No photos for this, just a basic text trip report, because this trail gets very little attention on OH.org and I thought it might be nice to file a report for people seeking info in the future.
This trail is a great choice for solitude, largely because it has no grand views and is located not far from the Paradise Park trail, which has always been more popular and drawn the lion's share of hikers in the area. However, the Paradise Park trail is currently suffering from a major swath of seriously impassable blowdown which, despite the valiant efforts of a combined FS and volunteer trail crew to clear 3/8 of a mile of jumbled fallen tree trunks this summer, has yet to be fully cleared. It had been decades since my only hike on Hidden Lake trail, so I decided to check it out.
The trail starts out climbing in a serious way for the first mile or so until it plateaus and becomes relatively level. There are tons of rhododendrons in the understory and the forest is quite shady and pleasant. At roughly the two-mile point you descend to a creek, which is the outlet for Hidden Lake, which is true to its name by not being visible from the main trail. A short unmarked spur trail to the lake branches off to your right, about fifty feet beyond the creek crossing. The main trail branches left and uphill. This junction is where I met the only two hikers I saw all day.
Those who are seeking a lake to sit beside or swim in will be disappointed in Hidden Lake. It is small, shallow, and surrounded by boggy, reedy 'meadow', so that you can't easily approach the water's edge anywhere. And can't sit next to the water without sitting in water. There are lots of dragonflies, though. It's their kind of lake.
Beyond Hidden Lake the main trail fairly soon crosses a second creek, which even this late in the season during a dry, hot year was running with cold, clear water, probably fed by one or more small springs somewhere above. After this there is more serious uphill, followed again by an easier, more level stretch. The only serious deadfall I encountered was at the top of this steeper segment. A tree has fallen directly within the line of the trail, obscuring the tread for more than 100 feet. My instinct was to bypass above it, which proved a bad strategy as I lost the trail entirely. I retraced and walked alongside and on top of the fallen tree. That worked. It was clear sailing after that.
At about the 3.5 mile point, the trail wanders near the edge of the Zigzag river canyon, probably the nearest thing to a view on the whole trail. From here, the final mile up to the PCT/Timberline trail gains about 850 feet of elevation. It is the steepest section, but in many ways the prettiest, as more mountain hemlocks appear, interspersed with small open areas filled with meadow plants. At about 4.5 miles and after 2600 feet of elevation gain, you junction with the PCT.
That covers the main points. Once you junction with the PCT, you can hike over to the very scenic overlook of the Zigzag R. canyon if you like. There are probably 500 hikers who reach this junction via the PCT for every hiker who climbs up the Hidden Lake trail to get there. I enjoyed the solitude and the forest. The weather was excellent. I had a great time.
This forum is used to share your experiences out on the trails.
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