Backpacking trip- Cast Creek Trail and Zigzag Lookout

Kallen at ZigZag lookout

The view of Mt. Hood from ZigZag Lookout was great.

Running isn’t the only thing I do outside. Over the weekend I went on a backpacking trip in Mt. Hood National Forest.

Compared to the backpacking trip I took in mid-July, hiking an abandoned railroad in the coast range, this was much more of a challenge.

Cast Creek Trailhead

Mom and I at the Cast Creek Trailhead

My mom, who is a much more experienced backpacker than I, but who hadn’t been on a backpacking trip in a number of years, planned the trip for us.

We started at Riley Horse Camp and the Cast Creek Trailhead. Despite the name, the hike was mostly devoid of water except for one small water crossing very early on.

For the first day, we hiked 6.5 miles to Cast Lake. It doesn’t seem like that much of a distance ( a little over a 10K or a quarter-marathon), but it was pretty strenuous with a heavy pack on.

We went from 2000 feet at Riley Horse Camp to about 4400 feet on the first day. Due to the elevation (I live at like… 200 fr above seawater), I was huffing and puffing.

Cast Creek hike rock

Hallooo down there! Mom was taking my picture from below

The hike itself was great and we got a great view our first day near the end of the hike. Our weather was perfect–although we were working pretty hard, it never felt too hot.

Near the end of our hike, we hopped onto the ZigZag Mt Trail before turning off for the campsites surrounding Cast Lake.

Our sources ( warned that the area might be crowded in the summer, but we had no evidence of that. In fact, we saw less than a dozen people during the hike up over the many hours it took us to get to the lake).

Once at the lake, we only saw a couple of fishermen on the other side, away from us.

Our campsite was surely a popular one, judging from the evidence, but it was so ticked away from the trail that any time I left, I’d nearly miss it, despite it being Right there. There were very small trails leading to it in the landscape dotted by beargrass and tall trees and it was very secluded feeling. However, it had a great view of the lake and was only a very short hike away from a good spot to pump fresh water.

Every year Jason and I purchase another item for backpacking, slowly reducing old hand-me-downs or equipment we borrow.

Our water filter is still pretty new, as were the trekking poles I was using, but the big purchase this year was our tent.

It’s the REI Quarter Dome 2, and I love it. I haven’t yet tested it in wet conditions as this was only the third time I’ve slept in it, but I’m so happy with the purchase.

It’s quite small–there is only 28.7 square feet of floor space, but it has worked perfectly so far. For bigger adults, perhaps it would be too small, but I’ve been comfy every time.

During our last backpacking trip, Jason and I fit a total of 5 people in our tent to play a card game. It was pretty squished, but it happened!

Mom and I were also quite comfortable and it was the first time I put the rainfly on the tent. The original forcast called for some rain, but luckily that changed and we just had an absolutely gorgeous day instead.

The lake was quite peaceful– it was very quiet. We thought the mosquito population might be booming, but it was not even a problem. In fact, I didn’t get a single mosquito bite, which is a new record, although I did get a pretty nasty bug bite of another sort.

After the grueling and breathless hike uphill to the lake, we were pretty tired. I was pretty excited to successfully hang a bear bag high in on a tree branch. My throwing game is pretty bad and I usually leave the task to others. But success!

We enjoyed our teriyaki chicken and rice dinner and during twilight we heard the loud whoots of an owl. So cool!

Pretty soon, we fell into bed. Our next day, we planned to take a spur hike up to ZigZag lookout (about 4600 feet of elevation), which promised great views at the top.

Waking up the next morning, I was definitely sore, but I’m certain that freeze-dried apple crisp is the best breakfast.

Early in the morning, we went down by the lake again to pump more water. The fish were still jumping, a sight we enjoyed the previous day, but the coolest site was a very large rabbit that hopped out of the bushes about 10 feet from where we were sitting.

Zigzag with daypacks

Heading up to Zigzag with only daypacks

He headed down to the water before spying us. Startled, he quickly hopped away, but it was an awesome sight.

We hiked out of the Cast Creek Lake area, back to the zigzag trail junction. Nearby, we stowed our large backpacking packs and grabbed our daypacks and essentials for the trip to the lookout.

The trail was steep, but without the packs, we felt pretty good and the hike went by fast. The views at the top were amazing and we were close enough to mount hood to see the ski-lift clearly.

Top of Zigzag

Hanging out on the top of Zigzag

There is very little snow left after this extremely hot and dry year we’ve had and the mountain was unusually rocky.

We had a snack up at the top and enjoyed the view. That high up, we also had cell service so we had to send some pics to family. Hope everyone was jealous!

There was a small campsite at the top, which would be an amazing spot to stay, although a little far from water.

The view was so amazing from parts of that hike. We could see a whole landscape of forest on rolling hills, it took your breath away. Far in the distance, we could barely spot the skyscrapers of Portland, which was incredible.

After heading down, we picked up our packs and headed for home.

Compared to the day before, the hike was much easier. It was mostly downhill and we weren’t gasping for air.

However, already sore from yesterday the downhill was a little tiring on knees and legs.

We did get to see a lot of the surroundings though and it was almost sad when we popped out at the trailhead again.

Total Miles: about 13.6 (including side trip to ZigZag)
Total Climbing: Approx 2970 feet


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