Hunchback Mountain Trail on Mt. Hood

This mountain hike in Mt. Hood National Forest is an excellent conditioning trail that takes travelers up through part of the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness and concludes with a series of stunning vistas.

You’ll find the trail outside of the small town of Zigzag, close to the the Zigzag Ranger Station on Highway 26. The trailhead can be found on the south side of the parking lot, and starts off with some intense switchbacks. The foliage is rich here under a canopy of Douglas-fir, western red-cedar, western hemlock, and big-leaf maple. In summer months the encroaching branches of ferns and salal will wave hello from the trail edges.

After two miles of switchbacks you’ll start to encounter several viewpoints. The first outlooks come when the trail swings out onto an exposed patch of rimrock, and offers a sweeping view of the Salmon River valley. Just slightly farther down the trail is the second viewpoint, nicknamed “the Rockpile,” which captures the north view of Mount Hood. There’s no shame in calling it a day here, and this point is known as a good place to call an end to the uphill work.

But if you choose to press on, know that a third outlook is another two miles up past yellow evergreen violets, western trillium, Oregon oxalis, and numerous rhododendrons. In the summertime it’s a beautiful meadow to walk through. Silver firs now enter the forest mix as you ascend and walk across a rocky catwalk. You’ll come across an outcropping (known as the Great Pyramid) pointing to the south, allowing you to take in the Salmon River, Salmon Butte, and Mount St. Helens all at once.

Past this point is when the rugged part of the trail starts, with a mix of rocky mossy ridges and rough paths. Your options open up at this point, including heading on to Devil's Peak (which is open, but hasn’t been maintained in years). You can also take a loop by leaving a bike at the lower end of the Old Salmon River Trail, hiking up the Hunchback Mountain Trail, then down Green Canyon Way to connect with the Salmon River and reclaiming the bike to loop back to the parking lot. There’s also simple option of turning around and making the trip and there-and-back hike.

Directions from the Forest Service from Portland:

Travel 17.5 miles east of Sandy on US Hwy 26. Turn right (south) into Zigzag Ranger Station and park at the east end of the lot. The Trailhead is on the south side of the lot.

The trail is generally open from April 2 - November 30.

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7 years ago

Sounds wonderful, Nastacia! Can't wait to get up there. :)

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