Added by Cammeron Evans
This hike lies high in the Goat Rocks Wilderness, a stand out area for through hikers on the legendary Pacific Crest Trail.
The hike begins just outside of Packwood, Wa at the Berry Patch Trailhead Trail #96, sitting pretty at about 4200ft. The Goat Lake/Jordan Basin loop trail starts here, leading to Old Snowy. The magical Goat Rocks Wilderness area is just southeast of Mt. Rainier. It also lies right in the crosshairs of the scenic Pacific Crest Trail. You have a decision to make before you even hit the trailhead; go for the day trip, or stay a night or two in this wonderful area. I would strongly encourage the latter.
If you choose to day trip then definitely go counter clockwise from the trailhead. Having gone both ways, I would also suggest going this way for the overnight. This way you can summit Old Snowy and then head back down towards Goat Lake to finish the loop. Note, if you choose to finish the loop then this 17 mile trip becomes about 22 miles round trip. There will be a bit more elevation change, maybe 500 to 1000 more feet of gain in addition to the elevation listed for the peak. This adventure is for the summit itself. To read more about the loop check out my report for the Goat Lake/Jordan Basin Loop trip.
Departing from the trailhead, you travel for the first 4 miles through dense forest not far off of Goat Creek. You begin slowly climbing for almost another mile here until you reach the PCT just under 6000ft. Keep an eye out for water runoff here as there will only be snow to melt towards the very top. During this climb the views become abundant. On clear days, you are looking straight out to Adams, St. Helens, and the Goat Rocks ahead! From here its straight up about another 1000ft to the highest point along the Washington section of the PCT at 7,000ft.
As your destination comes into view, you also begin to see Rainier in the distance and Goat Lake in the basin you have just left. There will be a junction that takes you up the mountain or along the PCT. The trail goes up and becomes a scramble at the top, but once you reach the summit you have huge 360 degree views. We spoke with a through hiker at the summit who had completed the PCT the year prior. He told us that the Goat Rocks were one of his favorite areas along the entire trip! We camped up here for the night and watched both the mystical sunset and sunrise. If you dare, I would highly recommend taking your overnight gear up here. At the top there are three beautiful rock camps to claim for the night. I speak for my group when I say it was one of our most humbling camping experiences. This was probably due, in part, to it being our first night with no tent! This would be an amazing destination to catch a meteor shower!
In the morning, we made tea and had some breakfast as the sun danced off of the ancient ruin we just slept on top of. After the trip I found out that the Goat Rocks are the remains of an extinct ancient volcano, that once stood over 12,000ft. high 2 million years ago! To get back down to the loop trail you had once started on, head back down the way you came taking in Rainier one last time as it fades away behind the rocks. Also note the continuation of the PCT north of the junction to Old Snowy. There is a knifes edge trail following a ridge all the way to Elk's Pass. This serves as a fun section to hit if you want to do a small chunk of the PCT in itself. Keep dropping about 2,000ft, from your summit as you look down on the maze of trails below you.
Once you meet the junction, head back on out the way you came. If you are interested in finishing the loop and seeing the Lake, check out my adventure for the Goat Lake/Jordan Basin Loop! This was just our adventure, now you can go make it yours!
- Big ten (for overnighters)
- Snow Gear (Early season attempts)
- Map for the large area and many side trips
- Northwest Forest Pass
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