This is one of my favorite hikes in the Mt. Hood Wilderness. Along the way the trail passes through lush forest and open meadows with lots of wildflowers. The best is saved for last however as you will not catch a single glimpse of Mt. Hood until the very end.
To reach this cache, take US Highway 26 to the "27 Road" at N45°18.709', W 121°53.420'. This is about 1.5 miles east of Rhododendron. Turn north here onto the 27 Road and follow the road as it winds up the hill. After about 5 miles you'll reach the trailhead at N45°19.474', W 121°51.432'. Be aware that many maps show the road continuing beyond this point for quite some distance. Trust me, it doesn't. Also, I personally wouldn’t attempt this drive without a fairly high clearance vehicle, but we did follow an Acura sedan all the way to the trailhead that seemed to make it OK. The Forest Service now requires a Northwest Forest Pass here so be sure you have one with you. They’re $5 for a day pass or $30 for an annual. You can get one on the way up the mountain at the Mt. Hood Info Center at about N45°21.607', W121°59.795', which is just before Wemme on Hwy 26. Or visit www.naturenw.org for a list of local places to purchase a pass.
Once at the trailhead take the Burnt Lake trail #772. After about a half mile you’ll reach the wilderness boundary where you’ll find a free trip permit for your hike. Continue on the Burnt Lake trail through thick forest and open meadows and then finally as it climbs to the ridge top at about the 3.3 mile mark. On this ridge top you'll find an intersection with the Zigzag Mountain trail and your first good view of Mt. Hood, which is just six miles away. Turn left at the intersection and follow the Zigzag Mountain trail a short distance up the ridge to the East Zigzag summit and the cache.
At one time there was a fire lookout station at the summit. It was built in the early 1930's and was of the L-4 cab type. Here's a photo of the station as it looked in the 1950's. There were approximately 5000 lookouts built during the first half of the century, many by the CCC during the depression. Quite a few still exist today. This one was destroyed in 1969 along with about 200 other Oregon lookouts that were deemed unneeded by the Forest Service.
If you have time and energy to spare after locating the cache the extra half hour hike down to Burnt Lake is well worth the effort. In fact an alternate route from the north is possible that goes by the lake first. I haven’t hiked that route so you’re on your own if you choose to go that way. It would be a bit longer with more elevation gain.
Keep in mind that once at the summit you’ll be totally exposed to the elements, and at this elevation any kind of weather is possible even in summer. Go well prepared including plenty of water, food, rain gear, cell phone, sunblock and mosquito repellant. Allow about 4-5 hours for a leisurely roundtrip. Print This Map if you like and take it with you.
For those into benchmark hunting there's supposedly one at the summit. I saw what looked like a mangled reference mark there but I couldn't read the text very well. If you click "Nearby Benchmarks" on this cache page the mark doesn't show up in the list for some reason. You can search for it by PID number though, try RC2262, RC2263 & RC2264. Ignore the 1970 driving directions as the road no longer goes all the way to Devil's Meadow campground.
Cache is a rubbermaid container, and the original contents include:
Harmonica, rabbit's foot, alien parachute guy, handy plastic AA battery holders, shell, X-Files fridge magnet.
I placed the cache on a sunny and perfectly calm day and didn't think to put a nice heavy rock on top of it. If someone could do that for me I'd appreciate it. The wind could easily whip accross this open ridge at 70 mph in a winter storm. Thanks.