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Old Snowy Mountain - Elk Pass

Starting at the Snowgrass Flats trailhead (#96), walk four forested miles of gentle uphill to the intersection with trail 97 that goes west to the PCT and Cispus basin. Go straight at this intersection and shortly break out into the heather, wildflower bogs and pygmy forest of Snowgrass Flats.

Now climbing in earnest, continue past the junction to trail 86 (Goat Lake) and join the PCT at approx 4.7 miles from the trailhead. Views of Mount Adams to the south and the Goat Rocks massif to the east are stunning. Ascend successive benches, looking for side trails all along the way to lovely view camps hidden in small clumps of trees. Also look for rock formations that look like ancient medieval fortifications, well guarded by marmots. The way gets more and more rocky, with some snow patches to cross (no ice axes required) until finally you break into views of Mt Rainier to the northwest and Goat Lake just west. Soon you will come to an unmarked junction where the way goes right, through the boulders up to Old Snowy, or left clinging to the precipice toward Elk Pass.

First go right, with the hordes, switchbacking steeply for about a half mile to a point where poles and gear can be stashed for a final scramble to the top of Old Snowy. A bit of hand-climbing required but nothing highly technical - just watch for rocks kicked loose by the people climbing just above. At the top there is room to sit for a snack and take pictures of the amazing panorama encompassing the McCall, Conrad and Meade Glaciers around Ives and Gilbert Peaks, down along the spine of the Goat Rocks toward Mt Adams, southwest to St Helens, west to Goat Lake and Packwood Lake, north along the bare rocky ridges, and northeast through the forested valleys past McCall Basin and on to White Pass.

Back down Snowy to the PCT junction, head due north. The trail is scraped into the precipice but still fairly secure; just don't take any chances with passing horsepackers or bad weather. Some times of year may have to cross a steep snowfield so be sure to wait for a bit of melting in the AM to get a secure purchase. Hiking poles provide some very welcome added security along the way. Then the trail becomes a queasy but wonderful ramble up, down and around a knife edge ridge up to the top of one rocky knob and down the other side, around and up another and down, over and over again with blustery wind and amazing views to distract. The 7000' high point of the PCT in Washington is reached along here. Finally the trail descends to a saddle at Elk pass at 6700', approx 8.5 miles from the Snowgrass Flats trailhead. From here, trail 2000 heads downhill to the east toward White Pass, while trail 79 heads on and down along the next ridge toward Packwood Saddle and a number of other trail options.

Driving Directions:

From Packwood drive 2.5 miles east on highwy 12 to Johnson Creek road #21. Go east for approx 15.5 miles to a junction with road 2150, signed "Chambers Lake". Follow the signs approx another 2 miles to the Snowgrass Flats trailhead (NOT the Berry Patch trailhead which goes toward Goat Ridge and Goat Lake).

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 19 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Mosquito Lake-Three Peaks, Old Snowy Mountain - Elk Pass, Coyote Ridge (#79) — Sep 11, 2013 — Chemical Craig
Overnight
Features: Fall foliage
Issues: Blowdowns | Overgrown | No water source
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Drove the 5 or so miles up road 1266 in a passenger sedan, easy going, nothing too rough, but I sugg...
Drove the 5 or so miles up road 1266 in a passenger sedan, easy going, nothing too rough, but I suggest parking at the small grassy field on the left just before the trail head as the road gets significantly more rugged in the next .1 mile. It looks like some folks use the lot for target practice and skeet shooting, so be advised. The three peaks trail is rated "Most Difficult" and for good reason. The trail starts very steeply through some dense forest and then crosses some old roads now turned into grassy fields. Then the rollercoaster begins and the trail earns its name. The trail was mostly clear of blowdowns and the ones that did exist were well-trodden over. Some portions of the trail were substantially overgrown by brush, but not impassable. No water on this trail.

A short jaunt on the well taken care of packwood lake trail brings you to the coyote ridge trail. The trail is in great shape for the most part. There are a few sketchy spots on some exposed traverses, but nothing major. Just watch your step. The trail is mostly dry, with only Beaver Bill creek flowing, and another stream crossing the trail about 3/4 mile later.

After joining up with the PCT heading south toward Old Snowy mt. you are greeted with excellent views along exposed ridges and some sections of trail that demand your full attention. The scramble up to Old Snowy is not as bad as it seems from a distance and is well worth the effort. There is water to be had from melting snow fields alongside the route to the summit, so keep your eyes and ears open.

