There’s nothing worse than humping a heavy load all day only to set up camp in the middle of a plain old forest. When you commit to a long haul, you want to end your day on the shores of a rushing river or a crystalline lake, like, say, the four striking acres of deep, clear blue that make up Burnt Lake in Mount Hood National Forest.
ROUTE: You could take the short route to Burnt Lake (a mere four-mile hike from the Burnt Lake North trailhead), but traveling the road less traveled will make that inaugural dip in the spring-fed oasis all the more pleasurable. Just remember to start early to secure one of the seven primitive camping spots at the lake. The hike begins on Burnt Lake Trail and wanders through Devil’s Meadow, where you’ll be privy to lush wild pink rhododendrons and sweet huckleberries. As you climb northeast toward the ridge of 4,971-foot East Zigzag Mountain, stands of mountain hemlock and lodgepole pine keep watch over a rich understory of tiger lily, bear grass, and goldenrod flowers. Savor the landscape and the relatively easy hiking while you can, because as soon as you reach Devil’s Tie Trail (#776) you’ll have to tackle a steep half-mile-long section to the top of East Zigzag. To the east, a soul-stirring 180-degree view of towering Mount Hood is your reward. That and sparkling Burnt Lake, beckoning from 800 feet below—a mere 1.1 miles farther along the trail. Maps: Mt. Hood/NW Oregon Trail Map.
DIRECTIONS: Take U.S. 26 east toward Mound Hood. At 16.4 miles past Sandy, turn left on East Lolo Pass Rd and follow it to East Mountain Dr. Turn right. The road dead-ends at the trailhead .05 mile ahead.