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Hiking Mt. Hood Area Oregon Trip report

Devil’s Peak

The end of September/beginning of October brings us a pair of birthday celebrations, my Grandma on 9/30 and our Son on 10/1. We planned a joint celebration dinner in Portland but before the festivities we headed out on a hike to work up an appetite.

Due to the plans we needed a hike near Portland in the 8 to 10 mile range and hiking up the Cool Creek Trail to the Devil’s Peak Lookout fit the bill perfectly. We headed out early to the Cool Creek Trailhead. Oddly our guidebook had us turn on Road 20 at the east end of Rhododendron, OR instead of west of Rohododendron on Still Creek Road which is how the Forest Service directions have you go. We followed the guidebook directions only to be turned back by a closed bridge and had to go back to Still Creek Road. After finding the open route to the trailhead we parked along the shoulder of the road and set off on the Cool Creek Trail.
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The trail started with a steep incline, a reminder that it needed to gain over 3000′ over the next 4 miles. Not far from the trailhead we entered the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness.
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The trail is mostly forested with a few glimpses of Mt. Hood through the trees.
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The best early view came just over a mile along the trail. For about two tenths of a mile the trail passed along an open hillside with a view across the valley to Mt. Hood.
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The trail then passed around to the other side of a ridge where it pretty much remained for the next two miles. The forest here still housed a good number of red and blue huckleberries.
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There were sections of more level trail in the forest which gave a nice break from the climbing, but also meant that the elevation would need to be made up on the sections of uphill.
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Approximately 3.25 miles from the trailhead a spur to the left led to a rocky ridge top which provided what turned out to be the best viewpoint of the day.
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IMG_3232The rocky ridge

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From this point four Cascades were visible, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood.
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IMG_3207Mt. St. Helens

IMG_3209Mt. Rainier

IMG_3210Mt. Adams

Tom Dick and Harry Mountain (post) was also clearly visible to the NE.
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Beyond the ridge viewpoint the trail traversed the hillside on the west side of the ridge climbing for another quarter mile past one more viewpoint of Mt. Hood to its end at the Hunchback Trail.
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A spur trail to the Devil’s Peak Lookout is just 500 feet after turning right onto the Hunchback Trail.
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The lookout is a little over 200 feet up this spur.
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The tower is available for use on a first come, first serve basis so there was a possibility that it was occupied but it turned out to be empty.
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Mt. Hood was visible from the lookout.
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I had gone ahead of Heather and Dominique who had joined us for the hike so I explored Devil’s Peak while I waited for them to arrive.
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IMG_3263Mt. Jefferson in some haze to the south.

IMG_3268Mt. Hood

IMG_3272Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness

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IMG_3300Clouds coming up the Salmon River Valley

IMG_3339Butterflies on the lookout.

IMG_3346One of several birds foraging in the bushes near the lookout.

It turned out that I had gotten quite a bit ahead and wound up spending about an hour and a half at the tower watching the clouds break up above while they also moved in below.
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After they joined me at the lookout they took a break as well then we headed back down. At the ridge viewpoint the view of Mt. Hood was better than it had been earlier, but not for the other Cascades.
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We continued back down stopping to gather some huckleberries to take to my Grandmas house. We wound up passing beneath the clouds losing Mt. Hood for the last mile and a half.
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It was a tough 8 mile hike given the elevation gain but the views were well worth the effort. That effort was also rewarded with a nice birthday dinner and a tasty piece of cake. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Devil’s Peak

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High Cascades Hiking Mt. Hood Area Oregon Trip report

Mirror Lake and Pioneer Bridle Trails

As our official 2017 hiking season came to a close, a break from the recent wet and cold weather provided us an opportunity to turn back to a hike we had be planning to do two weeks earlier. Possible icy road conditions had kept us from attempting the early morning drive to the Mirror Lake Trailhead near Government Camp, OR then.

The Mirror Lake Trail is one of the most popular trails in the Mt. Hood area and the parking area fills up fast so we wanted to get to the trailhead as early as possible. The Federal Highway Administration is in the process of moving the trailhead which is scheduled to be completed in the Fall of 2018 (click here for details).

We arrived before dawn and then discovered that the batteries were dead in my headlamp so we had to wait for some light before setting off on the trail which starts by crossing Camp Creek on a footbridge.
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A second footbridge crosses over Mirror Lake’s outlet creek.
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It was still fairly dark as we climbed up towards Mirror Lake which is just 1.4 miles from the trailhead. The short distance is part of the reason for the trails popularity as it makes it kid friendly. As it climbs the trail passes through some rock slides with limited views.
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Just before reaching the lake the trail splits providing a loop around the water. We went left crossing the outlet creek again and worked our way clockwise around the small lake.
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Across the lake we could see our goal for this hike, Tom Dick and Harry Mountain.
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One of the other things that makes this hike popular is that there is a view of Mt. Hood from the south end of Mirror Lake.
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It was too windy to have a reflection of Oregon’s tallest peak.
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When we came to a T-shaped junction on the west side of the lake we turned left toward Tom Dick and Harry Mountain and we were soon in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness.
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The trail traversed along a hillside passing through more rock slides where we heard some pikas and had a view across Highway 26 and back over our shoulders to Mt. Hood.
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Approximately a mile from the junction the trail turned sharply left at a huge rock pile.
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The trail then climbed gradually through an open forest to the rocky summit of the western most of three summits that earned the mountain three names.
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Two weeks before, snow had been down to Mirror Lake and the summit was covered but warmer weather had melted all of it. It was going to be another unseasonably warm bluebird day which allowed us a clear 360 degree view from the summit.
IMG_1077Mt. Hood and Mirror Lake with Mt. Adams in the background

