Snowgrass Flats - Goat Ridge Loop
Hike of the Week:
August 18, 2008
Location: South Cascades - Goat Rocks
Distance: 8 miles to the Flats; 13 mile loop trip
Elevation: Flats - 1200 ft. gain to 5830; Loop - 1900 ft. to 6500
Maps: USFS Goat Rocks Wilderness; Green Trails #335 Walupt Lake, #303 White Pass, #302 Packwood, #334 Blue Lake
The snow has melted, and it is the perfect time to experience the magic of the Goat Rocks Wilderness. This loop trip samples the best of the area - cool forests; bright wildflowers; and amazing views of all of volcanoes in the South Cascades.
The best option is to hike the trail counter-clockwise, heading first to Snowgrass Flats. It starts out gently traversing through the trees before getting down to business after crossing Goat Creek. Even though the trail climbs steeply (1400 ft. in 1.5 miles), the views gradually reveal themselves and a large waterfall provides a short sidetrip.
For backpackers, there are camping areas on the Bypass Trail, just past Snowgrass Flat (please preserve the meadows by not camping there). If you camp or have the time, do take the opportunity to hike up to the PCT and wander about for a bit. If you think it's nice at the Flats, the views from the PCT will take your breath away! Rainier, St. Helen's, Adams and the Goat Rocks range dominate the horizon.
Back on the loop, it is about three additional miles to Goat Lake, where there are also campsites. This is one of the best sections of the trail. As you head above treeline, the mountains around you reveal themselves in all of their glory and tarns and Goat Lake reflect the beauty. It's all jaw-dropping fun to the pass that descends into the Jordan Basin. If you didn't bring a tent, you will wish you had. The late afternoon sunlight illuminates makes for some fantastic picture-taking.
The trail stays open through the Jordan Basin before re-entering forest. At the trailhead area for the Goat Ridge Trail, take the side trail one-half mile back to the Snowgrass Flats trailhead to complete the loop.
Guidebooks: Best Loop Hikes Washington by Dan Nelson & Alan Bauer (Mountaineers Books); 100 Hikes in Washington's South Cascades & Olympics by Ira Spring & Harvey Manning (Mountaineers Books). Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Cowlitz Valley Ranger District (360) 497-1100.
From Randle, drive east on Hwy 12. Two miles before Packwood, turn south on FR 21 - the Johnson Creek Road. Go 15.5 miles on FR 21 to FR 2150 (signed Chambers Lake Campground). Take 2150 about 3 miles to spur road 2150-040 - go right, then right again on spur road 2150-405. The trailhead is at road's end, signed "Berry Patch." Northwest Forest Pass required.