If you prefer hikes with multiple options and varying degrees of length and difficulty, the trek to Snowgrass Flat offers all that and more. Situated in the rugged Goat Rocks Wilderness, Snowgrass Flat is a lovely subalpine meadow that attracts wildflower lovers in July and August and backcountry campers throughout the hiking season. Due to its immense popularity, the trail is often best visited on a weekday or after Labor Day Weekend.
Start at the Snowgrass Trailhead, where you’ll be asked to fill out a wilderness permit (free), and then proceed on Trail 96 into an open and airy forest that’s often dry and dusty in the summertime. Just a tenth of a mile into the hike, ignore the connector to the Berry Patch Trailhead and stay right. If you like to graze while you hike, huckleberries and blueberries ripen alongside the trail in late summer.
Just before the two-mile mark, you’ll cross a sturdy bridge over Goat Creek and then enter a cedar swamp. After the snow melts in early summer, this stretch of trail is often overrun by hungry mosquitoes in search of their next meal. If you don’t want to be a walking buffet, apply insect repellant liberally or pick up the pace.
Up to this point, the trail has been largely flat and even downhill at times, but after you leave the swamp, the going becomes more challenging as you climb 1,100 feet over the next two miles.
Unless you’re hoping to extend the out-and-back hike into a lollipop-shaped route, avoid the bypass trail to your right at about the 3.5-mile mark and continue on the main trail. When you reach the junction with the Lily Basin Trail (Trail 86) at 4.1 miles, you’ve arrived at the lower portion of Snowgrass Flat. There are several campsites here. Linger a bit, wander down one of the many side trails in search of the perfect view or a proliferation of wildflowers, or turn around and retrace your steps. Your total for the day will be roughly 8.2 miles.
But if wanderlust gets the better of you, continue straight on the remainder of Trail 96 and climb more than 400 feet to the Pacific Crest Trail, which is less than a mile away. Then hang a right, soak in the views, and descend a mile to the aforementioned connector trail. Take it to return to Trail 96 and head home for a hike more than 10 miles in length.
An even more enticing option, but one that will bring your total mileage to 13, is to take a left at the main junction and follow the Lily Basin Trail all the way up to stunning Goat Lake, a turquoise lake situated in a north-facing cirque that is often snow-covered well into summer. Campsites abound on this loop route. From the lake, follow the Goat Ridge Trail (Trail 95) through a panoramic landscape with views of Mt. Adams and verdant Jordan Basin below. Just before you reach the Berry Patch trailhead, hang a left on the connector back to the Snowgrass Trail and follow it the short distance back to your car.
PRO TIP: If the parking lot at the Snowgrass Trailhead is full, you can park at the nearby Berry Patch Trailhead, which requires a Northwest Forest Pass but no wilderness permit.