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Snowgrass - Cispus Basin - Nannie Ridge Loop

What's better than hiking to Snowgrass Flats and back? Hiking to Snowgrass Flats, then heading east to Cispus Basin and completing a loop on the Nannie Ridge Trail. Along the way, experience a broad expanse of meadow blooms with a lovely waterfall and the Goat Rocks looming overhead and Mount Adams close enough to touch to the south.

We offer a clockwise loop here, but it is just a beautiful the other way too. From Snowgrass trailhead (~4700' elevation) hike the first 2 miles through forest, mostly gradual uphill, to a bridge over Goat Creek, then a bit steeper to the intersection with bypass trail 97 at 4 miles, 5800' and Snowgrass Flats.

Go left to find a spot at the Alpine Camp near the Snowgrass meadows. But more exalted terrain awaits you if you take a right at the junction on the Bypass Trail (97) and hook up with the PCT. Drop your pack here and explore about for awhile before you continue east to the lovely expanse of Cispus Basin. This area boasts two incredible view camps with a fraction of the people you would find at Snowgrass.

The trail circles left and down into the basin with Gilbert Peak and the Goat Rocks massif just ahead and Mount Adams close enough to touch to the south. Lupine, paintbrush, alpine daisies and lots of low-bush blueberries abound. Pass a 20-foot waterfall (scramble up the rocks to camps just above) and another creek crossing (more camps hidden in the trees just above) before starting up the rocky switchbacks to Cispus Pass. The trail climbs just 300 feet more to the pass, steadily opening up views of the forested ridges of the Nannie Creek and Walupt Lake basins.

Cispus Pass is a small saddle at 6400', with views east to the headwaters of the Klickitat River. The PCT continues to beckon southward, clinging to the side of the hill for another half-mile until passing back over to the west side of the ridge and dropping steeply to the intersection of the PCT with the Nannie Ridge trail 98 at 1.9 miles from the pass. Pretty little alpine Sheep Lake at 5800' is just past the junction, with a few more nice camps nearby. Follow Nannie Ridge with just a few ups and downs for about 2.5 miles to a junction and a nice little scramble route to the top of Nannie Peak, or another two miles with a final steep downhill to the Walupt Lake trailhead at 4000', 6.4 miles from Cispus Pass.

The best way to finish this hike is by placing a second car at Walupt Lake. It is, however, possible to hike back up to the Snowgrass Flat trailhead at Chambers Lake. The approximate distance from Walupt to Chambers is 6 miles, and it is on a fairly rough trail that requires a fording and some trail-finding skills.

Follow the trail along the road exiting the campground to just past the Guard Station, then go right (north) on Trail 121(A) and 7A as it returns to your car at Chambers Lake. Not too far into trail 7A back to Chambers you will come to a river that requires a slippery, boots off, knee-high fording. Across the river on a tree is a very tiny sign that says 7A. That's where the trail picks up again. 7A signs are infrequent and hard to spot but will keep you on route until you emerge from trail onto old road with firepit remains. Bear left to find trail picks up again straight ahead. When you again come to road, the trail continues straight across but is not marked. Take it. Another 7A sign at another road will await to put you on the final stretch of overgrown road until you connect with the wide gravel road you drove in on. Go right (uphill) to get back to the Snowgrass trailhead.
Driving Directions:

Drive highway 12 south 2.5 miles from Packwood and turn east on Johnson Creek Road, #21. Drive 15.7 miles to road 2150, signed Chambers Lake, and from there follow the signs approx 2 more miles to the Snowgrass Flats trailhead (NOT Berry Patch TH which will take you up Goat Ridge).

Or, to start at the other end, continue east on Johnson Creek Rd past the Chambers Lake turnoff to road 2160 toward Walupt Lake; turn left and travel 3.2 miles to the Walupt Lake CG and the Nannie Ridge trailhead.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 25 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Snowgrass - Cispus Basin - Nannie Ridge Loop — Sep 10, 2013 — Peregrine
Multi-night backpack
Issues: Bridge out | Overgrown | Mudholes
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We hiked this loop in a three-day trip, camping at the second waterway in Cispus Basin and near Walu...
We hiked this loop in a three-day trip, camping at the second waterway in Cispus Basin and near Walupt Lake, from 9/10/13-9/12/13. The weather was lovely, though warm and a tad humid at times along trail 7A and in the lower reaches of the Nannie Ridge Trail (98). Of note, the Snowgrass Flats trailhead has no water or vault toilets (not surprising), so be prepared.

The views in Cispus Basin and Cispus Pass are amazing - I would probably go with an earlier poster's suggestion and turn around at Sheep Lake for an out-and-back, since if you're interested in views, they mostly disappear after that point. The trail was of very good quality until we got to Trail 7A (and much of that was good as well), so we made better time than expected. Some berries still, but as with the flowers, they're mostly done. Plenty of wildlife and beautiful vegetation, though.

