Portland Wilderness

Goat Rocks Wilderness
Goat Rocks Essentials
Size : 105,023 acres.
Year Designated : 1964; expanded in 1984.
Location : Southwestern central Washington.
Easiest Access : From U.S. 12 about one-half mile north of Packwood, turn east on Forest Service Road 1260 and continue for approximately 1.5 miles. Head north on Forest Service Road 1262 for approximately six miles to Packwood Lake (and Packwood Lake Resort) and the Packwood Lake Trailhead.
Season : Fall, before the snow falls and after the mosquitoes have died.
Wilderness Fees/Permits : None.
Maps : USGS topographic maps are Hamilton Buttes, Jennies Butte, Ohanapecosh Hot Springs, Old Snowy Mountain, Packwood Lake, Pinegrass Ridge, Spiral Butte, Walupt Lake, and White Pass.
Management : Packwood Ranger District: Gifford Pinchot National Forest
Naches Ranger District : Wenatchee National ForestĀ 

When I first visited the non-wilderness shores of Packwood Lake one midsummer long ago, and hiked into the Wilderness on the Packwood Lake Trail about two miles to Mosquito Lake, I thought the air contained more skeeters than oxygen. My first night I endured a survival-oriented mad rush to set up the tent and get inside.

Glaciation and erosion have worn away at the terrain here, leaving moderate summits on both sides of the crest of the Cascades. The deep east-west drainages below the ridges often open into parklike alpine meadows dotted with small lakes and even smaller ponds, all clouded over with mosquitoes in summer.

In winter, however, snow typically accumulates to more than 25 feet, not melting entirely until August and keeping the ponds and lakes full when it does give in to the sun. Pikas and marmots scurry about above timberline, while the more reserved deer and elk have been spotted lower down. Mountain goats frequently show up in the higher country, especially along Upper Lake Creek, which feeds Packwood Lake at the northwest boundary, and in Nannie Basin in the southern portion of the area.

Much of the 120-mile trail system stays on the ridges at or above timberline. The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail wanders north/south through the middle of the wilderness for 31.1 miles, past 7,930-foot Old Snowy Mountain, where glaciers persist. At least 14 other trails climb to eventually join the PCT.


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