backpack: Goat Rocks – Snowgrass Flat, Goat Lake & Bypass Loop
On this three night trip during stormy and buggy weather, we camped near Snowgrass Flat and hiked to ice-covered Goat Lake and did a loop hike on the Bypass Trail.
- distance & elevation gain to campsite: 5.25 miles, 1,500 ft. gain
- day hike options: Goat Lake, Old Snowy, Cispus Basin
- best months: mid-July to September
- location: Goat Rocks Wilderness; nearest town: Packwood
- land management: Gifford Pinchot National Forest: Cowlitz Valley Ranger District
- trail conditions: Snowgrass Trail #96
- hike description: Washington Trails Association – Snowgrass Flat
- permits: self-issued at the trailhead
- trailhead pass: none required
Day 1 – hike in to Snowgrass Flat/Lily Basin area
5.25 miles, 1,500 ft. gain
We were planning to spend four nights on this trip, but the weather made slight changes to those plans. It was hot and muggy with temps in the low 80s when we hiked in via the Snowgrass Flats trailhead to the Lily Basin Trail. From there, we scouted for a campsite. At first, it seemed like we might have a hard time finding a spot even though it was mid-week. We continued on the Lily Basin Trail, taking every side trail to find a suitable established site for six tents. We finally found the perfect pre-existing campsite next to a small wildflower meadow, good creek access for water, and views of Goat Rocks. With meadows full of wildflowers everywhere you turned, there were also lots of bugs – some biting, some just swarming.
Day 2 – day hike to Goat Lake
6 miles, 1,300 ft. gain
On the second day, we did a day hike to Goat Lake and the ridge below Hawkeye Point. We passed through meadow after meadow – filled with lupines, purple asters, red paintbrush, and many more colorful varieties of flowers.
It was another hot day, and most of this hike has no shade so to attempt to stay cool, I dipped my bandana in cool creek water along the way and placed it at the back of my neck.
At Goat Lake, most of the water surface was still covered with snow and ice, but several of my friends took a full plunge in the icy water anyway. I dipped my feet in several times, and the coldness of the water had an immediate numbing effect. In spite of how hot I’d been, I don’t know how they swam in it!
After relaxing at the lake for awhile, we continued on the Lily Basin Trail towards Hawkeye Point for views of Goat Lake from above, and Jordan Basin below. The next time I’m here, I hope to have time to go up to Hawkeye Point for even better views.
Sunset at camp…
Day 3 – day hike on the Snowgrass Flats, PCT and Bypass Trails
6 miles with 1,250 ft. gain
From our camp, we hiked on the Snowgrass Trail to the junction with the PCT. When we reached the junction, Goat Rocks looms large above. We turned right and headed south on the PCT. We had planned to hike to Cispus Basin, but when we reached the Bypass Trail, the effects of hiking in the heat over the past several days was getting to me and I was beginning to suffer from heat exhaustion, so we decided take a break and make a loop to head back to camp.
Thankfully, I recovered fully that night after replenishing electrolytes and resting. I woke up to the sound of rain at about 11pm, with lightning and thunder that lasted for about two hours.
The rain picked up again in the morning, so we set up our camp kitchen in a small opening in the trees, staying dry while we cooked breakfast and made coffee. I pulled a weather report on my InReach to see that more thunderstorms were expected later in the day, so we cut our trip short, packing up and hiking out via the same way we hiked in.
Goodbye for now, Goat Rocks! I’m sure I’ll be back.