A few things of note - first, the winds in the Cispus Basin are *high* at night. Very high. Like-a-hurricane-but-not-storming sounds-like-a-freight-train high (my dad had slept through a major hurricane making landfall, and said it sounded the same). So you may not sleep well, but the views of Mount St. Helens and Goat Rocks (and 74 mountain goats) are worth it. The camps above the second stream crossing in Cispus Basin are easy to get to (fits about 3 tents), above the waterfall not so much (would require a detour to the place where the PCT turns around the "nose" into Cispus from the north). Some spots of trail in the Basin felt a little erosion-prone, and may be nervous for folks with bad acrophobia.

Second, camping is basically absent after Sheep Lake. There's a spot on the side of the small lake to the east of Nannie Peak, and a half-hearted spot nearly on the trail right below Nannie Peak at the pass, but after that you're out of luck until the developed Walupt Lake CG at the lake (which does have vault toilets and running water). There is some water (small streams) between the small lake and the CG, but difficult to pump. Filling up at Sheep Lake is probably a good call. No established camps along Trail 7A, but flat spots you could probably camp on if you tried.

A few other notes about Trail 7A - the Green Trails map does show the entire trail (the USGS quads do not). You can avoid the main gravel road 2150 almost completely by following the map, and just to the south of the trailhead there are some lovely clifftop views of Mount Adams along the trail - well worth it! Much of the earlier sections of the trail are marked with orange or pink tape flags (as are most of the intersections). Before the river crossing, you come to Walupt Creek, whose bridge is out and requires some scrambling (don't walk on the leftover logs, which are slippery!). The river crossing is tricky - the 7A signs are the same color as the trees - so look for a broad, deep pool across the river and some mud flats; the sign is on the right side of the trail across the river in a fairly large conifer, about 4-5' off the ground. The river is surprisingly strong - more than we all expected - but doable with sandals. The on-old-road sections of 7A are often overgrown but entirely hikeable (we did discover a yellowjacket nest while clearing a dead tree off the trail, owww!).

Overall, a lovely hike; lots of birds, bees, pika, mountain goats, and scenery.
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Goat Ridge, Snowgrass Flat, Johnson Peak-Lily Basin, Snowgrass - Cispus Basin - Nannie Ridge Loop — Aug 30, 2013 — NeedsFreshAir
Multi-night backpack
Features: Wildflowers blooming
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We headed out on Thursday night, in the rain, to car camp at Chambers Lake. We were hopeful the weat...
We headed out on Thursday night, in the rain, to car camp at Chambers Lake. We were hopeful the weather would change as predicted. Drove the forest service road in the dark, which was fun and set up camp around 11:30 PM. Got up early the next am, made a hot breakfast, and headed to the Berry Patch trailhead. Our first trip to the Goat Rocks, albeit on a holiday weekend. Nevertheless, we were excited to get out.

Our plan was to head up Goat Ridge, veer off to the old lookout site, drop into Goat Lake and camp there for the first night. The hike started out wet- not rain, but the underbrush was soaking wet and soon we were too. We came into the saddle where the trail joins the Lily Basin trail to clearing conditions. Lots of flowers in the basin around Goat Lake. Stopped and had lunch at Goat Lake, spotted some goats, and decided since it was early, to press on.

Headed down the Lily Basin trail towards Snowgrass Flats, checking out campsites along the way. We jumped onto the connector trail up to the PCT and snagged a great spot in the woods, next to a creek, with a perfect view of Mount Adams. As the afternoon went on, the trail became busier and busier. Lots of folks heading to Goat Lake.

Our second day we awoke late and headed out for the day- headed N on the PCT to climb Old Snowy and hike the "Knife" to Elk Pass. Both were excellent- the views were phenomenal. A work crew was out- big thanks to them! I highly recommend this portion of the trail for anyone coming to the area. We headed back down and were amazed with how busy that area had become. We decided to pack up and head to Cispus Basin for some different views and perhaps more solitude.

Cispus Basin is as lush and green as you can imagine and the flowers were still in pretty good show. There are only a few campsites in the basin and all were filled up. We headed up to Cispus Pass and cross country hiked to a vantage point high above the basin. The good news: solitude. The bad news: no close water. Watched a beautiful sky and saw a herd of 30+ mountain goats.

Awoke in the am to another clear day. The goats had all bedded down high beneath the Goat Rocks, very cool to see. Packed up and headed out via the PCT, to the connector trail, to Snowgrass Flat trail and back to our car. Still a lot of people coming in on Sunday.

Overall, a spectacular trip. Definitely worth going to. Highly recommend going in via the Goat Ridge trail rather than Snowgrass Flat as you get better views and get to hike around the basin. Again, definitely take the PCT north, climb Old Snowy, and don't forget your camera!

