From Rhododendron, travel on Highway 26 for 1.5 miles. Turn north onto Road 27. This road is paved at the beginning, but soon turns to gravel. Turn left onto Zigzag Mountain Road (FR 207). Follow this road for 4.5 miles to the end of the road, where there is a parking area for the various trails. Forest Route 207 can be pretty rough, especially towards the end. The best plan is to take a high clearance vehicle, although it can be done in a passenger car (we took a Subaru Outback, and there were several other cars parked at the trailhead). The trail begins on the west side of the parking lot.
This loop trip samples the pleasant scenery to the west of Mt. Hood, including ridgetop views of Mt. Hood and the Cascades, and access to the Cast Lake area. This trip makes for a good day hike, or a short backpacking trip.
From the parking lot, the trail (tr 789) descends briefly to a small creek crossing before starting a fairly steep climb. The trail ascends 600 feet, before dropping into another small valley and crossing a small creek. From the creek bottom, the trail once again ascends towards Horseshoe Ridge. The climb can be pretty steep in spots, so expect to get a good leg workout! The climb gains another 600 feet from the creek crossing to the top of the ridge, where it encounters the Zigzag Mountain Trail (Tr 775). Turn right at the trail junction.
After the junction, the trail tames as it sticks to the ridgetop. Views also open up as the meadows become more alpine in nature. Views extend to the north to Mt. Adams, Rainier, and St. Helens, along with Mt. Jefferson to the south, while the view to the west offers close-up views of Mt. Hood. The hike along the top of the ridgeline is very pleasant, and offers a few places to break and enjoy the views. The trail eventually meets another trail junction, stay right, and continue on the trail as it makes its way to the north side of the ridge and into the valley containing Cast Lake. During our mid-July hike (2008), the snow was still pretty well established on the northern slope of this ridge. Views extend down to Cast Lake through this section, before meeting the Devil's Tie (tr 767) Trail. To continue the loop, stay right, following the Devil's Tie Trail down a half mile until reaching yet another trail intersection, this time with Trail 772. Once again, stay right, as this trail travels through the Devils Creek valley. The trail passes alongside the pleasant Devils Meadow before the trailbed turns into an old roadbed for an easy walk back to your car.
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