridge in a grove of cedar with a few Engelmann spruce. The trail continues to drop and crosses four more footbridges. Then come to a four-way junction. The Zigzag Trail #678 goes down to the right and the Surveyors Ridge Trail #688 goes up to the left. Straight ahead is a “Viewpoint.” This trail switchbacks down to a view of Mount Hood a little obscured by trees and not as good as a couple of views from lower down on the Dog River Trail.

It's a one-mile descent down the Zigzag Trail to Highway 35. Five switchbacks take you down to a view of a talus slope. You can see the highway and, in the fall, larches are lit up like candles in the evergreen forest. Pikas send warning squeaks from the talus. Descend 14 switchbacks below a cliff face to another talus field. Then make a descending traverse before taking four switchbacks down above a small creek. You may notice the old Zigzag Trail spinning off to the right (the trailhead was moved after floods on the East Fork Hood River). Rise across a small talus slope and then drop to the Zigzag Trailhead, where you should find your other vehicle or your bike.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Mt Hood, OR #462
  • Adventure Maps: Mt. Hood Area
  • Adventure Maps: Hood River, Oregon, Trail Map
  • Adventure Maps: 44 Trails Area plus the best of the G.P.N.F.
  • Geo-Graphics: Mount Hood Wilderness Map
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest
  • Discover Your Northwest: Mt. Hood National Forest North: Trail Map & Hiking Guide
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Hood River Ranger District
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood

Regulations or Restrictions, etc.

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Off the Beaten Trail by Matt Reeder
  • 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
  • Kissing the Trail by John Zilly

More Links


  • CFM (creator)
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.