High Cascades Hiking Mt. Hood Area Oregon Trip report

Paradise Park via Hidden Lake Trail

Just like our previous hike (Jefferson Park via Woodpecker Ridge) our latest outing consisted of a new way to visit a familiar area. Our goal this time was Paradise Park on Mt. Hood which we had hiked to twice previously; first in August 2012 on a day hike from Timberline Lodge and again in July 2014 during an overnight trip that started from the Burnt Lake Trailhead.  This hike was originally going to be a 13.2 mile day hike consisting of  a loop using the Hidden Lake, Pacific Crest, and Paradise Park Trails.  The drawback to this plan was that the planned loop did not bring us to Paradise Park. We would need to add at least another mile to the hike to reach the park and even then we would only be seeing a small portion of the Paradise Park area.   Our solution was to turn it into an overnight backpacking trip which would allow us to set up camp and then explore to our hearts content (or until our feet said no more).

We decided to park at the Paradise Park Trailhead and walk .9 miles along Road 39 to the Hidden Lake Trailhead.
Paradise Park Trailhead

Hidden Lake Trailhead

We turned up the Hidden Lake Trail, stopping to fill out a wilderness permit and read a nearby sign recalling the organization of the Mazamas.
Hidden Lake Trail

Interpretive sign near the Hidden Lake Trailhead

The Hidden Lake Trail climbed at a pretty good pitch at first, eventually becoming less steep as it gained the forested ridge and approached Hidden Lake.
Entering the Mt. Hood Wilderness on the Hidden Lake Trail

Hidden Lake Trail

We reached the spur trail to Hidden Lake about 2 miles up the Hidden Lake Trail. The lake itself was not visible from the trail but the presence of a campsite just off the trail gave its presence away. We followed the spur trail past the campsite to the small forested lake.
Hidden Lake

Hidden Lake

Hidden Lake

The muddy lake shore seemed to be attracting a fair number of yellow jackets so we kept our distance and didn’t stay long. From the lake the trail climbed nearly another 2000′ in approximately 2.5 miles. The forested ridge provided no views of Mt. Hood but there was a nice supply of ripe huckleberries for us to munch on as we climbed. The trees did provide some protection from the Sun which was welcome because it was already a warm morning. Temperatures in the Willamette Valley were supposed to hit triple digits and the high at Paradise Park was forecast to be around 70 for the day. We were able to keep a decent pace though and at the Pacific Crest Trail we turned left toward Paradise Park.
Hidden Lake Trail junction with the Pacific Crest Trail

Mt. Hood finally came into view as we hiked along the PCT.
Mt. Hood from the Pacific Crest Trail

From the Hidden Lake Trail junction it was a mile and a half to the dramatic Zigzag Canyon overlook. From the overlook, Mt. Hood looms behind Mississippi Head as the Zigzag River roars below.
Mt. Hood and the Zigzag River Canyon

To the south Mt. Jefferson was visible although it was a little hazy.
Mt. Jefferson

The PCT drops approximately 500′ from the overlook down to the Zigzag River. We rock hopped across the water then decided to head upstream toward Zigzag Falls.
Zigzag Falls

On our 2012 hike we noticed the fall but didn’t actually make it all the way there. It had seemed too far away. Our definition of “too far” has apparently changed over time. This time Zigzag Falls appeared relatively close and it didn’t take us long to arrive at the waterfall.
Zigzag Falls

Zigzag Falls

We were surprised at the power of the waterfall as it crashed down into the splash pool. A nice cool mist was being generated and we took advantage by sitting nearby and taking a fairly long break. After cooling off we returned to the PCT and continued toward Paradise Park. The climb out of the northern side of the canyon was much shorter than the descent on the far side and shortly after climbing out we came to a junction with the Paradise Park Loop Trail.
Pacific Crest Trail junction with the southern end of the Paradise Park Loop Trail

The 2.4 mile Paradise Park Loop Trail climbs up to the wildflower meadows of Paradise Park and eventually rejoins the PCT further to the north. Before we headed up to Paradise Park though, we wanted to find a campsite so we could leave our heavy backpacks behind. After passing the junction we began looking for a suitable spot. We were hoping to find something near the junction with the Paradise Park Trail which was just a half mile from the Paradise Park Loop Trail. There were a couple decent spots just before we reached the Paradise Park Trail but we preferred to be a little further off the busy Pacific Crest Trail so we decided to turn down the Paradise Park Trail and see if we could find something along this trail.
Paradise Park Trail junction with the Pacific Crest Trail

