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Glacier Lake

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Climbing just 800 feet in 2 miles, this is one of the best trails in the South Cascades for families and kids. Not only is the going easy, but it's also a pretty hike that ends at a beautiful alpine wilderness lake. The trail follows Glacier Creek through old Douglas-fir and hemlock forest to a rock-filled basin around the cold, clear waters of Glacier Lake. Late-summer hikers find bushels of huckleberries growing along the route, and anglers can try for the big rainbow trout that lurk in the depths of the lake.

You'll enjoy a variety of ecosystems along this short trail. To get started, you stride up an ancient logging road as it climbs through a stand of second-growth timber. Before long, the young forest gives way to ancient stands of Douglas-fir and hemlock, and then those massive trees fade away as you climb into the steep-walled Glacier Creek valley.

As you near the lake basin about 2 miles in, you'll encounter a massive jumble of boulders. Geologists say this wall of rock fell as a huge landslide sometime before Columbus sailed, creating a dam across Glacier Creek and creating Glacier Lake.

A rough path circles the lake, accessing the top casting locations for anglers and also offering the best views of the lake and lake basin.
Driving Directions:

From Packwood, drive 2.1 miles west on U.S. Highway 12 to a junction with For-est Road 21. Turn left (south) onto this road and continue 5 miles. Turn left onto FR 2110 and drive 0.5 mile to the trailhead on the right.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 8 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Glacier Lake — Sep 22, 2012 — rnnrgrl
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
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In case you were planning to drive all the way to the trailhead, note that the road is washed out ri...
In case you were planning to drive all the way to the trailhead, note that the road is washed out right after it leaves the main spur (21) so you'll need to add a 1/2 mile of road hiking on each end of this hike.

After the official trailhead, the trail drops to a creek then climbs up. This is the steepest part. The rest of the way is gradual rolling climbs but net uphill. When you reach the Goat Rocks Wilderness sign, you are halfway there. Around the lake there is nicely colored vine maple among the large boulders. It is a little difficult to get down to the lakeshore, and most of it is muddy. Fishing is great, they are definitely hungry. Not the prettiest lake around, but a short hike and not a technical trail.
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Glacier Lake — Aug 17, 2012 — Nutmeg
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming | Ripe berries
Issues: Blowdowns | Overgrown | Bugs | Road to trailhead inaccessible
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Pics of road, trail, and lake at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/51278183@N05/sets/72157631120507050/....
Pics of road, trail, and lake at: http://www.flickr.com/[…]/.

Roads: FR 21 has just been graded and is in excellent condition. Any vehicle should be able to make it. Some loose rock encourages slower speeds unless you want to beat the heck out of your undercarriage but no potholes or significant washboarding. However, FR 2110 (the road from FR 21 to the trailhead) is closed due to 2 washouts. This adds only ½ mile each way to the hike. You can park just south of the closed road.

Trail: Despite the road closure, the trail is well and recently maintained, including what must have been a huge logout job with significant tread restoration. There are only 2 logs over the trail, both easily negotiated. This trail has a lot of ups and downs, making the 800’ elevation change deceptive. Our GPS said 1,100’ gain from road to lake, and that seems about right. From the road to where we accessed the shore partway along the lake was just over 3 miles, so plan on about 6 miles and steady, sometimes steep climbs on this trail.

Glacier Lake is a good size, with at least one large, established campsite. A jumble of logs and nettles makes it challenging to reach the shore. Though a good swimming temperature, the lake is not the cleanest until you get well away from shore. The shore was teeming with tadpoles and polliwogs when we were there. Some of them were swimming around with little sticks and fir needles in their mouths; I called them “pollidogs”. I’d never seen this behavior, and it was adorable! Not so adorable is the yellow slime and dirt you can’t avoid to get back out of the lake, so bring something to wipe down if you plan to swim (worth it with temps in the high 90s!!). We also soaked our shirts down at the low point of the trail where it meets (but doesn’t cross) Glacier Creek – maybe the nicest little spot on the trail.

There are no views or flower meadows on this trail, no people (we saw one family who turned around at the creek), and lots of flies. If you want a decent workout and solitude, this is a good trail. It might be pretty in fall when the maples turn. Goat Rocks has many other, spectacular trails I prefer to this one.
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Glacier Lake — May 28, 2011 — Leanne
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Mudholes | Washouts | Water on trail | Bugs | Road to trailhead inaccessible
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The road leading to the trailhead is washed out in two places. This only adds a half-mile onto the ...
The road leading to the trailhead is washed out in two places. This only adds a half-mile onto the hike each way, and it's easy to walk around the washouts. The trail itself is in good condition. Muddy in a few places, but completely snow free.

The day we hiked, it was overcast, and began raining just before we reached the lake. We ended up turning back just before the lake, not wanting to spend more time in the rain then we had to. As you get closer to the lake, mosquitoes are buzzing like crazy.

We chose this hike because it was snow-free and we thought it'd be pretty easy. For being only 800 feet of gain, this trail feels like it is endless ups and downs. There's also not a lot of views along the way. The summary for this hike says it'd be a good hike for kids, but I don't know any kids that would want to hike for 5 miles up and down hills without anything to look at.
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Glacier Lake — Jun 11, 2010 — Schryder
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Blowdowns | Overgrown | Mud/Rockslide | Washouts | Water on trail | Road to trailhead inaccessible
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Why didn't we check the trip reports before we did this? The trail was a mess. Blowdowns and washo...
Why didn't we check the trip reports before we did this? The trail was a mess. Blowdowns and washouts galore. Worst of all, the map showed that the trail was less than a mile long so we kept climbing over logs and thrashing around looking for the trail because we thought that the lake was just around the next bend, or the next bend, or the next bend. When we finally reached the lake we found it quite underwhelming. The water was high and there was a lot of driftwood so it was difficult to get down to the water. We did see a lot of nice wildflowers along the trail including a fair number of fairyslippers. The best part of this hike was that it taught me that you should bring the 10 essentials, even if you think you are just going on a one mile stroll, because it might end up taking six hours!
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Glacier Lake — Jun 05, 2010 — jesusfreak
Overnight
Issues: Blowdowns | Overgrown | Mud/Rockslide | Mudholes | Washouts | Water on trail | Road to trailhead inaccessible
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Road to trail head is washed out, trail is pleasant until enormous landslides and log jams make it i...
Road to trail head is washed out, trail is pleasant until enormous landslides and log jams make it impassible to all except those with rope and mountaineering experience. Once the lake is reached it is quite the disappointment with stagnant waters, and log jams filling the lake. limited area to camp as no shoreline is available due to logs and debris.
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Location
Glacier Lake (#89)
South Cascades -- Goat Rocks
USFS Cowlitz Valley Ranger District, Packwood Office
Statistics
Roundtrip 4.0 miles
Elevation Gain 800 ft
Highest Point 2905 ft
Features
Lakes
User info
Good for kids
Northwest Forest Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
South Cascades
Green Trails No. 302 Packwood

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

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