The Coyote Trail is within the Goat Rock Wilderness, part of the Gifford Pinchot Forest. It begins at a junction with the Packwood Lake Trail, offering access to Lost Lake and, after a grueling climb, the Pacific Crest Trail. This trail will provide the hiker and the backpacker with great views and challenging terrain along with some solitude since it is not a popular or a frequented trail.
The listed mileage here is for the length of the Coyote Trail, but because it's only accessible from other trails, your experience of the Coyote Trail will involve different mileage and elevation gain.
From the junction with Packwood Lake trail, take a switchback and begin climbing through lush green forest on fairly good tread. Though brushy, the trail is easy to follow in this area. Gradually, as you climb, you'll leave the forest and enter a higher montane area, with fewer trees and more shrubbery and wildflowers.
Views here open up; a nice reward for how hard you're working on the climb. Across the valley are views of the heart of the Goat Rocks wilderness, and impressive snowfields and ravines with hugely tall waterfalls.
Keep climbing, all the way to a high point on the shoulder of a ridge where you can peek into the valley below. Bear Creek Mountain is visible here, as is Old Snowy and Johnson Peak. Now the trail begins to descend quickly, and the tread here can be loose and scree-y. Watch your step, and slow your pace.
End your descent in Packwood Saddle, a forested trail junction where you can have a snack and get your bearings before heading back out. You're about to regain most of the elevation you just lost. Just out of Packwood Saddle, the trail forks. Head right.
This section is a repeat of what you just did. Hike through open forest for a mile, before the climb takes you up and out of the forest into higher country. The difference is this time the mountains are closer and the views are even more spectacular.
About a mile from Elk Pass, take a break in the shade of trees and take it all in. The views are astounding, from Rainier on the horizon to Packwood Lake in the valley below to the mountains at the heart of the Goat Rocks just ahead.
The final push to the pass involves more of the same scree that was part of the tread earlier. Take it slow and steady, stepping carefully. Finally, reach Elk Pass and the junction of the PCT, and enjoy the views before heading on your way.
Note: Due to a backlog of maintenance concerns WTA added this trail to a list of places to prioritize as part of the Lost Trails Found Campaign, and in 2018, crew working to reopen it were able to get it ready in time for it to provide an exit route for PCT hikers who were rerouted due to the Miriam Fire.
2017 project work on this trail supported by a generous Matching Awards Program Grant (MAP) from the National Forest Foundation.