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East Zigzag Mountain Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Mount Hood with East Zigzag Mountain (a nice destination) in the foreground (Sparklehorse)
Lost Creek Falls (pdxgene)
Broad-leaf montia (Montia cordifolia), Burnt Lake (bobcat)
Burnt Lake from the Burnt Lake Trail northwest of the lake (Jerry Adams)
Mt. Hood from East Zigzag Mountain (bobcat)
Burnt Lake Trail to East Zigzag Mountain (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: North Burnt Lake TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: East Zigzag Mountain
  • Trail log: Trail Log
  • Distance: 9.4 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 2300 feet
  • High point: 4,971 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: July - November
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: Busy during summer and weekends, especially the first part to Burnt Lake

Contents

Hike Description

This hike takes you up to the Zigzag Ridge and East Zigzag Mountain, a rocky summit with great views all around, especially of Mount Hood, but with other Cascade volcanoes also in view. A major stopover along the way is Burnt Lake, a picturesque mountain lake with a pretty view of Mount Hood. There's also a pretty and little known waterfall just off the trail before you get to Burnt Lake. Most of the trail is through forest with occasional views.

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 you'll cross several small creeks using plank walks. Another spur to the left leads down into the Lost Creek valley to a campsite and views from the top of multi-tiered Lost Creek Falls. 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 becoming 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.

Continuing on the Burnt Lake Trail, pass a campsite and then a small tarn on the left. The trail drops to cross Burnt Lake Creek and reaches the bottom of a slope. You'll traverse up to the left and then make a couple of switchbacks. Hike through dark woods and cross an open wet meadow before traversing up to the right. The trail switchbacks under mountain hemlock, noble fir, and lodgepole pine. A spur leads right to a view of Mount Hood. Then you'll make four more switchbacks and come to the signposted junction with the Zigzag Mountain Trail #775 at mile 4.2.

Head right here, and rise steeply to a viewpoint of Burnt Lake and Mount Hood. The trail levels, and you get great views of Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, and Mount Saint Helens. At the Zigzag Mountain-Burnt Lake Trail West Junction, keep straight for East Zigzag Mountain. The loose tread heads steeply up, and at a junction near the top, bear right. This takes you to the rocky summit. To the south, you can now see Olallie Butte and Mount Jefferson. Also visible are Multorpor Mountain, Ski Bowl, and Tom Dick and Harry Mountain. Noble fir, mountain hemlock, lodgepole pine, boxwood, and huckleberry cloak the summit. Look for beautiful bear-grass displays in June, particularly on the east slope. There is a possible camp spot just to the west where there used to be a fire lookout.

To finish the hike, go back to the trailhead the way you came.


Maps

  • 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

Fees, Regulations, etc.

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

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Portland by Paul Gerald
  • 100 Classic Hikes in Oregon by Douglas Lorain
  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • One Night Wilderness: Portland by Douglas Lorain
  • 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan
  • Hiking Oregon's Mount Hood & Badger Creek Wilderness by Fred Barstad
  • Hiking Mount Hood National Forest by Marcia Sinclair
  • 105 Virtual Hikes of the Mt. Hood National Forest by Northwest Hiker
  • 62 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 70 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Oregon's Columbia River Gorge: Camping & Hiking by Tom Stienstra & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill

More Links


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.