As we descended the .2 miles to a junction with the Burnt Lake Trail, we agreed to turn around if we were unable to find a decent campsite. We found what we were looking for near the trail junction and were able to set up our tent.
Campsite along the Paradise Park Trail

After getting camp situated we headed back up to the Pacific Crest Trail where we faced a choice. To reach Paradise Park we could go straight up the Paradise Park Trail, turn right and take the Paradise Park Loop counterclockwise, or turn left and do the loop clockwise. We had done the loop counterclockwise in 2012 and gone straight up the Paradise Park Trail in 2014 so of course we chose clockwise this time just to be different. When we reached Lost Creek we turned off the PCT and headed up a sandy hill to visit Lost Creek Falls.
Lost Creek Falls

Lost Creek Falls

Lost Creek Falls

Continuing on from Lost Creek Falls we passed the trickle of the ironically named Rushing Water Creek.
Rushing Water Creek

We reached the northern end of the Paradise Park Loop Trail 2 miles from the Paradise Park Trail and turned uphill.
Pacific Crest Trail junction with the northern end of the Paradise Park Loop Trail

The northern end of the trail passes through drier meadows that were filled with aster and big views of Mt. Hood. A wider variety of flowers were present where there was more moisture.
Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Loop Trail

Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Loop Trail

Mt. Hood and split rock from the Paradise Park Loop Trail


Cat’s ear lily
Cat's ear lily

Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Loop Trail

Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Loop Trail

We stopped to get water from the wildflower lined north fork of Lost Creek.
Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Loop Trail

Wildflowers along a branch of Lost Creek

Wildflowers alogn a branch of Lost Creek

Mt. Hood was briefly hidden as we wrapped around a hillside covered in aster and fireweed that separates the branches of Lost Creek.
Fireweed and aster along the Paradise Park Loop Trail

Meadows of aster and lupine were visible below the trail.
Aster meadow

Lupine and groundsel

Beyond the hill we passed the site of the former Paradise Park Shelter before descending to the main branch of Lost Creek.
Site of the former Paradise Park shelter

Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Loop Trail at Lost Creek

There were lots of flowers near the creek including an impressive patch of yellow and pink monkeyflower.
Wildflowers along Lost Creek

Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Loop Trail

The meadows along the trail on the south side of Lost Creek were much greener with more wildflowers.
Lupine and groundsel

Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Loop Trail

When we arrived at the junction with the Paradise Park Trail we remarked at the difference in the types of flowers present from our visit in 2012. That visit had been on August 27th and the meadow had been full of lupine and bistort.
Mt. Hood from Paradise Park

This time it was mostly aster that filled the meadow.
Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Trail

One area we had not explored on either of our previous visit was further up the Paradise Park Trail so this time we turned toward the mountain and headed up through the wildflower meadows.
Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Trail

It was interesting to see how the composition of the meadows changed along the way. We passed areas of purple aster, white bistort, and eventually dwarf lupine and yarrow.
Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Trail

Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Trail

Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Trail

Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Trail

We took a break on a large rock with a great view of Mt. Hood and Mississippi Head.
Mt. Hood from the Paradise Park Trail

Mississippi Head

There was a cool breeze coming off Mt. Hood which made the temperature perfect. After a snack we followed the trail over to a ridge overlooking the upper portions of the Zigzag Canyon where a couple of waterfalls were visible.
Trail heading over to an overlook of the Zigzag River Canyon

Mississippi Head and Mt. Hood

Seeps flowing down into the Zigzag River Canyon

Waterfall in the Zigzag River Canyon

We headed back down to the Paradise Park Loop Trail and then opted to finish the loop instead of heading straight back down the Paradise Park Trail to the PCT. Once we were back on the Pacific Crest Trail we decided that we would hike back to Lost Creek Falls in order to cook dinner and then refill our water supply for the night. We cooked dinner on the sandy hill then moved to a rock with a view of the falls to eat. As the Sun lowered there was almost a rainbow effect at the base of Lost Creek Falls.
Lost Creek Falls

Lost Creek Falls

After dinner we filtered some water then returned to our campsite along the Paradise Park Trail. Stopping along the way at a nice huckleberry patch for dessert.
Huckleberries along the Paradise Park Trail

Huckleberries along the Paradise Park Trail

It was just after 7pm when we arrived back at camp. There were a ton of little flies out and a fair number of mosquitoes that were much more interested in Heather than myself so we quickly headed into the tent for the night which was okay because we’d somehow managed to put in 19.7 miles for the day.
Campsite along the Paradise Park Trail

