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Backpacker Magazine – August 2013

Rip & Go: Goat Ridge Loop, Goat Rocks Wilderness, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, WA

Explore an alpine oasis amid volcanic terrain along the crest of the Cascades.

by: Eli Boschetto

Goat Ridge Loop (Photo by Tom Dempsey)
Goat Ridge Loop (Photo by Tom Dempsey)

Do it Tucked between glaciated peaks in Washington’s southern Cascades, the Goat Rocks Wilderness flaunts flower-filled valleys, rocky ridges, snow-capped volcanoes, and 100-mile views.

See the best of this high country on a 13.8-mile weekend loop from the Snowgrass trailhead (1). Walk .7 mile to the self-issue permit station at the Berry Patch trailhead (2) and ascend 1,120 feet in 1.2 miles to Goat Ridge. The trail trends northeast through forest to a ridgeline, offering views of the verdant Goat Creek Basin and nearby Old Snowy, the 7,930-foot remnant of an extinct, 12,000-foot, 2-million-year-old volcano. After traversing the west side of Goat Ridge (mile 2.7), see a peak-framed tableau of Jordan Basin’s emerald, slopeside meadows decorated with wildflowers—orange paintbrush, blue lupine, and purple aster (all blooming July and August). Spy 14,409-foot, glacier-stacked Mt. Rainier to the north and the gutted dome of 8,366-foot Mt. St. Helens to the southwest. Hit the lip of a drainage (3) at 4.8 miles, where snowmelt-fed Jordan Creek pools before tumbling 600 feet southwest to the Jordan Basin. Continue through a meadow, and then climb out of the basin to the west side of Goat Ridge (4), where you can see Old Snowy again to the east. Drop your pack, grab the essentials (camera included), and take the .6-mile, 800-foot climb across volcanic shards to Hawkeye Point (5). From this 7,341-foot vantage, take in a classic, all-the-way-around Cascades panorama, including an in-your-face view of Mt. Rainier, 26 miles northwest. Go ahead and linger; an excellent campsite (6) awaits just .6 mile farther down the main trail before the outlet of cerulean Goat Lake, framed by jagged ridges. Set up your tent in the packed dirt under steep talus slopes; listen for pikas chirping and look for mountain goats on the high ledges. The setting sun paints the glaciers atop 12,280-foot Mt. Adams with pastel shades of alpenglow.

Next morning, catch the sunrise over Oregon’s 11,250-foot Mt. Hood, 80 miles south. Rock-hop across the Goat Lake outlet and contour around the Goat Creek Valley clockwise on the main trail. Hike south through wildflower-laden meadows and cross several creeks cascading from Old Snowy’s flanks. At 9.4 miles (7), continue south, reentering pine and fir forest, where you’ll descend under pine to close the loop (8).

Get there From Seattle, take I-5 to exit 68 (US 12 E). Go 62 miles; near milepost 128, turn right on FR 21. Drive 13.5 miles, then turn left on FR 2150. Turn right at the next two forks to the trailhead. Gear up REI; 625 Black Lake Blvd., Olympia; (360) 786-1938; Contact  (360) 497-1100; Season July through October; August to see wildflowers in full bloom and to avoid peak mosquito season. Trip ID 2210942

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