OverviewThis route starts at the upper trailhead for Zig Zag Mountain or it is also known as the East Zig Zag Trailhead. You'll experience nice forests, some swampy areas, bare peaks with outstanding views of Mt. Hood and a nice ridge walk. It is 11.4 miles long with about 2500 feet of elevation gain with all the ups and downs. Makes for a great workout or nice way to spend the day looking at the west side of Mt. Hood.
Getting ThereTake Highway 26 east of Portland to Road 27 which is just before milepost 44. Turn left and go about half a mile on paved roads before it turns sharply left and continues on 4.5 miles on gravel road. Rough in areas but passengers cars seem to make it fine to the trailhead.
Route DescriptionI will describe this loop going from the trailhead to East Zig Zag and then west to West Zig Zag. It could be done just the same in reverse and in fact, that would save the great views for a while and you would be hiking towards Hood instead of away.
From the end of the parking area, head north on the trail with the sign in front of it. There are side trails all over, just take the main one north. You will know you are on the right one about 10 minutes into it when you come to the Wilderness Permit box. Sign in and continue on this old abandoned road about 2 miles as it gradually contours to the northwest. You will have a small strea on your right all the way. At abot 2 miles you will come to Devils Meadow. Fork left on the sign that says to East Zig Zag (also Burnt Lake Trail).
At 2.6 miles you will come to another marker for the Devils Tie Trail. If you just want to hit the summit, you would go left here and follow it up to the Zig Zag Mountain Trail, however, you want to go to East Zig Zag so continue on the right fork here. You will wind through a basin with tree-lined ridges all around you. Follow the trail east as it zig zags (get the pun) up onto the ridge and turn left on the ridge up to the summit of East Zig Zag. Try not to fall off as you look at Hood all the time.
From East Zig Zag, take the trail back down west heading over to the actual summit. You will lose a few hundred feet here until you come down to a saddle and the Cast Creek Trail. Stay left for a ways to another junction with a trail heading right to Cast Lake. It's is a .6 mile addition if you want to go check out the lake but if not, continue on left here for a short distance until you come to the Zig Zag Mountain Trail (this is the point where you would come up from the basin had you taken that left earlier to go directly to the summit). Turn right on Zig Zag Mountain trail and it contours around the north side of the summit peak. As you head around, pick a spot to bushwhack up to the summit through sparse trees and beargrass.
After you have tagged the summit, come down the same way to rejoin the Zig Zag Mountain trail. Head west on it (left as you come down from the summit), and continue on the ridge to Point 4877, a great rockpile among beargrass. Pikas hang out here.
Continue on the trail which meets up with the Horseshoe Ridge Trail shortly after Point 4877. Take the left fork, staying on the Zig Zag Mountain Trail. This continues on 2.2 miles along the ridge but goes down a bit and into the trees. No more views until West Zig Zag. At 2.2 miles from that last junction with the Horseshoe Ridge Trail, you will come to another junction with the left trail heading back down to your car. Stay right for about 5 more minutes of hiking to go to the West Zig Zag lookout site which is on a cliff overlooking the valley. Lots of cliffs in this area, be careful. After checking it out, head back to the junction and take the trail back down to your car which is 2.5 miles down a forested trail.