It was still dark when we woke the next morning as I went to check the time on my phone. We both expected it to be somewhere around 2 or 3am so we were relieved when it turned out to be 5:23 and not too early to get up. After packing up camp we braved the bugs and prepared breakfast – instant coffee and Backpacker’s Pantry bacon and cheddar mashed potatoes. After eating we began the 6 mile downhill hike toward the Paradise Park Trailhead. We made good time despite being distracted by the abundant ripe huckleberries. The trail was just as view-less as the Hidden Lake Trail had been the day before. Where it would have been possible to filter water on that trail the Paradise Park stream crossings were basically dry. The forest was nice though and this ridge was a bit wider than the one the Hidden Lake Trail, creating a little more of an open feeling.
Paradise Park Trail

Mt. Hood Wilderness

In the middle of the trail was a long section where the trail was about as straight as a trail can be and almost looked like it was following an old road bed. As the trail approached the edge of the ridge the forest thinned and there was a viewpoint looking toward Tom, Dick, and Harry Mountain to the south.
Tom Dick and Harry Mountain

While we were at the viewpoint a Turkey Vulture passed by several times close enough to hear the wind on its wings.
Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

The trial then veered away from the ridgeline for .7 miles and began a final set of switchbacks down to the Zigzag River, which it followed back to the Barlow Campground and the Paradise Park Trailhead.
Paradise Park Trail

Zigzag River Trail

Both the Hidden Lake and Paradise Park Trails are longer, steeper routes to Paradise Park than the more popular Pacific Crest Trail from Timberline Lodge hike but they do have things to offer. Solitude and dense forest replace mountain views making these good options for quieter hikes while still bringing you to the big views at Paradise Park. If you’ve already been to Paradise Park via Timberline Lodge either of these trails make a nice alternative, especially when the berries are ripe. Happy Trails!


High Cascades Hiking Mt. Hood Area Oregon Trip report

Horseshoe Ridge and Cast Creek Trail Loop

On Father’s Day we headed toward Mt. Hood for a loop hike on some lesser used trails. We planned on using the Horseshoe Ridge and Cast Creek Trails as well as a portion of the Zigzag Mountain Trail for a loop in the Mt. Hood Wilderness. Along the way we’d also visit Cast Lake and depending on visibility detour to the summit of East Zigzag Mountain.

We began our hike by parking along Forest Road 1825-380 at the bridge over Lost Creek near the Riley Horse Camp. The Horseshoe Ridge Trail began on the SW side of the road.

The trail paralleled Lost Creek for the first 3/4 mile but didn’t get very close to the water until the trail crossed the creek. I had checked the Mt. Hood Forest Service for trail conditions before we left so we knew the bridge was “unusable”.


We looked around a bit and noticed a downed tree a little downstream that we could use to cross but it was wet and slick and not wide enough to comfortably walk across in those conditions. We faced the choice of scooting across or fording the creek. Considering the temperature was only in the upper 30’s we decided we’d rather scoot than get soaked.

Halfway across we discovered that we weren’t the only ones using the log and had to creatively maneuver past a snail and small slug.

Beyond Lost Creek the trail climbed through the forest for nearly 4 miles to the Zigzag Mountain Trail. The climb was never too steep and near the end the trail entered a meadow with wildflowers and views of Mt. St. Helens.

Columbine and paintbrush




Lousewort before blooming




We turned left on the Zigzag Mountain Trail passing through more beargrass meadows and gaining views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson.





We followed the trail up to a ridge top where a rocky viewpoint added three Washington volcanoes to the view.

Mt. St. Helens

Mt. Rainier

Mt. Adams

The trail then crossed over the ridge and began descending along the north side of Zigzag Mountain. We had been on this section of trail in 2012 during a July 9th loop starting from the Burnt Lake South Trailhead. During that hike this portion of trail was still partly covered in snow. This time around there were only a couple of small patches remaining in the brush along the trail.

We passed above Cast Lake passing a junction with the Devil’s Tie Trail to the Cast Lake Trail.



A half mile hike along this trail brought us to Cast Lake.

Snow melt and recent precipitation had left standing water on some of the trail and mud along portions of the shore on the SW side of the lake. We followed a path around the north side of the lake past several nice campsites. We turned around shortly after crossing Cast Creek flowing out of the lake. The one thing that the lake lacks is a good view of Mt. Hood, but rhododendron and beargrass were blooming along the shore making for a pretty scene.

We left Cast Lake and continued our loop on the Zigzag Mountain Trail and quickly arrived at the Cast Creek Trail junction.

We faced a choice here. We could turn left on the Cast Creek Trail and complete the loop or take another side trip by continuing on the Zigzag Mountain Trail to East Zigzag Mountain. With the weather being as nice as it was and knowing that there would be some flowers in the meadow below the summit we decided on one more side trip. After a short but decent climb we emerged from the trees in the meadow.

