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Zigzag Overlook Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Mount Hood and the massive Zigzag Canyon from the Zigzag Overlook (Tom Kloster)
Timberline Lodge (bobcat)
Dwarf mountain lupine (Lupinus lyallii) on the Mountaineer Trail (bobcat)
Rocky draw on Sand Canyon (bobcat)
Vast fields of lupine bloom along the trail in late summer (cfm)
The route to the overlook from Timberline Lodge (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo/MapBuilder Topo
  • Start point: Timberline Lodge TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • Ending point: Zigzag Overlook
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike type: Out and back
  • Distance: 4.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 820 feet
  • High point: 5,995 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Summer to early fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Yes



The hike to the Zigzag Overlook from Timberline Lodge an easy outing that gives you a good feel for the alpine areas of Mount Hood's south side. This is a pleasant - but very popular - hike for visitors to Timberline Lodge who aren't into a major excursion. You'll pass across alpine and subalpine meadows to reach an overlook over the deeply gouged Zigzag River Canyon, with the craggy ramparts of Mount Hood always above.

There are a couple of ways to begin/end the hike. You can walk west from the parking area above the day lodge and continue through the parking lot for Timberline Lodge. After passing below the lodge's swimming pool, follow a maintenance road a short distance past the Magic Mile chair lift to a trail junction under the Jeff Flood Express chair lift. Keep on going straight here on the Mountaineer Trail #798, turning neither right nor left. The path will take you into a subalpine woodland of mountain hemlock and subalpine fir and cross the Gravy Train bike trail to arrive at the signed Mountaineer-Timberline to Town Trail Junction. Stay straight (right) here, and rise under the Stormin’ Norman chair lift to cross the Arctic Circle bike trail and then the Kruser ski run to traverse through more mountain hemlock parklands. You'll pass a short spur to the site of the old Timberline Cabin, where a few broken pieces of the chimney remain, and soon reach the the four-way Timberline-Mountaineer Trail West Junction.

(An alternate route, more scenic and with fewer cross trails but more elevation gain, is to head straight up from the day use parking area. Take 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. 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.)

From the junction, cross a draw blooming with partridge-foot before hiking into the small Sand Canyon. 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. Soon, 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.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails: Mt. Hood, OR #462
  • 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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More Links

Page 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.

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