A tough, mid-elevation hike near Mt. Hood was the order of the day in early July. What better way to enjoy the sun and mid-50 degree temperatures than a wilderness trail to an old fire lookout site?
The trail began near the little town of Zigzag. West Zigzag Mountain’s summit (4,500 feet) rises 3,000 feet above the north side of Highway 26. The first 3 1/2 miles switchbacked up the west side of the Mountain, gaining about 2,800 feet.
The lower portion of the trail was lined with salal, big leaf maples, ferns and Oregon grape. At roughly the 3,000-foot level, the vegetation in the lower canopy changed to beargrass, rhododendrons and vine maple.
The next two miles of the trail romped up and down the top of the ridge heading east until reaching the final destination, an old lookout site.
There were some open rock gardens along the way with paintbrush, penstemon and larkspur. The only remains of the fire lookout were the concrete foundations and rusty nails.
The reward of reaching the summit was splendid views of the Zigzag River Valley. A short distance from the lookout site was also a grand overlook of Mt. Hood, seemingly close enough to touch.
All in all the hike was 11 miles in length with roughly 3,700 feet of total elevation gain. It was a very enjoyable trek on a nice summer day, a fine example of a nice conditioning hike.