The lower portion of the meadow was full of Phlox and yet to bloom lupine.

As we climbed higher Mt. Hood came into view and the variety of flowers increased.






Several other Cascade peaks were visible from the ridge.
Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams to the north.

Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack to the south.

I left Heather at the summit and headed down into the meadow on the opposite side of the summit. The flowers seemed to be a little behind so I turned around after getting a few pictures including the obligatory Burnt Lake shot.


Burnt Lake below Mt. Hood

I returned to the summit and we headed back to the Cast Creek Trail. We had accidentally taken this trail in 2012 mistaking it for the Cast Lake Trail (we obviously didn’t read the sign well). The Cast Creek Trail begins with a little climb past some decent viewpoints before beginning its decent into the forest.

Mt. Hood

The rhododendron bloom along the upper portion of the trail was one of the best we’ve witnessed.



The forest along the Cast Creek Trail was quite different from what we had encountered coming up on the Horseshoe Ridge Trail. There was much less underbrush leaving the forest with a more open feeling.

We kept expecting to see a deer or other larger animal below us through the trees but we never did. What we did see was a garter snake enjoying a patch of sunshine along the trail.


According the the Forest Service website neither the Cast Creek nor the Horseshoe Ridge Trail had been maintained since 2014 but they were both in pretty good shape. There were a few downed trees but nothing difficult to maneuver around. We did see one sign of more recent maintenance on the lower portion of the Cast Creek Trail which left us scratching our heads. A small tree had come down across the trail. The top end of the tree had been sawed off, but not the portion that was across the trail. There was a saw mark along the trunk where someone had started a second cut to remove the portion of tree hanging over the trail, but they hadn’t finished it for some reason.

The Cast Creek Trail ended at a day use area at the far end of Riley Horse Camp.

We had intended to park here, but failed to find it due to a lack of signage and having turned out of the horse camp before going all the way to the end.
We walked through the horse camp to the road then continued a tenth of a mile back to our car. Both of our GPS devices had the hike at a little over 16 miles which made it pretty long for a day hike, but spending the night at Cast Lake would make it a nice overnight trip. Happy Trails!


High Cascades Hiking Mt. Hood Area Oregon Trip report

Burnt Lake to Paradise Park Overnight

Our latest overnight trip brought us to the Mt. Hood Wilderness where we planned to continue honing our backpacking skills. We plotted out a trip that would bring us to some new places as well as some previous favorites. The plan was to start at the northern trail head of the Burnt Lake Trail, pass Burnt Lake and climb up to East Zig Zag Mountain where we would take the Zig Zag Mountain Trail up to the Paradise Park Trail. From there we would head up to Paradise Park and camp somewhere along the Paradise Park Loop Trail near Split Rock. We’d been to East Zig Zag Mountain and Paradise Park in 2012 on separate hikes, but we had come in on different trails for those trips.

We set off from the Burnt Lake trail head shortly before 7am and quickly entered the Mt. Hood Wilderness.

The trail climbed between Burnt Lake Creek and Lost Creek for 1.9 miles before crossing and then recrossing Burnt Lake Creek. Near the 2.5 mile mark an unmarked side trail to the left led downhill to Lost Creek Falls. (Waterfalls on Lost Creek became a theme for this trip.)

The trail then veered away from Lost Creek and climbed for a mile up to Burnt Lake. Along the way we got our first glimpses of Mt. Hood.

We stopped briefly to check out Burnt Lake but decided to wait until the return trip to locate the best viewpoint of Mt. Hood from the lake shore.

From Burnt Lake the trail climbed up to the Zig Zag Mountain Trail where we took a brief detour to visit the summit of East Zig Zag Mountain. Heather decided to remain amid the wildflowers at the junction with the southern portion of the Burnt Lake Trail while I climbed up to the former lookout site.
Mt. Hood and Burnt Lake from the south trail junction:

Trail heading up East Zig Zag Mountain:


Mt. Jefferson:

Mt. Hood:


Heather waiting at the junction:

After getting my wildflower fix we headed East on the Zig Zag Mountain Trail and began climbing towards Paradise Park. The trail began with a nice gradual ascent through open meadows of beargrass, huckleberry, and other bushes. It was fairly overgrown but easy enough to follow.

We then came to a forested ridge where the trail suddenly steepened – downhill! We had been at 4600′ when we joined the Zig Zag Mountain Trail and needed to get up to 5800′ in 3.7 miles to reach Paradise Park. Going down meant more climbing on the way up as well as having to climb up on the way back down the following day. There were at least 4 fairly brief but steep descents before we began climbing again. At least were some nice views of the mountain ahead of us and a view of our goal.
Paradise Park is the light green areas just above the tree line:
The Paradise Park Loop Trail passed just below the pile of boulders:

As we neared the Paradise Park Trail Junction we began to see lots of avalanche lilies, a telling sign of recent snow melt, and a few patches of snow still hanging on.

