Just over an hour outside from Portland, Mount Hood’s accessibility makes it easy for residents to escape the grind of city life and enjoy a weekend in the mountain’s remote wilderness area. The Mount Hood Wilderness, which stretches 67,320 acres over a wide variety of scenic landscapes, offers great adventures for both backpackers and day hikers alike. This particular 19.3-mile trip, which highlights Burnt Lake and Paradise Park, is best to be broken up over two or three days, as it includes steep climbs and rough trails, not to mention an unlimited number of incredible viewpoints that you won’t want to rush past. If time is an issue for your trip, you can also access Paradise Park with a popular day trip from Timberline Lodge.
Along the way there are a number of trailside backcountry campsites that make this trip easy for backpackers, the first of which is found 3 miles into the hike, at Burnt Lake. Burnt Lake, thw size of which will remind you more of a pond than a lake, is known for its view of Mount Hood and the stunning reflection of the mountain that the lake’s crystal clear water creates. The lake is a great spot to relax, take a quick dip and, if you’re a fisherman, try your luck at getting a bite. The lake is buzzing with the splashes of hungry rainbow trout. If you decide to spend the night, there are five sites that allow camping along the lake, the most scenic of which is found on the lake’s west side. Keep in mind that there won’t be a good spot to camp for over 6.5 miles.
From Burnt Lake, the journey to Paradise Park can be difficult with a backpack full of camping supplies. The eastern portion of Zigzag Mountain Trail is not well-maintained, and you will find yourself pushing through brush and maneuvering over fallen trees as you hike. However, you’ll be rewarded once you emerge out of the tree line into the dreamy meadows of Paradise Park.
Paradise Park serves as a medium for the mountain, between the dense woodland of Mount Hood National Forest and the jagged grey rocks and snowy white streaks of Mount Hood itself. The result of this is a wide variety of landscapes in a relatively small area, which include colorful grassy meadows, icy glacial streams that crash into narrow waterfalls, dusty fields and steep sand dunes. Along with this diversity, since most of Paradise Park is above the timberline, the area is full of huge open areas that provide breathtaking vistas in every direction, highlighted by an up-close and personal view of Mount Hood.
Paradise Park also has an abundance of flat, shady plots of land that make for great campsites. Throughout the northern section of Paradise Park, starting just before Lost Creek, these sites frequently pop up along the trail, making it easy to set up camp and spend an entire day exploring Paradise Park. Subjectively speaking, the best of these is found just west of the intersection of Lost Creek and Paradise Park Loop Trail 757, and comes with enough flat land to fit two tents. The spots sits on a 20-foot cliff that looks over Lost Creek and offers a great view of Mount Hood.
The hike down from Paradise Park is easy after the initial ascent, following a gradual decline down through the forest to the Ramona Falls Trailhead where there is a large parking lot. From there, it is 2 miles back to Burnt Lake Trailhead via small forest roadways.