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Horseshoe Ridge Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Mount Hood from the Peak 4877 viewpoint (bobcat)
One of the channels of Lost Creek on the Horseshoe Ridge Trail (bobcat)
Emerging gnome plants (Hemitomes congestum) on the Horseshoe Ridge Trail (bobcat)
View across the Horseshoe Creek bowl from Horseshoe Ridge Trail (bobcat)
The Peak 4877 viewpoint. From the Zigzag Mountain Trail, you have to take a short side trail to get to the high point and best view. (Jerry Adams)
The route of the Horseshoe Ridge Trail #774 to the Zigzag Mountain ridge (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo/USFS)
  • Start point: Horseshoe Ridge TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Peak 4877 (Zigzag Mountain)
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike Type: Out and back
  • Distance: 10.6 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 3020 feet
  • High point 4,877 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: July - November
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: Far less busy than other Zigzag Mountain trails

Contents

Hike Description

The Horseshoe Ridge Hike begins at a trailhead just before the bridge over Lost Creek near the Riley Horse Camp (this is the same trailhead as for the Sandy River Trail). The trail is much more varied than the nearby Cast Creek Trail (see the Cast Lake Hike) and is also far less populated. You'll cross the braiding channels of Lost Creek, where there's no longer a footbridge and then hike up a ridge in coniferous forest to enter the Mt. Hood Wilderness. The destination is a rocky prominence on the Zigzag Mountain ridge which affords splendid views to Mount Hood and up and down the Cascades. Wildflowers are best in early to midsummer. If you're planning on staying overnight, it's best to continue another two miles to Cast Lake and return to the trailhead via the Cast Creek Trail.

Walk back from the parking pullout on FR 1825-380 to the trailhead sign. The trail is flat here, making its way across the lodgepole pine dominated Old Maid Flat, which is carpeted with moss, reindeer lichen, and kinnikinnick. Keep right where a spur leads to Lost Creek, and cross a gravel road. Stay right at another junction, and then drop down an embankment to pass a skunk-cabbage swamp. Hike under cedars, Douglas-firs, and hemlocks until you reach the main channel of Lost Creek. There's no bridge here anymore, so you can try one of the fallen trees or make a ford. A second muddy channel of the creek is a rock hop. The third channel may also involve a choice between a log crossing or a ford, depending on the water levels.

Hike out of this lush and ferny bottomland to traverse up and over a ridge crest. You'll pass below a sheer andesite cliff face, where a small grove of gnarly chinquapin trees is an unusual sight. Then the trail makes a few rising switchbacks and follows the crest of a ridge to cross overgrown FR 1825-380, decommissioned a few years ago and 2.4 miles from the trailhead. Across the road, there's a wilderness permit box and map. The trail heads up again, making five switchbacks to reach another decommissioned road 2.8 miles from the trailhead, this one FR 1825-388.

Walk 20 yards to your right, and resume the trail to rise in seven long switchbacks and pass a Mt. Hood Wilderness sign. Then you'll pass below a massive rock outcropping before heading up the slope in eight switchbacks, leaving the realm of the Douglas-fir and entering a montane forest of silver of noble fir in an area of devil's club thickets where that prickly plant sometimes overhangs the trail. The wide burrows of mountain beavers sometimes undermine the footpath. Continue hiking through a lush carpet of oxalis, inside-out flower, vanilla leaf, and Solomon plume, and round the nose of a ridge. The trail traverses at length in a same-age silver and noble fir forest with a clear understory. Then switchback up twice to emerge from the woods and traverse an open rocky slope below Peak 4877. Lupine, paintbrush, and fool’s huckleberry bloom here, and you’ll look across to the steep forested bowl that shelters the headwaters of Horseshoe Creek. Mount Saint Helens can be seen to the northwest. After this, you'll reach the Zigzag Mountain-Horseshoe Ridge Trail Junction.

Turn left here onto the Zigzag Mountain Trail and hike through flowering bear-grass meadows with great views of Mount Hood. Look for a short spur to the right which will take you to the exposed rocky outcrop of Peak 4877. This is a great lunch spot, with views west down the Sandy River valley and up and down the Cascades. A bench below the summit offers a great perch from which to gawk at the rugged western slopes of Mount Hood.


Maps

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

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Northwest Forest Pass (or America the Beautiful Pass) required
  • Restrooms in Riley Horse Camp (if it's open)

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain
  • Hiking Oregon’s Mount Hood & Badger Creek Wilderness by Fred Barstad
  • 105 Virtual Hikes of the Mt. Hood National Forest by Northwest Hiker
  • 70 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • 62 Hiking Trails: Northern Oregon Cascades by Don & Roberta Lowe
  • More Oregon Trails and Horse Camps by Kim McCarrel

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.