backpack: Mount Hood – Burnt Lake
Two night backpacking trip at Burnt Lake, with a day hike to East Zigzag Mountain
- distance & elevation gain to campsite: 3.3 miles, 1,400 ft. gain
- day hike options: East Zigzag Mountain, Cast Lake
- best months: September-October
- location: Mount Hood Wilderness; nearest town: Zigzag
- land management: Mount Hood National Forest: Zigzag Ranger Station
- trail conditions: Burnt Lake Trail #772
- hike description: OregonHikers.org
- permits: self-issued at wilderness checkpoint
- trailhead pass: NW Forest Pass required
The weekend before this trip, I did a day hike to Burnt Lake and partway up East Zigzag Mountain and scouted for campsites for a return trip. After a week of heavy rain (and snow on Mount Hood), the conditions were quite different just one week later.
Five friends and I hiked in on Saturday via the Burnt Lake North trailhead. The first two miles of trail go through a dense forest, with hollowed-out cedar snags left from a wildfire in 1906. After a sharp turn in the trail, take the side trail on the left to a viewpoint of a waterfall on Lost Creek.
The trail crosses several tributary creeks before ascending along a ridge with openings and occasional views of Mount Hood.
At Burnt Lake, there are seven designated campsites tucked into the trees (none have views of the lake), with day use areas spread alongside the lake shore. Note: campfires are not allowed within half a mile of the lake.
We set up camp at site #7 on the east side of the lake. We heard from hikers that a bear was sighted on the trail up to the lake, and we had heard the same thing last weekend. I brought my bear canister for food storage, and we hung the rest of our food and all toiletries in the trees about 100 feet from our camp… just in case.
We never did see the bear, but there were plenty of opportunistic chipmunks zipping around our campsite all weekend. They are not afraid of people at all, and would pester us while we ate, even running across our feet, with one attempt to run up my leg. Obviously, they are used to getting fed. Please don’t feed wildlife, no matter how cute they are or how much they seem to be begging for a bite. They really become a nuisance, and our food isn’t good for them.
day hike to East Zigzag Mountain: 2.8 miles 800 ft gain
In the morning, two of us got up early to see the sunrise over Burnt Lake. There wasn’t much color in the sky but it was pretty anyway.
After breakfast, we did a day hike to the top of East Zigzag Mountain, with views of five volcanoes: Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, and Mount Jefferson. Nice fall color was seen in the huckleberry shrubs on East Zigzag Mountain.
hike out: 3.6 miles with 1,400 ft loss
We woke up on the second morning to a light rain that started and stopped a couple of times, just enough to get our tents wet. We packed up our gear and hiked out.