Goat Rocks Wilderness is a massive alpine nature sanctuary that has a long geological history and stunning sites. Once upon a long time ago, the Goat Rocks were part of a 12,000-foot volcano. Over thousands of years of erosion, they have since turned into several smaller peaks, averaging about 8,000 feet. While they may be short of what they once were, they are still remarkably impressive.
What Makes It Great
Goat Rocks Wilderness includes portions of Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie and Gifford Pinchot National Forests along the Cascade Mountain Range. The rocks themselves are a series of craggy peaks named after the creatures that inhabit the area. It's a good location for day hiking as well as longer backpacking trips. One first-rate backpacking trip is the Goat Rocks Loop, which goes from Snowgrass Flats to Cispus Basing to Nannie Ridge. Begin at the Snowgrass Trailhead, camp at Goat Lake, and head back via Goat Ridge for a 19.6-mile round trip journey, with an elevation gain of about 3000 feet. Some people like to take two cars and park one at Snowgrass, and one at the Nannie Ridge/west parking lot. Alternatively, make it an out-and-back route from Snowgrass Flats (though this does mean skipping out on Cispus Basin, which is home to extraordinary wildflowers in the spring).
Once on the trail, you'll cross a wooden bridge over Goat Creek. Then you'll come to Snowgrass Flats, where you'll veer left through meadows filled with wildflowers fortified by volcanic ash from the Mt. St. Helens eruption. You'll come to a stream with campsites, but you can push on to the nicer sites at Goat Lake. You'll climb from here, and probably glimpse some wildlife along with views of waterfalls and gorgeous alpine vistas. At the lake, you'll see Mt. Adams and the glacial valley below, and in the summer there are wildflowers everywhere. Keep your eyes peeled for elk, marmot, and, of course, mountain goats.
Who is Going to Love It
Anyone who has caught the backpacking bug and is looking to immerse him or herself in backcountry solitude.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
To start at the Snowgrass Flats Trailhead, take highway 12 south for 2.5-miles from Packwood, then turn east on Johnson Creek Road. Drive 15.7 miles to Forest Service Road 2150, pass the signs for Chambers Lake, and follow the signs for the Snowgrass Flats trailhead.
Alternatively, start from the Nannie Ridge Trailhead. After turning on to Johnson Creek Road, go past the turnoff to Chambers Lake and continue east to road 2169 toward Walupt Lake. Turn left and continue 3.2 miles to the trailhead.