August 4, 2012

Summit views worth the mundane hike up West Zigzag Mt. Trail

Mt. Hood from West Zigzag Mt. with East Zigzag Mt. in the foreground
The West Zigzag Mountain Trail is one of those trails that just can't make up its mind. With a 1,180 foot elevation gain in 2.3 miles, a moderate grade would take a hiker from trailhead to summit. This trail, however, begins climbing steeply after a brief downhill stretch then levels out and even drops at a a steady incline for a significant section of the hike, before again climbing to the summit of West Zigzag Mountain. No matter how frustrating it can be to climb and give up elevation before climbing again, West Zigzag's summit views are well worth it.

Foundation of what was once a fire lookout atop West Zigzag Mt., looking West
toward Zigzag and Wemme
The trail meanders through a second growth forest carpeted for much of the way with thick underbrush. Rhododendrons line much of the trail, which offers no good views until the summit of West Zigzag is reached.

Looking South toward the Salmon Huckleberry Wilderness
from former lookout site

Once the end of  West Zigzag Mt. Trail is reached, turn left onto Zigzag Mt. Trail. Not far from the junction is a scenic viewpoint with the remnants of an old fire lookout. The view from here to the south includes the Salmon Huckleberry Wilderness and the tiny hamlet of Rhododendron. To the right of the former lookout sight is a cliff top where there are good views to the west. Below the cliffs is forest, where the rock outcroppings of Castle Canyon rise above the trees.

Outcroppings rising above forest in Castle Canyon

The Zigzag Mountain Trail continues past the former fire lookout and cliffs to an opening in the forest, which lends views of  East Zigzag Mountain and Mt. Hood. Just beyond this viewpoint, Zigzag Mountain Trail begins to drop toward the valley below. I headed back to the trail junction and back to West Zigzag trailhead, which is near the Burnt Lake trailhead.

Cliff lined face of West Zigzag Mt.
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