Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
2,565.00 ft (781.81 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
11.20 mi (18.02 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Even when Mount Rainier National Park's Westside Road was open, the western slopes of Mount Rainier were the mountain's most remote and protected areas. With the Westside Road's official, and what appears to be permanent, closure in 2007, the park's western side is now only accessible to backpackers, which makes the area ideal for those hoping to avoid the crowds at Paradise and Sunrise.

Of all the destinations on Mount Rainier's west side, the turquoise waters of Lake George and the lookout tower at Gobbler's Knob are the most accessible and provide the most dramatic views of the 14,411-foot stratovolcano.

If you arrive early at the parking area for the Westside Road's locked gate, look up at the rugged eastern face of Mount Wow, as mountain goats are known to frequent this rocky face around dawn. Once on the trail, you'll follow the closed and unmaintained Westside road for 3.7 miles before you make the steep ascent up to Lake George. An additional 1,200-foot climb through a thick forest of noble fir (Abies procera), Alaska yellow cedar (Cupressus nootkatensis), and western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) leads to the exposed and very rewarding Gobblers Knob Lookout Tower.*

* Built in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, Gobblers Knob Lookout Tower is one of four fire lookouts in the park. The others are located at Tolmie Peak, Mount Freemont, and Shriner Peak.

Note: Be sure to reserve and pick up a wilderness permit, which is required for all backpacking within the park, especially if you plan to overnight at one of Lake George's six backcountry campsites. Should these campsites already be booked, you can plan to hike an additional 1.6 miles to Goat Lake in the Glacier View Wilderness (outside of the national park), which does not require camping permits.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

National Park Pass

Pros

Sunset view of Mount Rainier. Swimming in George Lake. Seven backcountry campsites.

Cons

Westside Road partially closed (hike on a 3.8-mile stretch of gravel road).

Trailhead Elevation

2,850.00 ft (868.68 m)

Net Elevation Gain

2,635.00 ft (803.15 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Big Game Watching
Wildlife
Big vistas
Old-growth forest
Shelters

Typically multi-day

No

Location

Field Guide + Map

Nearby Adventures

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Comments

09/09/2017
Passes to get on the National Park are $25. We couldn't get passes for Lake George so we decided we would go up and over to Goat Lake in the wilderness area.

The hike to Lake George was pretty boring along the initial 3 miles of old gravel road, though there were nice views of Wow Mtn. and Mt. Rainier. The trail was a moderate incline until we got to the trail head for Lake George. We stopped there for lunch before heading up on the wooded 1mi trail to the National Park campground. This was a steeper ascent, though still not too bad. Lots of peek-a-boo views of Rainier and chipmunks galore.

Lake George is really peaceful and beautiful, but this was just the halfway point on our way to Goat Lake. Beyond Lake George, the path becomes extremely steep for the next 2 miles to Gobbler's Knob. The path down the other side was a scramble as well, and the trail was not nearly as well maintained since it is off the National Park. Trekking poles were extremely nice to have for this section.

There were two campsites that we scouted out around Goat Lake, though there are likely more. We were just too tired to look for them. The very first one you come across is amidst huge cedars and hemlocks right at the water's edge with many flat spaces to choose from. It was also easy finding a good spot for the hammock. We were completely alone as we had not seen anyone since Lake George.

I would recommend taking this route to Goat Lake only if you are looking for an extra challenge. It is much easier to get there from the Glacier View Wilderness side. The camp site itself is spectacular. I would also like to try camping at Lake George itself in the future.
Have updates, photos, alerts, or just want to leave a comment?
Sign In and share them.