After joining the Paradise Park Trail we passed through several meadows and a nice viewpoint of the Zig Zag River before arriving at the Pacific Crest Trail in a mere .2 miles.
Zig Zag River Canyon and Mississippi Head (the rock outcropping at the center of Mt. Hood):
Oh the choices!

We crossed over the the PCT and climbed up to the Paradise Park Loop Trail which was a fairly steep .5 miles and 400′ above us. It was late August when we visited in 2012 and to this day the wildflowers in the meadow at the junction of these two trails remains the best display we’ve seen. There was little indication of the scene to come this trip as the snow was still melting off and only a few early flowers could be found. The view of Mt. Hood was still top notch though.
Late August 2012
Mid July 2014
Western Pasque Flower
Avalanche lilies and paint

We headed left at the junction and started looking for our tent site. We passed several good locations but had something specific in mind. We were looking for a site close to a water source, with a good view, but also with some shade as it was quite warm. We made our way North passing the remains of the Paradise Park Shelter, crossing both branches of Lost Creek, and passing Split Rock before we found what we had been looking for.
South Branch Lost Creek crossing
Mt. Hood from the crossing

North Branch Lost Creek crossing – The snow shelf made this one tricky as the creek was flowing under the edge of the snow.

Split Rock


After setting up camp we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening alternating between exploring the area and relaxing as we waited for sunset.
Mountain heather beginning to bloom


Shooting Star

Marsh marigolds

Western pasque flowers

Mt. Jefferson

Mt. St. Helens

East Zig Zag Mountain and some of our route from earlier in the day


Yocum Ridge on the other side of the Sandy River. The waterfall is on what appears to be an unnamed fork of the Sandy River but I’ve seen it referred to as Paradise Park Creek.

The Sandy River

Waterfall flowing down into Lost Creek

Marmot in the grass near the falls

Our shadows as the Sun was getting lower

Small waterfall on Lost Creek


After watching the Sun go down we turned in. For some reason I wound up awake shortly after 4am so I grabbed the camera again and waited for the sunrise.
The Moon was super bright all night and a few clouds had moved in to the South by the morning

Starting to get some sunlight

Then came the colors

After a breakfast of Mountain House freeze dried scrambled eggs and bacon (yes we managed to use our stove this trip 🙂 ) we packed up camp and began our return trip. We decided to continue on the loop which would bring us back to the PCT which we could then take South back to the Paradise Park Trail junction. This would allow us to visit a few waterfalls on the way back. The first of the falls is on Rushing Water Creek as it comes down from Paradise Park. There was a nice display of wildflowers just before the falls here.

There was a trail crew from the Pacific Crest Trail Association gathered at the base of the falls that was out doing some trail maintenance.

It had clouded up and as we were passing the falls rain began to fall lightly. We decided to stop at the next set of falls to waterproof our sleeping bags just in case it started to rain harder. The next set of falls were on Lost Creek. Both branches come down within a short distance of each other and both in scenic waterfalls.
North Branch Lost Creek

South Branch Lost Creek

It was raining off and on but not very hard but then we began to hear thunder. We picked up our pace as best we could as the thunder became steadier and we started to see the flashes of lighting. We had made it to the Paradise Park Trail and were back on the Zig Zag Mountain Trail when the hike got really interesting. We came around a bend in the trail and less than 20 yards ahead of us was a black bear. We all instantly froze, even the bear for a split second before it turned in bolted back into the forest. All I’d had time to do was say “bear” before it had vanished. I had just put the lens cap back on the camera and tucked it under my shirt to keep the rain off of it so I had no chance at getting a picture. Heather went for the bear spray just to be safe but it was long gone.

We made it back to the steep sections that we were dreading without further incidents. The climb was pretty much as ugly as we’d expected but the rain had let up without ever getting too heavy so we were dry at least. Dry until we reached the overgrown section of trail that is. By the time we emerged from that section we looked and felt like we’d forded a thigh-high creek. 🙂

When we got back to Burnt Lake we headed down past campsite C where there is a great view of Mt. Hood from the lake shore.

We ticked off the remaining 3.5 miles at a brisk pace pausing occasionally to sample the salmon and blueberries that were ripening nicely along the trail.
Oval-leaf blueberries

Mt. Hood had delivered another amazing adventure. Happy Trails!