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
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.