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High Cascades Hiking Mt. Hood Area Oregon Trip report

West Zigzag Mountain – 7/04/2020

We continued our 4th of July tradition of hiking by checking off another of William L. Sullivan’s featured hikes, West Zigzag Mountain (Hike #68 “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Northwest Oregon & Southwest Washington” 4th edition). He actually describes two hikes, a 1.8 mile round trip to Castle Canyon and an 11+ mile round trip to the former West Zigzag lookout site. We chose the longer hike for this visit which starts from Zigzag Mountain Trailhead.
IMG_8644Parking area is just a wide spot in the road.

Two trails start at the trailhead, the Zigzag Mountain Trail heads uphill to the left while the Road 19 Trail follows the closed road to the right. The Road 19 trail connects with the Castle Canyon Trail in 1.1 miles.
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After a short steep climb the Zigzag Mountain Trail arrived at a wilderness permit box and Mt. Hood Wilderness map.
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After filling out one of the self-issue permits we began to climb. Our last two hikes had cumulative elevation gains right around 4000′ so today’s 3100′ was a little better. It also helped that unlike the trails on our previous two climbs the Zigzag Mountain trail utilized a number of switchbacks to keep the grade much more manageable.
IMG_8651Zigzag Mountain Trail entering the Mt. Hood Wilderness.

The climb was forested with a few flowers present at the lower elevations.
IMG_8656Washington lilies

IMG_8662Tiger lilies

IMG_8663Self-heal

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IMG_8696Salal

IMG_8709Candy sticks

IMG_8717Queen’s cup and bunchberry

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As we climbed we began to see a fair amount of rhododendron in bloom.
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The trail made 15 switchbacks over the first two miles before straightening out for a bit along a ridge.
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We passed a small rock garden with some penstemon along the ridge.
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The ridge was a bit more open and here we found some beargrass and lupine blooming. There were also opportunities for views but it had clouded up overnight and those clouds weren’t burning off very quickly.
IMG_8783Beargrass

IMG_8785Lupine

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The trail spent little time on the ridge top and instead rose up and down switching sides of the ridge as it passed under rock outcrops.
IMG_8796Trillium along the north facing side of the ridge.

IMG_8798Mushroom

IMG_8803Pinesap

IMG_8806Passing a rock outcrop.

IMG_8814West Zigzag Mountain from the trail.

IMG_8817Back to the north facing side.

IMG_8819Now on the south facing side.

Near the 2.5 mile mark we came to a rocky viewpoint where we had a nice view of West Zigzag Mountain ahead but not of much else due to the clouds.
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IMG_8828Sub-alpine mariposa lily at the viewpoint.

Another series of switchbacks followed before the trail straightened out following the ridge of Zigzag Mountain near the 3 mile mark. After another three quarters of a mile of climbing the trail began a series of ups and downs along the ridge. This lasted for the final 2.5 miles to the former lookout site although none of them were very long or too steep. While there weren’t any wildflowers meadows on this hike there were quite a few flowers to be seen along the way.
IMG_8850Lupine and paintbrush

IMG_8864Beargrass and rhododendron

IMG_8867Huckleberry

IMG_8871Cliff beardtongue

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IMG_8879Larkspur

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IMG_8905Phlox

IMG_8909More cliff beardtongue

IMG_8917Penstemon

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IMG_8919On the ridge just before reaching the lookout site.

Around the 5.25 mile mark we came to what would have been a great view of Mt. Hood if not for the clouds.
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After crossing the ridge the trail emerged from the forest near some rock outcrops that framed the forest below.
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We followed a short path led to the top of the southern outcrop where we had a view over to the former lookout site.
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IMG_8928Former lookout site in the tress to the left.

We sat on the outcrop and watched the clouds pass by.
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With the limited views outward we focused our attention down picking out a few flowers that we hadn’t seen on other parts of the hike.
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IMG_8932Tufted saxifrage

IMG_8941Arnica

IMG_8947Lousewort

IMG_8946Some of the rocks in Castle Canyon

When we started to get a little chilly we decided to head back, but first we had to visit the former lookout site to ensure that we connected this hike with our 2012 hike.
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IMG_8952View of the outcrop from the lookout site.

IMG_8955Raceme pussytoes

We returned the way we’d come spotting a few flowers that we’d missed going the other direction.
IMG_8962Valerian

IMG_8964Salmonberry

IMG_8967Bleeding heart

IMG_8972Violet

IMG_8977Monotropa uniflora aka ghost plant

Despite the clouds never burning off (we did eventually see a couple of slivers of blue sky) it was a good day for the hike. The flowers were good and the clouds kept the temperature down and the gradual grade of the trail kept the 11.4 miles from feeling difficult. We wound up passing 8 other hikers on our return trip which is a pretty low number for a Saturday hike on a trail as close to Portland as this one is so that was also a plus as we are still doing our best to practice proper social distancing. We capped off our 4th by watching the fireworks in our neighborhood with our son and my parents. Happy Trails!

Flickr: West Zigzag Mountain

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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.
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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”.
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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.
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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.
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Columbine and paintbrush
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Beargrass
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Lupine
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Paintbrush
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Lousewort before blooming
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We turned left on the Zigzag Mountain Trail passing through more beargrass meadows and gaining views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson.
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We followed the trail up to a ridge top where a rocky viewpoint added three Washington volcanoes to the view.
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Mt. St. Helens
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Mt. Rainier
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Mt. Adams
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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.
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We passed above Cast Lake passing a junction with the Devil’s Tie Trail to the Cast Lake Trail.
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A half mile hike along this trail brought us to Cast Lake.
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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.
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We left Cast Lake and continued our loop on the Zigzag Mountain Trail and quickly arrived at the Cast Creek Trail junction.
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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.
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The lower portion of the meadow was full of Phlox and yet to bloom lupine.
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As we climbed higher Mt. Hood came into view and the variety of flowers increased.
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Several other Cascade peaks were visible from the ridge.
Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams to the north.
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Mt. Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack to the south.
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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.
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Burnt Lake below Mt. Hood
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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.
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Mt. Hood

The rhododendron bloom along the upper portion of the trail was one of the best we’ve witnessed.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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The Cast Creek Trail ended at a day use area at the far end of Riley Horse Camp.
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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!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157669434295252