No biting insects encountered, but an unusual amount of the stinging variety. I didn't get stung, but bring appropriate meds if you're allergic.
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Snowgrass Flat, Goat Ridge, Goat Lake-Jordan Basin, Old Snowy Mountain - Elk Pass — Sep 06, 2013 — Fiver
Multi-night backpack
Issues: Water on trail
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One of the best multi-night backpacking trips I've ever taken. From our experience here are some ti...
One of the best multi-night backpacking trips I've ever taken. From our experience here are some tips:

1) Spent the first night at a camp on the bypass trail directly adjacent to a creek. Great location with privacy (no one else chose to camp near us) with lots of trees for shelter (especially from the elements). The camp is probably about a 1/4 mile off of the main snowgrass trail

2) We ended up hiking 3+/- miles of the Pacific Crest Trail above Snowgrass Flats. Were really impressed at how many great camping spots there were. About a 1/4 mile from where the trail junction of the PCT from the Snowgrass connector trail to the north there is an epic camping spot near some large boulders (look for it towards the Old Snowy side of the trail. The spot looks like it should be on a postcard.

3) Climbing to the top of Old Snowy is very doable. Would highly recommned leaving hikes poles at the PCT junction so you can use both hands scrambling.

4) If you camp at Goat Lake make sure you look for spots higher up in elevation towards the west/southwest. Most of the campsites are lower in elevation and only have views out the valley but if you get high enough you can also have outstanding views of Goat Lake. Well worth it.

5) Make sure you take a trip up to the old Goat Ridge Lookout. Doesn't get much use (via the way the trail looks) but the views are epic (Rainier, Adams, St. Helens, Goat Rocks, etc.). Would be an oustanding place to camp overnight.
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Coyote Trail, Upper Lake Creek, Old Snowy Mountain - Elk Pass, Packwood Lake — Sep 04, 2013 — HikerJim
Multi-night backpack
Features: Wildflowers blooming | Fall foliage | Ripe berries
Issues: Blowdowns | Washouts | Bugs
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Gary, John, and I did a three day loop trip at the north end of the Goat Rocks Wilderness. Much less...
Gary, John, and I did a three day loop trip at the north end of the Goat Rocks Wilderness. Much less crowded than the Snowgrass Flats end. We hiked to Packwood Lake, Lost Lake, and part way along Coyote Ridge on day one. The next day we hiked along the ridge, down to Packwood Saddle and on up to Elk Pass. We set up camp there and day hiked on the PCT to Old Snowy Mountain. A great ridge walk with terrific views from the summit of Old Snowy.

On day three we hiked out via the Upper Lake Creek Trail from Packwood Saddle to Packwood Lake. From there it was another 4.5 miles back to the car. The entire trip was 35 miles with about 9500' of elevation gain.

Now a conditions report. The trail to Packwood Lake is in excellent condition. It is used by horses so expect some trail "apples" but otherwise it in great shape. The rest of the loop has not been logged out this near. Not a big problem from Packwood Lake to Lost Lake and on Coyote Ridge. We counted some 40 logs down but none will be a big problem for hikers.

The Upper Lake Creek Trail is in much poorer shape. Expect 40 - 50 downed trees between Packwood Saddle and Packwood Lake. Horses have gouged out trails, some long, to get around them. Many we climbed over. Many we went around. The creek has also washed out several sections of trail. Lots of rocks and sand in the forest until tread is picked up again. In a few spots the trail is now down in the creek bed. None of these problems will stop a hiker. They are just a bit tedious to keep getting around. We did enjoy two very large old growth trees along the trail above Packwood Lake. One was a little over 8 feet in diameter.

This seems to be a bad year for stingers. I had one sting and John had 9. All of his on the Upper Lake Creek Trail. Gary escaped without a sting. In the big picture the problems were minor. We had a great time. Two lakes, a high camp, a great summit, miles of ridge walking, and not all that crowded. A fine way to spend three days in the mountains.

My full report has a page for each of the tree days and includes photos with each day. There are 31 photos for day one, 54 for day two, and 18 for day three.

