Weekend Backpacker: Portland

Goat Rocks Wilderness
  |  Gorp.com
Mount Hood
View of Mount Rainier from Goat Rocks Wilderness

Covering over 105,000 acres of alpine country between Mount Adams and Mount Rainier, Goat Rocks Wilderness is an alpine wonderland. Glaciers rest in snowy repose, while chilled streams careen down from high ridgelines. Though the weather here can be volatile (don't even think of coming until mid-July), the views are fantastic.

Named for the mountain goats that patrol the high country, the Goat Rocksare thought to be the blasted remains of a 12,000-foot volcano. The stark, bony ridge is all that remains of the behemoth.

Recommended Trip

Goat Lake via Snowgrass Flat, return via Goat Ridge

Day 1: From the trailhead hike east on Trail #96a, quickly linking with Snowgrass Trail#96. After a short rise, Snowgrass Trail drops down into marshy, mosquito-infested Goat Creek drainage, crossing Goat Creek itself at 1.75 miles. From there, climb again. At 3.7 miles the trail intersects with Bypass Trail #97 just south of Snowgrass Flats.

Snowgrass Flats is a much-loved, much-traveled meadow. This, combined with a heavy ash-fall from the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, has left itsmark on the flats. Camping is prohibited and you're encouraged to walk softly.

But plenty of good sites are nearby, either on the Bypass Trail or justnorth of Snowgrass Flats on Trail 86. Set up camp at either, using it as abase to explore the high country. From camp make a quick jump to the PacificCrest Trail (2000) on Trail 96 or 97. Once on the PCT it's a short (mile or two) climb to the high shoulders of Old Snowy (elev. 7,930 feet). As always, watch your weather and daylight.

Day 2: Head north from Snowgrass Flats on Trail #86. At just under threemiles (from where you broke with #96) you'll arrive at Goat Lake (elev. 6,430feet). Continuing west from here, the trail intersects (at the 3.3-milemark) with #95. Pick up Trail #95 and head south. Following Goat Ridge you'll pass Jordan Creek Trail #94 (at 5.8 miles). Soon after this a loop trail(#95a) cuts west up to the Goat Ridge Lookout. The loop then drops backdown to Trail #95 proper. Trail #95 stays slightly lower through this stretch, and is a better choice in foul weather. From the southern end of #95a, make the quick drop down to Trail #96 and make the cut over to Trail#96a and the trailhead.

Permit Information

Wilderness permit required. Contact Packwood ranger district in Gifford Pinchot National Forest for details.

Recommended Map

Goat Rocks Wilderness, distributed by the US Forest Service. Great, simple map that covers the entire area in detail. Contact the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Recommended Guide

100 Hikes in Washinton's South Cascades and Olympics by Ira Spring and Harvey Manning (Mountaineers). Good coverage of natural history and fine photography. Covers much of this trip in Hike #60.

Getting There

Take I-5 north to Washington exit 68. Head east on US 12 for roughly 62 miles. About three miles before Packwood watch for Forest Road 21 on your right. Turn here, driving deep into the forest and passing a number of tempting turnoffs. At just under 12 miles turn left on Forest Road 2150.

Follow this to where you keep right on 2150/040, then turn right again on2150/405. Park at the Snowgrass Trailhead.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 13 May 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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