Distance: 8.8 miles
Difficulty: Weekend Warrior
Directions: From Portland, take Highway 26 toward Mount Hood for 42 miles. In the town of Zigzag, turn left onto East Lolo Pass Road. Take a right onto Road 18, which is signed for Lost Lake. Make a hairpin right onto paved Road 16. Turn right at a large intersection onto Forest Road 1650 and drive to the trailhead at the end of the road.
If you're looking for a silver lining to offset the gut punch of all the recent wildfires, consider the 8.8-mile out-and-back to Elk Cove along Vista Ridge. On Aug. 26, 2011, a lightning strike on the north side of Mount Hood started a smolder that would eventually blow up into the now-infamous Dollar Lake Fire. By the time autumn rains extinguished the blaze, it had consumed more than 6,300 acres of forest.
Hikers would occasionally check in on the area. The first couple of years, there wasn't much to report. But then came the avalanche lilies. The ethereal, white flowers all but push receding snowfields up the mountains every spring. And because of the fire, Vista Ridge is carpeted with the spectacular bloom for a few weeks toward the end of May and beginning of June each year. Go watch a forest being reborn and feel better about things.