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Paradise Park from Timberline Lodge Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Colorful hillside on the Paradise Park Loop Trail (bobcat)
The view south to Tom Dick and Harry Mountain from the Timberline Trail (Tom Kloster)
Mount Hood and the massive Zigzag Canyon from the Zigzag Overlook (Tom Kloster)
Waterfall in Zigzag Canyon, Timberline Trail (bobcat)
Wildflowers at Lost Creek in Paradise Park (bobcat)
A sweeping view of the Paradise Branch canyon is just off the loop trail (Tom Kloster)
  • Start point: Timberline Lodge TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • Ending point: Paradise Park
  • Trail log: Trail Log
  • Hike type: Lollipop loop
  • Distance: 12.1 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2300 feet
  • High point: 6,080 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: Summer and early Fall
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: On summer weekends



Paradise Park is best known for its wildflower displays in July and August, but this hike is a classic mountain trek on many levels. In addition to the mountain vistas and wildflowers, the route passes several waterfalls and offers unique views of the high country south and west of Mount Hood. Though popular, the crowds thin out at the daunting lip of the Zigzag Canyon, and the trail is rarely crowded on weekdays. The trip also has the distinction of beginning at Timberline Lodge, which offers overnight lodging and meals.

Head up the steps across from the parking lot area and go right after 20 yards. At a second junction, go right again for the Timberline Trail, Mountaineer Loop Trail, and the Silcox Hut. Cross a small creek and head up on a rubbly tread among mountain hemlock, subalpine fir, and whitebark pine. In late summer the Newberry’s fleeceflower is turning red on the pumice slopes. Reach the four-way Timberline-Mountaineer Trail East Junction and turn left. You'll pass above Timberline Lodge and under chairlifts as the trail gradually descends through meadows. Though the cliffs of Mount Hood are ever-present above, the view also includes Mount Jefferson and the Three Sisters far to the south. When you reach the four-way Timberline-Mountaineer Trail West Junction, keep straight.

Cross a draw blooming with partridge-foot, and hike into the small Sand Canyon and then, at 1.2 miles, switchback into Little Zigzag Canyon. You'll arrive at a wilderness permit box and a map board. Pass the Mt. Hood Wilderness sign, and descend in silver fir/mountain hemlock forest to reach the junction with the Hidden Lake Trail (No. 779). There is a campsite (but no drinking water) below the trail just before this junction. There's another campsite (with no drinking water) below the trail in another 0.1 mile. Soon, however, you'll cross a spring by the trail and can admire the lush meadow on the steep slope below. Descend into a deep, dry gully, head up its shady west side in mountain hemlock/silver fir woods and, at 2.2 miles, come to the Zigzag Overlook at the edge of Zigzag Canyon. The view includes the meadows of Paradise Park, the canyon itself, rugged Mississippi Head, and the mesa-like formation at the head of the canyon.

From here, the trail heads down the ridgeline to the left through a thicket of Cascade mountain ash. A spur right leads to another viewpoint, but you'll soon enter shady mountain hemlock/silver fir woods. Switchback down into the canyon above a lush, wooded slope, and pass a wood-bolstered, willow-shaded seep blooming with orchids, bog paintbrush, arrowleaf groundsel, and common and pink monkey flower. Switchback again passing more lush seeps. The trail switchbacks again to the right and passes under a dripping rock face to cross a flowing rivulet and reach the bottom of the canyon in a thicket of Sitka alder, mountain ash, and willow. Find a rock hopping route across the Zigzag River. The stream is generally easy to cross without wet feet but can occasionally present an obstacle during periods of heavy snowmelt. Be sure to look upstream for dramatic Zigzag Falls, which often forms snow caves at its base. Then head up the west slope of the canyon through alder, willow, blooming grass-of-parnassus, and St. John’s wort. After you enter a silver fir/mountain hemlock wood, you'll arrive at the junction with the Paradise Park Loop Trail #757 at 3.9 miles.

Turn right here (you will be returning from the other direction) to head up the side of Zigzag Canyon under shady conifers. Soon, the trail veers to the right across a lush creek and then crosses an open, sandy hillside blooming with aster, sulfur buckwheat, and lupine among clumps of mountain ash. The trail switchbacks at the edge of Zigzag Canyon and recrosses the lush creek to head up into the meadows of Paradise Park. Here there are islands of silver fir, mountain hemlock, and subalpine fir. Cascade mariposa, false hellebore, meadow groundsel, lupine, and mountain meadow knotweed will be the summer blooms. At Mile 5.0 is the junction with the Paradise Park Trail #778, where you'll keep straight (a spur right is the beginning of an off-trail route to Mississippi Head).

This tread winds up, traverses, and then, at 5.4 miles, descends to the South Fork of Lost Creek Crossing in a lovely flower-filled valley. This creek is a reliable source of drinking water year-round. Heading up, you come a campsite area and the site of the now-destroyed Paradise Park Cabin in a grove of ancient mountain hemlock. (This may be a good point to turn around if you want to shave some miles off the hike.) Keep right here and traverse (going down from the campsite to the left will only take you to more campsites). False hellebore blooms luxuriantly on these slopes in summer. Make the North Fork of Lost Creek Crossing at another reliable drinking water stream with a number of campsites nearby, and pass along open slopes of pyroclastic material to see Split Rock up to your right before stepping over another creek. The west face of Mount Hood, including Mississippi Head and the Zigzag Glacier, looms above. Traverse open meadows blooming with mariposa, false hellebore, lupine, paintbrush, partridge-foot, and knotweed. Towhead babies, the seed heads of pasque flower, stud the grasslands later in the summer. Ahead, one can see the verdant spine of Yocum Ridge before the trail turns west and wends down through small meadows and mountain ash thickets. A short off-trail excursion offers views down the into the Paradise Branch canyon. At the Pacific Crest-Paradise Park Loop North Trail Junction at 6.3 miles, go left.

The trail heads through shady silver fir/mountain hemlock woods and crosses small creeks. Begin to ascend, and then drop down the lush side of Rushingwater Creek Canyon, with its spindly waterfall and verdant bottom. The trail rises up the bare, pyroclastic opposite bank and reenter woods where a spur trail goes down to the right to campsites. The path makes a traverse and heads gradually down into Lost Creek Canyon with its two waterfalls above the Lost Creek Crossing. There are campsites before and after the creek. Make another traverse and meet the four-way Pacific Crest-Paradise Park Trail Junction at 8.0 miles.

Continue straight to the edge of Zigzag Canyon. At a viewpoint, there’s a good view of Multorpor Mountain, Ski Bowl, Tom Dick and Harry Mountain, and along the Cascade crest down to Mount Jefferson. The trail switchbacks down to the junction with the Paradise Loop Trail. Here, stay right and continue back to Timberline Lodge along the Timberline/Pacific Crest Trail.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails: Mt. Hood, OR #462 and Government Camp, OR #461
  • Adventure Maps: Mt. Hood Area
  • Geo-Graphics: Mount Hood Wilderness Map
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Hood National Forest North
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Zigzag Ranger District
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood Wilderness
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount Hood

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Self-issued wilderness permit
  • Wilderness rules apply

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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.

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