IMG_1081From left to right: Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams.

IMG_1073Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness

IMG_1071Mt. Jefferson

IMG_1094Olallie Butte, Mt. Jefferson, and the top of Three Fingered Jack

IMG_1096The rest of Tom Dick and Harry Mt.

IMG_1099Lookout Mountain and Gunsight Butte in the Badger Creek Wilderness east of Mt. Hood.

There were a few other hikers at the summit (those that had working headlamps) but it was still early enough not to feel crowded. We spent a while sitting on the rocks and might have spent more time had it been a little less breezy. Instead of pulling layers out of our packs we headed back down. We passed a lot of people on their way up, but we also passed a number of local residents including a squirrel and a pika who both took a breaks from gathering food to pose for us.
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Any hike that involves a pika sighting is a success.

By the time we passed by Mirror Lake there was a steady stream of hikers coming uphill. Luckily the trail is wide enough to allow two way traffic in many places. IMG_1126

The roundtrip distance for the hike was 6.5 miles with 1500′ of elevation gain. That left us with plenty of time and enough gas in our tanks for a second stop.

That second stop was basically just across Highway 26. From the current Mirror Lake Trailhead we headed east on the highway for three quarters of a mile where we turned left opposite the western entrance to Mt. Hood Ski Bowl at a sign for the Glacier View Sno-Park. We parked at a gate after just .2 miles and followed a pointer for the Crosstown and Pioneer Bridle Trails.
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A confusion of trails met here but we followed the pointers and signs for the Pioneer Bridle Trail.
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After a very short distance on the Pioneer Bridle Trail we came to a fork where a sign on the path to the left identified it as the “Route of Barlow Road
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The 80 mile Barlow Road is a historic wagon road was built by Sam Barlow, Phillip Foster and their crews in 1846 as a new route on the Oregon Trail. Although it was steep and rough the route offered an alternative to the dangerous and expensive Columbia River passage. The ability of large wagons to pass over the Cascades to the Willamette Valley led to a significant increase in the number of emigrants to Oregon.

Our route followed the Pioneer Bridle Trail though so we took the signed right hand fork which soon crossed over the small outlet creek of Enid Lake.
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The Pioneer Bridle Trail spent most of it’s time close enough to Highway 26 that the sound of traffic on the road was consistent and for a short stretch was right next to the guard rail which didn’t make for the most peaceful hike. Just under a mile and a half from where we’d parked the Pioneer Bridle Trail passed under the abandoned Mt. Hood loop highway.
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Before descending to the tunnel we took a short spur path to the old road and turned right hoping to visit Little Zigzag Falls.
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After following the road for a tenth of a mile we arrived at the Little Zigzag Falls Trailhead (yes you can drive here).
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A short quarter mile family friendly path here follows Little Zigzag Creek to scenic Little Zigzag Falls.
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After visiting the falls, which we were lucky enough to have to ourselves for a bit, we returned to the Pioneer Bridle Trail. We turned right and passed through the tunnel continuing west on the trail.
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Not long after passing under the old highway the current highway began to fall away from the trail making this section a bit more serene. A fence along the way marked the spot of an old mine shaft.
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Approximately three quarters of a mile from the tunnel the trail split. This wasn’t shown on our map or in our guidebook but we forked right which wound up being the Original route of the Oregon Trail.
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The trails rejoined in under a half mile (the Pioneer Bridle Trail was often visible through the trees). We continued for approximately another 3/4 miles to the start of a series of switchbacks. We decided to end our hike here instead of descending for about a mile to the lower Pioneer Bridle Laurel Hill Trailhead.
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We stuck to the Pioneer Bridle Trail on the way back. The total distance for this hike was 7.4 miles with around 700′ of elevation gain. If we were to do it over as a stand alone hike we probably would have started at the lower trailhead and hiked up to Little Zigzag Falls and back due to how close Highway 26 was to the trail at the upper end but having done the Mirror Lake hike first it made more sense to start at the upper end.

For the day we put in 13.9 miles and we got a lot back. Clear views of 5 volcanoes (and the top of Three Fingered Jack), a lake with a mountain view, a waterfall, some history and best of all a Pika. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Mirror Lake and Pioneer Bridle Trails

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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

Gentians
Gentians

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!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157671573939900