“Most hike lower Burnt Lake Trail #772 to the lake and back to see a serene mountain lake and a Mt. Hood view.
— Kathleen Walker
Fall Colors · Lake · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers
Burnt Lake is a popular destination in the Mt. Hood Wilderness that is accessed by the lower section of Burnt Lake Trail #772
. A round trip to the lake and back is about 7.5 miles. Views of Mt. Hood are found on the southwest side of the lake.
Burnt Lake Trail is generally closed by snow from mid-November to late April or late May. The snow gate on Road 1825 is closed when there is a foot of snow.
Need to Know
A Northwest Forest Pass or other valid pass is required to park at the trailhead. A self-issuing Wilderness Permit is required for each group and groups are limited to 12 heartbeats (including pets). If planning to rest at the lake, you must hang out in a designated site to prevent damage to this fragile area. Wildflowers are best in late June and July.
This hike covers only the lower part of the Burnt Lake Trail #772
trail that otherwise climbs Zigzag Mountain and terminates above Highway 26 on Enola Hill. Hikers can park in the lot at the end of Forest Road 1825-109 and obtain a self-issued wilderness permit just past the trailhead.
The first third of a mile of trail follows an overgrown logging road through an old timber sale unit with a forest cover of alder reclaiming the road. The next 1.5 miles of trail travels between two tributaries of Lost Creek, the one on your right (south) drains Burnt Lake and the larger stream to your left (north) is Lost Creek. In various drainages, each with small tributaries, you'll see fire-scarred snags and the occasional old growth cedar that survived the area's fire history.
During the first 2.5 miles, the trail climbs about 1000 feet to a user-made spur that leads down to some falls and a campsite on Lost Creek. Just past there, the Burnt Lake Trail makes a large switchback southwest, towards the lake basin, climbing about 600 feet in the last mile crossing a large creek drainage. The trail then skirts around a narrow, rocky section before approaching the lake.
The trail skirts the right (northwest) side of the lake with the best Mt. Hood views and photo opportunities towards the far end. At that point, there is a brushy trail (Burnt Lake Loop Trail) that continues counter-clockwise around the southeast side of the lake accessing additional day use and campsites, one with a large rock outcropping.
Both day users and overnight campers need to stay in designated use sites to minimize use impacts and protect ongoing rehabilitation and restoration areas around the lake shore. Lettered sites (A,B,C etc.) are for day use only. Numbered sites are for day or overnight users.
When the trail reconnects with Burnt Lake Trail #772
take a right to head back the way you came.
Hikers should take a paper map with them. Options include the Government Camp USGS quad (available for download online), the Mt. Hood Wilderness map, the Mt. Hood National Geographic Map, or something of similar scale. Nearby developed camping options include Lost Creek and McNeil Campgrounds.
Flora & Fauna
The trail highlights second growth Cascade forests with predominantly Douglas fir, western hemlock, and western red cedar along the lower drainages. Alders and vine maple provide color in fall. Mountain hemlock, noble fir, and silver fir are found up near the lake above 4,000 feet. Ground cover is sword fern, Oregon grape, salal, oxalis, salmonberry, and maidenhair fern. Spirea surrounds the lake providing a sea of pink along the lakeshore.
History & Background
John Sparks from Oregon Hikers researched that Burnt Lake is named after a 1904 forest fire. A homesteader accidentally started another even larger fire in 1906 that burned around the lake. While most of the large trees were killed by those fires, there are remnant old giants in the drainages and a few fire scarred snags still standing.