backpack: Goat Rocks – Snowgrass Flat, PCT & Bypass Trail
On this mid-July trip, we camped near Snowgrass Flat and did a loop hike on the PCT and Bypass Trails. We attempted to reach Goat Lake and Old Snowy, but snow levels were still high this early in the season.
- distance & elevation gain to campsite: 4.5 miles, 1,460 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
Total mileage for four days: 20.4 miles with 3,894 ft. elevation gain
Day 1: hike in to Alpine Camp area
For this three night backpacking trip, we started at the Snowgrass trailhead and hiked in to the junction with the Lily Basin trail (about 4.5 miles, 1,500 ft. gain). We setup our tents at one of the many campsites in the Alpine Camp area. Within a short walk, there are views of Mount Adams, Goat Rocks, Goat Ridge, Mount St. Helens, and wildflower meadows with streams. For filtering water, we walked about a quarter of a mile to a beautiful stream. Wildflowers in bloom included avalanche lilies, heather, paintbrush, buttercup, asters, and more. Bear grass was abundant along sections too.
Day 2: day hike towards Goat Lake
On the second day, we did a day hike towards still-frozen Goat Lake. We hiked about 2 miles, then turned around at a snow bridge over a creek. There were several larger snowfields to cross, and with the warmth of summer, the snow was melting and making it not as safe to travel across them. We did see a few people crossing the snow bridges, but decided not to go any farther since there were more to cross on the way to Goat Lake.
Day 3: day hike Bypass Trail loop
On the third day, we took the Snowgrass trail across to the PCT, then headed north for about a mile. We were heading towards Old Snowy, but turned around at a large snowfield with a steep slope, opting to explore farther south on the PCT.
The Bypass trail was very different from everything else we had seen. We felt like we were hiking through fairy land. Bear grass filled the bright green meadows.
Back at camp, we explored the area at sunset, and I ran around with my camera yelling “Mount Adams is pink!”
Day 4: hike out
On the last morning, I got up before everyone else and walked around to get more photos in the early light. We packed up and headed out, knowing that rain was likely on the way. Sure enough, on the way out, it started sprinkling, then the rain picked up, it hailed for a bit, then poured rain while thunder roared. It didn’t get too close until we were back at the trailhead, sopping wet and ready to head home.