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Lower Gold Creek Basin Snowshoe

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Hiking through a wide, level valley in the shadow of looming Kendall Peak to the north and Rampart Ridge to the east would be an ideal outing, if only so many people didn't know about it. Fortunately, a few miles up the trail, the crowds thin--or at least spread out--and snowshoers can get on with the business of learning to travel in a beautiful wilderness valley. That's right, just a few miles after leaving the buzzing Interstate 90 corridor, the Alpine Lakes Wilderness unfolds. By mid-December, the snow is usually deep enough for the outing to be enjoyable, making this a great destination for families who gave each other snowshoes for Christmas.

To get there, from Seattle drive east on I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass to exit 54, 2 miles east of the pass's summit. Exit I-90, turn left, cross under the freeway, and just a few hundred feet north of the highway interchange, turn right onto a narrow paved road and drive east parallel to the freeway for 1 mile. Cars generally line both sides of this road, as the shoulder is the primary parking area for the long Gold Creek Sno-Park. Park at the end of the plowed road, near the small bridge over the stream connecting Mardee Lake to Keechelus Lake.

Start the hike by heading north along a narrow access road (Forest Road 144) on the eastern side of Mardee Lake. The road stays tight to the eastern wall of the valley, but if the snow is deep enough to bury all the ground cover, drop off the road in a few hundred yards--just past Mardee Lake--and snowshoe up the open meadow and through the thin stands of forest. As you hike up the valley, the view of Kendall Peak gets better and better, while on your right, Rampart Ridge rolls majestically along. As the valley tapers in, the meadows give way to wide stands of trees and small forest clearings. The walls close in tighter and tighter on the valley floor, and the views become more dramatic. At about 2.5 miles in, stop and enjoy the scenery and the feeling of power that this winter wilderness emits.

At the northern end of Rampart Ridge is the bulky summit of Alta Mountain; directly opposite is the vertical face of Kendall Peak. The steep walls of these mountains seem to rise from the ground at your feet. Continue to press on up the valley, but only if you know how to evaluate avalanche dangers. Even on the valley floor, hikers are susceptible to avalanches. The mammoth slides can come barreling off the valley walls with enough momentum that they sweep well out onto the basin's floor.

Stroll to your heart's content along the valley floor, then weave your way through the trees back to the starting point for a gentle day on the snow.

Author’s Rating: Easiest to More Difficult
Generally good trails for beginners, with moderate elevation change and minimal avalanche danger.
Driving Directions:

To get there, from Seattle drive east on I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass to exit 54, 2 miles east of the pass's summit. Exit I-90, turn left, cross under the freeway, and just a few hundred feet north of the highway interchange, turn right onto a narrow paved road and drive east parallel to the freeway for 1 mile. Cars generally line both sides of this road, as the shoulder is the primary parking area for the long Gold Creek Sno-Park. Park at the end of the plowed road, near the small bridge over the stream connecting Mardee Lake to Keechelus Lake.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 38 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Lower Gold Creek Basin Snowshoe — Mar 14, 2012 — thebrink
Snowshoe/XC Ski
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We began our snowshoe NF Road-144 where it joins NF Road-4832. While preparing to head out we had a ...
We began our snowshoe NF Road-144 where it joins NF Road-4832. While preparing to head out we had a difficult time keeping snow from blowing into the car and inside packs for even the short time they were open. Once on the trail there was more protection from the wind near the trees. Snow fell the whole trip and the snow on the ground was great powdery stuff.

Our trek took us first going north along the east side of the lake and then rounded the lake counterclock wise and then we headed north again on FR Road 114 doing a bit of off trail and then south back to the trailhead. We got in about 3.7 miles today.

The foot bridge on the northeast side of the lake was a bit tricky as the snow on it is about a foot and a half above the railing and as usual with the foot bridges the path on the top is much narrower than the bridge below.

Due to the falling snow there were no distant sights to view but the forms along the creek and the trees are always interesting.
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Lower Gold Creek Basin Snowshoe — Jan 08, 2012 — JakeC
Day hike
Issues: Snow on trail
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The trail (really a road ) is wide open and well compacted in the first mile and a half or so. Ther...
The trail (really a road ) is wide open and well compacted in the first mile and a half or so. There are a bunch of small signs to keep you going in the right direction. You don't really need snowshoes at this time. It takes about 40 minutes to get to the end of the trail/road.

