Why it’s great: Ascending the sharply rising hills at the edge of the Salmon Huckleberry Wilderness near Zigzag, the Cool Creek Trail leads hardy hikers to one final summer destination in the Cascades: a retired fire lookout atop 5,045-foot Devils Peak. Though ladder-steep in places (the trail gains a lung-sapping 3,200 feet of elevation), the spongy, pine needle–laden path set beneath quiet stands of towering hemlocks and firs coaxes you onward. Rich with leafy rhododendrons and lantern-like blooms of bear grass in summer, the path also offers patches of huckleberries, which can ripen into mid-September. The old lookout now serves as a first-come, first-served shelter. While second-growth trees have obscured some sightlines, the rocky perch still reveals incredible vistas of Hood, Adams, and Jefferson.

Don’t forget: The lookout can be accessed from a shorter trail via FS Road 2613, but this requires a long, car-eating drive from Trillium Lake.

Post-hike watering hole: Zigzag Mountain Store and Café Part general store, part riverside diner, this pine-lined eatery sells out of homemade favorites like meatloaf sandwiches and huckleberry cobbler by early afternoon. But the burgers—topped with lip-smacking pickled onions and garlic aioli and set in fresh ciabatta rolls—are fine standbys. A pair of taps offer micro favorites like Lompoc or Fort George lager, while coolers stash selections like Heineken and Pabst. 70171 E Hwy 26, Rhododendron; 503-622-7681 

Trailhead directions: Follow US 26 east to Zigzag and turn right onto Still Creek Road. Drive a short distance and turn right onto poorly signed, but paved, road 12A. Continue approximately 3 miles; when the pavement ends, continue a short distance on the dirt road and look for the Cool Creek Trailhead sign on the right. Northwest Forest Pass required. 

This article appeared in the September 2013 issue of Portland Monthly.
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