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Goat Rocks Wilderness: A Real Eye-Popper

Some say Goat Rocks Wilderness has the best scenery along the 2,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail. Decide for yourself.

QUICK TAKE: Goat Rocks Wilderness

DRIVE TIME: Goat Rocks Wilderness is located in southeastern Washington, about 145 miles (31/2 hours) southeast of Seattle and 160 miles (31/2 hours) northeast of Portland.

THE WAY: Trailheads to the west and central sections of the wilderness are off US 12, 16 miles east of Packwood.

TRAILS: There are more than 30 interconnected trails totaling about 120 miles. The most popular are Snowgrass Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, which intersect at the flower fields of Snowgrass Flat.

ELEVATION: Hiker-accessible terrain ranges from 2,700 to 8,200 feet along a series of summits running north-south on the Cascade crest.

CAN’T MISS: Mountain goats are often visible from a distance, casually grazing on precariously steep summit slopes.

CROWD CONTROL: Scenic Snowgrass Flat is thick with backpackers, especially late August through early September. The Johnson Peak area, accessible to strong hikers from the Lily Basin and Angry Mountain trails, offers relative solitude.

MAPS AND GUIDES: The best trail map of the area is the Goat Rocks Wilderness Map ($4) available at the U.S. Forest Service office listed below and at most outdoor retail shops in the Portland and Seattle areas. The Goat Rock Wilderness region is also covered by the USGS 7.5-minute topographic quads for Old Snowy Mountain, Packwood Lake, Walupt Lake, and White Pass.

PIT STOP: In Packwood, just before or after a hike, you can buy groceries at Blanton’s or refuel with a meal at Ambrosia: Shop of Fine Flavor.

WALK SOFTLY: Cathole human waste at least 100 feet from any water source. Pack out all refuse, toilet paper included.

MORE INFORMATION: For west and central region: U.S. Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Packwood Ranger District, 13068 US Highway 12, Packwood, WA 98361; (360) 494-0600. For eastern region: U.S. Forest Service, Wenatchee National Forest, Naches Ranger District, 10061 US Highway 12, Naches, WA 98937; (509) 653-2205. Permits for hiking and camping are required, and they’re available free of charge at trailhead self-registration posts. Beginning in 1998 there will be a quota on permits during heavy usage seasons, and there will be a small fee; permits will be available at ranger stations and certain outdoor outfitters.

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