This is a long, rugged 9+ mile one-way trail that traverses much of the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness and isn't for the faint of heart or legs! To add to the weight of this undertaking, there's little to no water along this trail, and blow down isn't uncommon. Most runners will opt to to leave a vehicle at the Kinzel Lake Trailhead before hitting the trail.
The trail begins at the parking lot of the Zigzag Ranger District - interestingly the Hunchback Trail serves as a training climb for the Zigzag Hotshot firefighters who work in the adjacent offices. The trail passes by an old spring house covered in moss and begins climbing quickly through the thick green forest.
There's little time to settle into your pace as the trail climbs up sharp switchbacks at grades of 12-20%. After a half-mile, the trail really starts ramping up towards the ridgeline (which you'll reach at about mile 1.2), before it eventually drops to the west side for views into the Salmon River Canyon. The first viewpoint comes at about mile 1.6, where you can rest and recharge with a snack, scramble around the ridge line rocks, and hopefully enjoy the scenery looking up the Still Creek and Zigzag Canyons and peak over into the Salmon River Canyon.
The trail then continues more-or-less on the ridgeline, dropping to the east side of the ridge and skirting below a large talus slope and then dropping to the other side of the ridge. The alternating east-to-west dance continues along the sawtooth-like ridgeline as it heads southeast.
Just after four miles of daunting ridgeline climbing and a catwalk-like traverse is the sign for a user trail going straight ahead to the "Great Pyramid" which offers views into Salmon River Canyon. The Hunchback Trail takes a hard left at this point, so do not follow the spur trail past the viewpoint! At this point, the trail drops sharply before again climbing to regain elevation along the ridgeline. At just over the 5.5-mile mark, you'll reach the intersection with Green Canyon Way Trail #793A
on your right (west).
For the next 1.2 miles, the grade mellows out somewhat, before it once again starts climbing to the highest part of Hunchback Mountain that is just over 5,000 feet (you started at 1,440 feet) at almost eight miles in, where you reach the intersection with the Cool Creek Trail #794
and the Devil's Peak Lookout.
At this point, you can continue another mile-and-change to the southeast on the trail to the intersection with the Kinzel Lake Trail #665
and the trailhead parking at Kinzel Lake. Or you can turn around and punish your knees, and head back to the Hunchback Trailhead at Zigzag.
Hunchback traverses from the low elevation of Douglas fir, western hemlock, some western red cedar to high elevation mountain hemlock, silver and noble fir. There are manzanita, vine maple, and other hardwoods that provide fall colors.