Views · Wildflowers
A Northwet Forest Pass or other valid pass is required to park at the Horseshoe Trailhead. A bridge over the Sandy River on Lolo Pass is closed when the first snows fall, making it a much longer hike to the trailhead. The trail is generally closed by snow from late November to mid-May. Snows linger at the higher elevation into June. If trying to do the Horseshoe, Zigzag, Cast Creek loop, be aware that snow lingers on the Zigzag section towards Cast Creek on the north side of Zigzag Mountain.
Horseshoe Ridge Trail is a gradual climb up to the ridge line of Zigzag Mountain. The trailhead begins just before the entrance to the Riley Horse Campground on Forest Road 1825-380 on the north side of Lost Creek. Hikers can also park in the day use area in the campground. This road is closed and decommissioned just past Joe Graham.
The original trail then heads southwest along Lost Creek for 3/4 of a mile and crosses over the creek. The bridge was hit by a log and is not presently in place, so a ford is necessary. There may be logs to cross on, but use caution. The trail then starts a steady climb of switchbacks up Horseback Ridge. At mile 2.2, and again at mile 2..5, the trail crosses an old decommissioned logging road (Forest Road 380.
At mile 3.3, the trail drops slightly into the headwaters of a drainage in a large switchback, climbs back up the ridge and follows it up to the intersection with Zigzag Mountain Trail #775
. Horseshoe Ridge offers occasional valley views through the trees, but the most stunning views are found on Zigzag Mountain Trail just 1000 feet north of the Horseshoe Ridge trail intersection.
You can hike back down Horseshoe Ridge or make a longer loop by going north on Zigzag Mountain Trail #775
for 1.5 mile and heading left (north) on the Cast Creek Trail #773
. This makes for a 11.3-mile loop back to Joe Graham Horse Camp. Cast Creek Trail is slightly longer, but is slightly less steep than Horseshoe Ridge.
True to its name, Horseshoe Ridge Trail and the Horseshoe - Cast Creek loop are popular with equestrians, especially those camping in the nearby horse camp. Expect some horse poop on the trail. If you encounter horses, give them the right of way. Make sure your dog is leashed and under control and step to the downhill side of the trail if possible. Speak to the rider in a friendly, relaxed manner to help keep the horse calm.
Flora & Fauna
Horseshoe Ridge begins on an area known as Old Maid flat which is a volcanic mud flow from Mt. Hood down the Sandy River Valley. Lodgepole is thick near the bottom, interspersed with Douglas fir, western hemlock and large western red cedar near the Lost Creek crossing. As you climb the trail, you transition into more mountain hemlock, silver fir, and noble fir, Salmon berry and thimble berry are found along the lower segment.
Bear grass and rhododendrons are found throughout. Salal, sword ferns, and Oregon grape are predominant understory in the thick forest setting. In the lower elevations, the various green moss (fungi) famous on Old Maid Flat, cover the ground, rocks and trees. Mushrooms abound in season, but be careful as not all are edible!
Near the top of the trail, wildflowers abound as you approach Zigzag Mountain. Indian paintbrush, columbine, and lupine provide a splash of color in the open mountain ridge lines.
Shared By: Kathleen Walker
by Alan Nikander