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Pets allowed
Yes
Elevation Gain
?
Trail type
Loop
Distance
13.60 mi (21.89 km)
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Located in what seems to be the "middle of nowhere," sandwiched roughly halfway in between Mount Rainier and Mount Adams, Goat Rocks Wilderness is quickly becoming a favorite backpacking and hiking destination, and the nearly 14-mile loop trail up to Goat Lake is certainly its most popular adventure.

This hiking trail offers almost everything any outdoor enthusiast is looking for: old-growth forest, waterfalls, lush wildflower meadows, extensive wildlife (e.g., Roosevelt elk, hoary marmots, mountain goats, etc.), alpine lakes, and panoramic vistas of Washington's Cascades.  What protects it, however, is the 2+ hour drive from the nearest town over 5,000 people, and the extensive snow pack that only allows this trail to be accessed for a few months out of the year.

From the Chambers Lake/Snowgrass Trailhead you can choose to ascend up to Goat Lake either via the Snowgrass Trail or via Goat Ridge.  Obtaining an overnight camping spot at Goat Lake is a gamble based on its popularity, however, and you'll find a lot more backcountry campsite options along the Pacific Crest Trail, which is best directly accessed via the Snowgrass Trail.

Once above treeline and connected with the PCT, Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens will come into view.  To get a view of giant Tahoma (Mount Rainier's original name), you'll have to venture all the way up to the Packwood Glacier.  From there, you might as well hike an additional 0.8 miles up to the top of Old Snowy Mountain (7,900 feet) to get the best vistas and to appreciate the rest of the Goat Rocks Wilderness.  From the summit of this hike you can return to the PCT and then onto the Lily Basin Trail to reach Goat Lake, or you can make a somewhat tricky but direct off-trail scramble.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

Wilderness Permit

Pros

Incredible Cascade views. Wildlife. Superb backpacking.

Cons

Limited season due to snow-pack. Heavy use.

Trailhead Elevation

4,620.00 ft (1,408.18 m)

Net Elevation Gain

2,480.00 ft (755.90 m)

Address

Randle, WA 98377
United States

Features

Backcountry camping
Waterfalls
Big Game Watching
Wildlife
Big vistas
Old-growth forest
Wildflowers

Typically multi-day

No

Location

Field Guide + Map

Nearby Adventures

Mt. Adams/Indian Heaven Wilderness/Goat Rocks, Washington
Washington, Mt. Adams/Indian Heaven Wilderness/Goat Rocks
Washington, Mt. Adams/Indian Heaven Wilderness/Goat Rocks

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Washington, Mt. Adams/Indian Heaven Wilderness/Goat Rocks
Washington, Mt. Adams/Indian Heaven Wilderness/Goat Rocks

Comments

07/18/2018
The "off-trail traverse" from the PCT to Goat Lake wasn't super obvious to me, so here is a picture of the lake and the traverse (taken from Goat Lake facing the PCT intersection).

Good, challenging hike! I didn't see anywhere to camp right next to the lake, but it was pretty frozen over. I lost about a pint of blood to the mosquitos in the lower sections of the hike. RIP my blood.

Water was plentiful on the Snowgrass Trail, but it becomes dry on Goat Ridge after the campsites just south of the lake get out of sight. Just past this area is a beautiful ledge to camp on with a gorgeous view and room for several tents.

The drive from Forest Road 21 to the trailhead takes a good 40 min.
08/20/2017
One of my all time favorite hikes in Washington state cascade mountains. Goat Rocks Wilderness to the summit of Old Snowy. 17mi. RT - 7800 ft. elv.
08/13/2017
A family trip up to Goat Rocks Wilderness and Goat Lake. The smoke from the fires up in BC was pretty bad, but the late night thunderstorms cleared everything out. We took the Goat Ridge trail up and stayed just down from Goat Lake. It was super crowded (e.g., people willing to set up a tent within 50 feet of yours). The picture is from our cook area and we weren't with any of the other tents in the photograph. I couldn't really blame anyone as they came in late and were likely tired, but . . .

In retrospect, I would recommend taking the Snowgrass trail up and finding a more secluded spot (i.e., there are a lot of options) between the PCT Bypass Trail #97 and Goat Lake, then do a day hike up to Goat Lake or over to Old Snowy. The mosquitos might be worse, but the seclusion would be better. There were no mosquitos up at Goat Lake.

There are limited spots off the Goat Ridge trail up to Goat Lake so the Snowgrass trail has more options. A ranger said that they are trying to keep people off of the meadow for the off-trail traverse over to the PCT.

BTW, the mileage from NF-21 to NF-2150 is 12.6 miles.
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