The hike to Burnt Lake in the Mt Hood National Forest is perfect for novice and intermediate backpackers. If you're looking for more exercise you can drop your packs off at the lake and continue up the thigh-burning climb to the summit of East Zigzag Mountain. Regardless of your fitness goals, the views and scenery are epic and the relatively small crowds make this trip one of the best one-nighters you can sign up for. This hike contains show-stopping views, assuming Mt Hood isn't socked in with clouds. It's worth checking the forecast before you go.
What Makes It Great
The view of Mount Hood from the lake is magnificent and is made even better by the reflection of the mountain on the water. It is a short hike, but is so far down Lolo Pass Road that it stays fairly secluded. The hike to the lake is short and easy, but for novice backpackers or those with limited time, this is a very nice spot to camp for the night. There are seven designated campsites, though the hiker should be warned that they often fill up quickly in the summer.
The entrance into the forest from the trailhead is a classic Northwest Forest hike and is incredibly majestic. The walk through the forest leads to the lake and the wonderful view of the mountain described above. The hike to the lake is quite flat, but a challenge waits if the hiker decides to take on the hike up Zigzag Mountain.
The hike itself is a classic hike in the Mount Hood area, with dense forest, occasional creeks, and canyon vistas. The big view is uncovered when you get to the lake and Mt Hood announces its presence with authority. The trail makes its way all the way around Burnt Lake. The best views are on the south end of the lake, though you can get a good look from lots of spots along the trail that surrounds the lake. If you are camping here, it is good to be aware that some of the really prime spots are reserved for day use. The continuing hike to the top of East Zigzag Mountain affords one of the best panoramic views in the forest. If you and your friends would like to stop for food or drinks, The Zigzag Inn offers family-friendly casual dining with a full compliment of wine, beer, and cocktails. You can find the inn on Hwy 26 on the corner where you turn onto Lolo Pass Road.
Who is Going to Love It
At only 6 total miles out and back, most will be capable of hiking three miles in to the lake. This is a perfect trip for those who are new to day hiking or those who want to try out backpacking. For those who are a bit more experienced or who want more of a work out, the Burnt Lake Trail (#772) dead ends onto the Zigzag Mountain Trail (#775). The trail branches off to the right, which will take you up the east slope of the East Zigzag Mountain to the summit, which comes at about mile 4.7. For those who want to continue up the mountain and aren’t used to carrying their camping gear on their backs, they are welcome to drop their packs by the lake. It is a pleasant place to camp and after the steep hike up the mountain, and the amazing view is quite a thing to wake up to.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
For this hike, the best place to start is the North Burnt Lake Trailhead. To get there from Portland, take US 26 18 miles east of Sandy. Turn left on Lolo Pass Road for 4 miles and turn right on Forest Road 1828, which is labeled “Campgrounds amp; Trailheads.” After about .6 miles, turn right on Forest Road 1825 and stay on that for 2.2 miles and stay straight on 1825 past the left turn towards the Ramona Falls Trailhead. After 2.7 miles, you will encounter a fork in the road and should keep to the right until you get to the trailhead. Starting in December, there is a gate at the turn for Forest Road 1825 and will stay closed for a couple of months.