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Snowgrass - Cispus Basin - Nannie Ridge Loop — Aug 11, 2013 — Happy Hiker
Multi-night backpack
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Bugs
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We hiked in on Sunday, passing crowds of people coming out. The flowers were at their peak bloom. ...
We hiked in on Sunday, passing crowds of people coming out. The flowers were at their peak bloom. We base camped for 7 days and day hiked to Cispus Basin, Goat Lake, Hawkeye Point and Old Snowy. The weather was great, just one day with a bit of rain, the bugs weren't bad, the views absolutely amazing. On Tuesday, the Conrad Lake fire was big and smoky, but was less visible after that. This is one of our favorite areas, but it is incredibly crowded. It wasn't too bad during the week, but as we hiked out on Saturday, we passed 215 people and 21 dogs hiking in, and that was just in 2 hours on the trail. Go during the week if you can, and avoid the weekends! I tried to post pictures but get a "bad gateway" message.
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Snowgrass - Cispus Basin - Nannie Ridge Loop — Jul 27, 2013 — classic hiker
Multi-night backpack
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Overgrown | Snow on trail | Bugs
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Excellent loop, highly recommended. But keep reading for some useful info on the last leg. We cho...
Excellent loop, highly recommended. But keep reading for some useful info on the last leg.

We choose to route up to Snowgrass Flats at the Bypass junction. If you climb up out of the Snowgrass meadow area on that same trail, you will connect with the PCT, which you can follow back to where you would have intersected if you had taken the Bypass. Well worth the extra couple of miles for the stunning views and wildflowers.

Still a few slippery snow slope crossings going up and over Cispus Pass but manageable with a little caution.

Mosquitos and biting flies were a problem after hooking up with the Nannie Ridge trail, no doubt due to the occasional pond. In spite of the ponds, there is no running water after starting on the Nannie and, unless you want pond water as a source (fairly clear water)you will have to wait until the campground to refill. The decent from Nannie Peak to Walput Lake feels long and you may wonder but keep at it.

The main reason for this report is to say that the trail description of the final leg between Walput and Chambers Lakes is lacking in helpful detail. Not too far into trail 7A back to Chambers you will come to a river that requires a slippery, boots off, knee-high fording. If you first emerge at the river where there is a sandy patch and campfire remains, turn back into the woods and continue a short distance on brushy trail until you emerge again on the rocky riverside. Now you have truly run out of trail and will need to ford. Across the river on a tree is a very tiny sign not much bigger than a Band Aid box that says 7A. Look for it and make your way to it. That's where the trail picks up again. 7A signs are infrequent and hard to spot but will keep you on route until you emerge from trail onto old road with firepit remains. Bear left to find trail picks up again straight ahead. When you again come to road, the trail continues straight across but is not marked. Take it. Another 7A sign at another road will await to put you on the final stretch of overgrown road until you connect with the wide gravel road you drove in on. Go right (uphill) to get back to the Snowgrass TH. The way on this last hike between lakes was not always entirely evident.
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Snowgrass - Cispus Basin - Nannie Ridge Loop — Jul 09, 2013 — jer214
Multi-night backpack
Issues: Snow on trail | Bugs
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Did a two night backpack trip to snow grass flats and then over to cispus basin for the night. Our ...
Did a two night backpack trip to snow grass flats and then over to cispus basin for the night. Our plan was to go to Goat Lake but there was lots of snow and a little out of my comfort range. Snow grass trail had some snow on the trail but was well traveled and easy to follow. the bypass trail to cispus basin was less traveled and we had to relocate the trail a couple of times but was pretty easy to find. Snow grass flats is basically still a snow field but there were some limited camping spots that had plenty of water. Cispus basin is definitely worth the trip! It was incredible and there was no traffic so we were completely alone... which sometimes is nice. Make sure you wake up and takein the stars. we also saw some goats in cispus basin! bring bug spray
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DSCF0043-1.JPG
Cispus Basin with Gilbert Peak and the Goat Rocks Massif in the background
Location
Snowgrass Flats (#96), Bypass (#97), PCT (#2000), Nannie Ridge (#98), (#121(A)), (#7A)
South Cascades -- Goat Rocks
Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Cowlitz Creek Ranger District
Statistics
Roundtrip 19.6 miles
Elevation Gain 3000 ft
Highest Point 6400 ft
Features
Rivers
Lakes
Waterfalls
Fall foliage
Wildflowers/Meadows
Mountain views
Ridges/passes
Established campsites
User info
May encounter pack animals
Northwest Forest Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
South Cascades
Green Trails Walupt Lake #335
Green Trails Blue Lake #334

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Red MarkerSnowgrass - Cispus Basin - Nannie Ridge Loop
46.4586735198 -121.530761719
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