Trails for everyone, forever

Home Go Hiking Hiking Guide Surprise Lake

Surprise Lake

South Cascades


South Cascades
View map below


13.0 miles, roundtrip


Gain: 1505 ft.
Highest Point: 5260 ft.


3.45 out of 5

(11 votes) Log in to rate
WTA worked here: 2017

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass

Most hikers enter the Goat Rocks Wilderness from the western side, but those who come in from the east find the wilderness just as beautiful and wild, and much less crowded. The Surprise Lake Trail is one of the few that enter from the east, and it is also one of the most gentle and scenic.

From the parking area, hike up the closed road, past the Bear Creek Mountain trail to a red gate. Look for the trail to the left of this gate. 

The trail climbs gradually from Conrad Meadows — a broad, grassy meadow in the valley bottom-to the high alpine lake at trail's end. Along the way it passes through a seemingly endless series of forest meadows. These elk pastures are broken up by beautiful stands of ponderosa pine and spruce forests, and are home to not only elk but also white-tailed and mule deer and a host of small critters.

The first 3.5 miles of trail thread through these patchwork wildflower meadows, but the upper end of the route is enclosed in denser forests until, near the lake, the route breaks out into alpine clearings. Above the pretty little lake loom some of the great craggy peaks that give the Goat Rocks Wilderness its name. With a pair of binoculars and a little patience, it's possible to spot the creatures themselves. Mountain goats scramble among the rocky slopes high above the lake, jumping lightly about the cliffs that lie between the forest and the glaciers. Look for them on the bare rocks above green fields of moss and grass.

There are good campsites at the lake and along the numerous meadows farther down the trail. If you choose to camp in a meadow, though, wander as far off trail as is reasonable and look for a campsite that is sheltered from the trail by a stand of trees. This will shield your camp from other hikers so they can continue to enjoy their sense of solitude in this wild, beautiful area.


Surprise Lake

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 46.4930, -121.3068 Open map in new window


South Cascades

South Fork Tieton Trail (#1120)

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Naches Ranger District

See weather forecast

Guidebooks & Maps

Day Hiking South Cascades (Nelson and Bauer - Mountaineers Books)

Day Hiking: Mount Adams and Goat Rocks (Asars - Mountaineers Books)

Green Trails 304: Rimrock

Green Trails 303: White Pass

Green Trails 335: Walupt Lake

Buy the Green Trails Rimrock No. 304 map

Buy the Green Trails White Pass No. 303 map

Buy the Green Trails Goat Rocks-William O Wilderness No. 303S map

Buy the Green Trails Walupt Lake No. 335 map

Getting There

From Yakima, drive west on Highway 12 for 33.2 miles and turn left onto Tieton River Road (signed for Rimrock Lake Rec. Area). Turn onto this road and drive around the lake for 4.5 miles. Make a left onto FR 1000, signed South Fork Tieton.

You'll be on this road for 11.4 miles, though pavement ends at 10.3 miles. Come to a Y at 11.4 miles and bear left, staying on FR 1000. 5.1 miles past the Y, bear right, again staying on FR 1000. Finally, a half mile later, arrive at the Conrad Campground.

The trail can be found through the parking area, up a closed road past the Bear Creek Mountain trail and up to a red gate. Look for the trail to the left of this gate.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass

You can improve or add to this guidebook entry

Surprise Lake

47 Trip Reports

Hiked here recently?

Submit a trip report!
Trip Reports