The report with all the annotated photos can be found on my website which is located at: http://www.hikingnorthwest.com. Go to "Trips - 2013 on the left margin.
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Goat Lake-Jordan Basin, Snowgrass Flat, Old Snowy Mountain - Elk Pass — Sep 01, 2012 — Urmi
Multi-night backpack
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Snow on trail
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Wow. This was hands-down the best backcountry outing I've had since moving to the PNW 6 years ago. T...
Wow. This was hands-down the best backcountry outing I've had since moving to the PNW 6 years ago. This loop epitomizes everything that's special about the Cascades in summer - hillsides ablaze with wildflowers, peaceful alpine lakes and streams, majestic volcanoes on the horizon, and perfect weather to boot.

We left our cars at Berry Patch trailhead (which was already almost full up at 8:30 on Saturday morning), and hiked to Jordan Basin where we set up camp. We only saw one or two other parties on this section of the trail. The trail was in good condition and as we got higher and higher the views of Adams, Mt Helens and the surrounding hills got better and better. The wildflowers are at absolute peak at Jordan Basin. You can smell the lupines as you walk through them.

After making camp we spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the surrounding area. Immediately after climbing out of Jordan Basin there is a fork in the trail - the left fork (Lily Basin trail) ascends steeply to Hawkeye Point. There is still a little snow on the trail but nothing unmanageable. The views from the top are outstanding. It was clear enough that afternoon to see 4 volcanoes - Rainier, St Helens, Adams and even Hood. At Hawkeye Point you also get a bird's eye sneak peek of Goat Lake. Definitely a worthwhile side trip.

Jordan Basin got VERY windy during the night. Make sure everything is pegged down and well-secured when you settle in for the night. It's worth braving the chill to see the dawn alpenglow on St Helens and Adams. Magical stuff.

On Day 2 we made our way towards Snowgrass Flats. You have to cross a little bit of snow to get across Goat Lake, but again it's nothing problematic. We saw a couple of marmots sunning themselves between Goat Lake and the Flats. Super cute! We snagged a beautiful established campsite in a meadow between Goat Lake and the first PCT junction, then headed off for our day trip destination - Old Snowy Mountain. Incredible vistas and wildflowers all the way - words don't begin to cover it. There were tons of hikers out and about. We probably saw 50-100 other people over the course of the day. Also another marmot or two.

The scramble up Old Snowy is a lot of fun and the views from the top are amazing. You can see the Goat Rocks, Rainier, Adams and St Helens. It was too hazy to make out Hood when we were up there, but on a clearer day you'd see that too. Btw, there are a few bigger snowfields to cross to get to Old Snowy. Poles are handy if you are not completely sure-footed on snow.

On Day 3 we packed up, said goodbye to heaven on earth, and completed the loop back to Berry Patch trailhead. It was hard to leave such a beautiful place!
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Cold Lake, Old Snowy Mountain - Elk Pass — Sep 01, 2012 — Shifty
Multi-night backpack
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Bugs
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Most important item. I lost my wedding Band. It's pink and white gold with some Small diamonds se...
Most important item. I lost my wedding
Band. It's pink and white gold with some
Small diamonds set in band. If found
Lease email me at lkaulen@hotmail.com or
Call me at 206-229-9390! Only been
Married a little over a year and just
Suck over losing the ring.


Base camped at Chambers lake on Friday to
Avoid holiday traffic. Started at Snow Grass Flats
Trailhead and took bypass trail to PCT and
Hiked for another mile towards Old Snowy.
Trails were dry, very dusty but open.

Camped along PCT. very nice views of Mt
Adams and meadows. Beautiful creek
Up trail about .125 miles. Abundant wood
For fire and lots of peaty Mosquitos

Hiked up to Old Snowdy on Sunday
Went to highest point. Crowded but not
Overbearing.



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DSCF0056-1.JPG
View from the PCT-Old Snowy trail junction toward Goat Lake and Mount Rainier
Location
Snowgrass Flats (#96), Pacific Crest Trail (#2000)
South Cascades -- Goat Rocks
Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Cowlitz Creek Ranger District
Statistics
Roundtrip 17.0 miles
Elevation Gain 3100 ft
Highest Point 7800 ft
Features
Waterfalls
Fall foliage
Wildflowers/Meadows
Mountain views
Summits
Wildlife
Ridges/passes
Established campsites
User info
Dogs allowed on leash
May encounter pack animals
Guidebooks & Maps
Mountaineers South Cascades
Green Trails Blue Lake #334
Green Trails White Pass #303
Green Trails Walupt Lake #335

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46.4577274822 -121.50604248
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