The trail starts at the junction with the Pleasant Valley Loop Trail (south side), 2.4 miles west of the Goat Peak / Pleasant Valley Loop trailhead at an elevation of 3390 feet. The climb through the forest is shaded until 0.3 miles, where the trail passes through a burn zone from the 2017 fire. This area illustrates two significantly different results from fires. On the edge of the zone, only the low brush and vegetation was burned, leaving live trees with slightly charred bark. In the middle of the zone, the intense crown fire killed the trees and sterilized the soil. There is no live vegetation left.
After passing through the burn zone, an unmarked trail junction is reached at 0.7 mile (4000 feet). The right branch descends to an unnamed lake. The lake has a brushy shore with a couple of campsites. In spring, and early summer plan on plenty of mosquitos.
Continuing up the Pleasant Valley Lake trail, the forest starts to thin out. At 1 mile, informal cross-country routes head toward the trail's namesake, the small Pleasant Valley Lake, 0.3 mile to the west. At 1.2 miles (4480 feet) is a view of Mount Rainier through a gap in the trees.
The trail continues to climb through the open forest, sparsely dotted with flowers in early summer, staying northeast of the creek to avoid a large scree slope. At 2.6 miles (5690 feet), it reaches a junction with the American Ridge Trail and Goat Creek Trails.
Going east on the American Ridge trail, Goat Peak (6473 feet) is reached in 1.2 miles.
WTA Pro Tip: A 9.5 mile loop trip uses the steep Goat Peak Trail and American Ridge trails to reach the top of Goat Peak. Continue west on the American Ridge trail and descend via the Pleasant Valley Lake trail. Use the nearly level Pleasant Valley Loop Trail to return to the trailhead. This loop provides a shallower descent than descending back down the Goat Peak Trail.