On a clear day, Zig Zag Mountain’s 5,007-foot peak provides incredible vistas, highlighted by an up-close and personal view of Oregon’s tallest mountain, Mount Hood, but also featuring distant glimpses of some of the other snowcapped mountains of the Northwest; Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, Mount Rainier and Mount Thielsen. In addition, the peak is accessible in a matter of hours and your ascent tends to only be shared by a few other hikers. However, the reward doesn’t come without a price; aching muscles and sweat-drenched clothing will be casualties as you climb nearly 3,000 feet in 5 miles.
There are a number of ways to get to Zig Zag Mountain, one of which is to approach the summit from the southern side via Horseshoe Ridge. Horseshoe Ridge Trail brings you into the Mount Hood Wilderness, zigzagging between Douglas firs, whose stone grey bark provides a stunning contrast against the vivid green ferns, clovers and other vegetation that have overrun the ridge. However, before you get to any of that, you will be faced with the only major dilemma of this hike: crossing Lost Creek.
Lost Creek is a tributary of the Sandy River, and although it is only 10 to 15 feet wide and no more than three feet deep, there is no bridge to cross on, which forces a creative crossing. You can either follow the creek until you find a sturdy log that crosses over, of which there are plenty, or wade through the water. Keep in mind logs and wet rocks can be slippery, so proceed with caution.
From Lost Creek, the hike is an unwavering, calf-burning ascent, but it is worth it when you emerge from the woods onto the sun-covered Zig Zag Mountain Trail. Follow this trail up and you will be looking at the peak-filled panorama that Zig Zag Mountain has to offer.
If you want to continue on, you can keep following Zig Zag Mountain Trail deeper into the Mount Hood Wilderness, where you’ll be able to find a number of backcountry campsites. If you’re up for it, you can turn this trip into a long loop via Sandy River Trail, which connects with Zig Zag Mountain Trail and leads back to the trailhead of Horseshoe Ridge.