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Zigzag Mountain Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

TKO put tools to trail here.png
Mt. Hood from East Zigzag Mountain (bobcat)
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), Burnt Lake Trail (bobcat)
On the shore of Cast Lake (bobcat)
Red mountain heather (Phyllodoce empetriformis), Zigzag Mountain Trail (bobcat)
Tall mountain shooting star (Dodecatheon jeffreyi), Cast Lake (bobcat)
The loop along the high ridge of Zigzag Mountain (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo/USFS
  • Start point: South Burnt Lake TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Zigzag Mountain
  • Hike Type: Loop
  • Distance: 12.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2810 feet
  • High point: 5,015 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: May through October
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

A stunning high ridge loop with frequent views of Mount Hood and other Cascade peaks begins at the South Burnt Lake Trailhead, the least enjoyable part of this excursion being the slow, potholed trundle to the parking area via Enola Hill (Enola, though sounding musically exotic, is merely 'alone' spelled backwards). On this tour of Zigzag Mountain's finest features, you'll encounter lush wet meadows and blooming dry meadows, two former lookout sites, a secluded mountain lake, and vistas from Mount Rainier to Mount Jefferson, with nearby Mount Hood always dominating the scenery. Mid-summer is the best time - make sure you start early to get the best out of the sights along the way!

The Burnt Lake Trail #772 heads up an old road bed in woods of western hemlock, cedar, alder, silver fir, Douglas-fir, rhododendron, salal, and vine maple. Henry Creek rushes down to your left. Soon, reach the the wilderness permit box. You'll step over a small creek, and then cross a larger stream over a culvert. The road bed enters a lush bracken, mertensia, and thimbleberry clearing rimmed with Sitka alder and willow. Finally, the road ends at the site of the abandoned Devils Meadow Campground. A spur leads down to the right towards Devils Meadow, but the tread is lost among the thick growth of willow and alder thickets. The path rises, and noble fir enters the forest mix. Cross a trickling brook in an alder thicket, and get a view down to the right to the expanse of Devils Meadow. Mosquitoes breed in their masses here in early summer. The trail passes through a lush meadow and then levels and drops through more mountain meadows. When you come to the Burnt Lake-Devils Tie Trail Junction, keep straight.

Cross a creek, and switchback up among lodgepole pine, bear-grass, huckleberry, and rhododendron. Note also some western white pine and mountain hemlock. The trail levels to cross a small creek before you head up in silver fir woods. Three switchbacks take you to a lush meadow riddled with mountain beaver burrows. Then the path switchbacks to a veritable rock garden of larkspur, paintbrush, phlox, and serviceberry. You'll pass through a bear-grass meadow, followed by another dry meadow with views across to Devils Peak. The trail loops up to the ridge crest and junction with the Zigzag Mountain Trail. There’s a magnificent view of Mount Hood looming large to the east, and vistas extend north to the Washington Cascades.

Go left at the junction in a bear-grass meadow, and head along the crest to begin the ascent of East Zigzag Mountain. Take in views of Burnt Lake below and back to Tom Dick and Harry Mountain, Olallie Butte and Mount Jefferson. At a junction, keep right for the summit spur. Wildflowers bloom in profusion here. On the rocky summit, the views are expansive. Over the summit, the path rejoins the main trail, where you'll keep right, passing a campsite. The trail descends the ridge crest in a brilliant paintbrush meadow with mountain sandwort, sulfur buckwheat and mariposa adding color. The path reenters montane woods and winds down steeply to the Zigzag Mountain-Cast Creek Trail Junction. Keep left, and drop to a level area wooded with lodgepole pines. Here, you'll find the junction with the Cast Lake Trail #796, where you can make a right to visit the lake.

The Cast Lake Trail rises to a saddle and then drops. The tread levels in a wet meadow with willow, shooting stars and buttercups. Then the path makes a final short drop to the marshy shore of Cast Lake. Marsh marigolds, shooting stars and violets bloom here in the summer. A small creek enters the lake, and there are surprisingly few mosquitoes compared to Devils Meadow.

After you return to the Zigzag Mountain Trail, go right to pass through a level meadow dotted with lodgepole pines. Soon pass the junction with the Devils Tie Trail, which heads down to the left. The Zigzag Mountain Trail rises under silver fir, noble fir, red-cedar, and mountain hemlock among stretches of bear-grass. Then the path winds up more steeply, make a rising traverse to level at a glade of Sitka alder and blooming avalanche lilies. From this spot, you'll get a view of the Washington peaks and Cast Lake nestled below, with Mount Hood rising massively on the right. The trail then drops along a wooded ridge to a bear-grass saddle. It rises below a rocky outcrop with another great view of Mount Hood. The path winds up and traverses the north slope of Zigzag Mountain. A bushwhack from the south side of the trail leads to the summit of Zigzag Mountain, where you'll get views extending from Mount Jefferson to the Washington peaks. From here, the Zigzag Mountain Trail winds through bear-grass meadows to pass near a rocky prominence on the right, accessed by a short user trail. From this spot, there are more stupendous views, and it's an excellent perch for a lunch break on a nice day.

Continue down bear-grass meadows on the Zigzag Mountain Trail to the junction with the Horseshoe Ridge Trail #774. Stay left here to continue hiking among bear-grass and rhododendrons. After passing another rocky outcrop, the trail undulates along the ridge crest and then winds down more steeply. Then there's a rising traverse before the trail levels to cross a small brook. From here, the tread rises more steeply to the ridge crest before proceeding up and down to reach the junction with the West Zigzag Mountain Trail #789.

From the junction, keep straight to make the short detour to a clifftop viewpoint. The trail rises gently to the site of the old West Zigzag Lookout. These days, four concrete foundation posts and a few rusted nails remain in a grove of young lodgepole pines. The view is splendid across the Zigzag River Valley down to Flag Mountain and across to Devils Peak, with Mount Jefferson’s jagged summit visible on the horizon. After taking in these views, return to the junction with the West Zigzag Mountain Trail, which heads down to the right.

This trail, although not well-traveled, is usually easy to follow. There’s a long traverse down among rhododendron, bear-grass, Douglas-fir, cedar and silver fir. You'll cross a small boulder field and then a tributary of Henry Creek. The trail rises in a long traverse and then drops over a ridge. The path switchbacks and traverses downward, becoming quite steep in places. Cross Henry Creek, and then rise past a wilderness permit box to reach FR 27. Walk to the left about 80 yards to reach the parking area and your vehicle.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Self-issued wilderness permit
  • Wilderness regulations apply
  • Mosquitoes can be an issue through the middle of summer at Devils Meadow and Cast 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

  • Hiking Oregon's Mount Hood & Badger Creek Wilderness by Fred Barstad
  • Best Hikes Near Portland, Oregon by Fred Barstad
  • 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
  • 105 Virtual Hikes of the Mt. Hood National Forest by Northwest Hiker
  • Oregon Hiking by Sean Patrick Hill
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill

More Links


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.