If you want to go further ... 50 yards before where the road ends take a right and head up the valley. The trail narrows as you head up the valley toward Alaska Lake / Joe Lake. After a mile or so (on the narrow trail) .... you will need some type of traction. I got to this point and put on my shoe "chains". Also, if we get some fresh snow I would check the avalanche / snow report website because at times Rampart Ridge is right above you. At about 3.5 miles you have to cross Silver Creek. There is a rock "bridge" but the rocks are ice covered so be careful.

After crossing Silver Creek the trail is no longer really visible and you have to make your own thru the snow. Decided it was a good spot to take a break for lunch and head back. Overall ... about 7 miles (out and back to Silver Creek crossing) and basically no elevation gain.


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Lower Gold Creek Basin Snowshoe — Mar 06, 2011 — Eric Jain
Snowshoe/XC Ski
Issues: Snow on trail
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Reached the Sno-Park around 11am. The Sno-Park was filling up, but we still got to park within a few...
Reached the Sno-Park around 11am. The Sno-Park was filling up, but we still got to park within a few hundred feet of the trailhead.

Didn't need snowshoes at first as the trail was packed down well, but beyond the last house, snowshoes were required to avoid occasional postholing.

Followed various tracks past Gold Creek Pond and a bit beyond Heli's Pond, along the summer trail.

The crowds congregated around the two "ponds", but we met almost no one off the main trail or further along the trail.

Photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/[…]/GoldCreekBasinMarch2011
Tracklog: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/71726555

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Lower Gold Creek Basin Snowshoe — Mar 01, 2011 — The H crew
Snowshoe/XC Ski
Issues: Snow on trail
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Wow, So much fresh deep powder....3 ft? Did this same hike last Monday but today it was a totally...
  Wow, So much fresh deep powder....3 ft? Did this same hike last Monday but today it was a totally different hike. We arrived around 11 with it snowing slightly. We were the 1st on the trail to Heli's Pond which meant a lot of hard work breaking trail but it was fabulously fun. We brought our two friends on their first snowshoe adventure and they loved it. This is the perfect place for beginners. It is,however,very slow going with knee deep snow so plan accordingly. We were lucky and met up with a couple who were willing to share in the labor. We had our lunch in the deep snow at the pond and then headed back to the car.It started snowing much harder after lunch and we were thankful for the layers we had packed. We moved much quicker on the way out... Starbucks was calling!
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Lower Gold Creek Basin Snowshoe — Feb 26, 2011 — sevhaus
Snowshoe/XC Ski
Issues: Snow on trail
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We were forced to park right off of the exit because somebody tried to take his snowmobile trailer d...
We were forced to park right off of the exit because somebody tried to take his snowmobile trailer down the road which is 1 lane once people park all along it. I definitely would not recommend this unless you want the first/ last mile of your snowshoe to be on a road that parallels I-90. Make sure to go past the first area where people have parked down to the bridge where the gold creek trailhead actually is.

We started out later in the afternoon which seemed to contribute to a few less people being on the trail. The snow was deep and we had a great time cruising through the powder pillows. The trail itself is packed down enough that it would be doable in boots/ shoes, but having the snowshoes to go through the trees and deeper stuff was fun.

Since we got out there later on and were kind of lollygaggin/ frolicking, we didn't make it all the way to the end, but decided to turn around at Heli's pond. We walked around the pond which was beautiful. Had to blaze a bit of a trail though. There's a pretty cool Eagle Scout project that somebody did with info about the pond. Overall this is an awesome intro snowshoe that would be great for anyone including kids. I expected it to be a lot busier than it actually was, and not encountering a single snowmobile was nice. There's also lots of areas to just kind of roam around if you aren't used to the snowshoes yet. Just be careful because part of the trail does go through private property. Although we didn't see anyone, we did see some signs that made it look like they might have had problems with people trespassing in the past.
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gold creek damien murphy.jpg
Golden light over Gold Creek. Photo by Damien Murphy,.
WTA worked here!
2011
Location
Gold Creek (#1314)
Snoqualmie Pass -- Snoqualmie Pass
Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Mount Baker Ranger District
Statistics
Roundtrip 4.0 miles
Elevation Gain 400 ft
Highest Point 3000 ft
Features
Mountain views
User info
Sno-Park pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
Green Trails: Snoqualmie Pass No. 207

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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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