Hike to Elk Pass via "the Knife"

Rate this Adventure Washington Snowgrass Flat Trailhead

Added by Isaac Desautels

Experience one of the best portions of the PCT and arguably the most scenic trail in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. With options for spectacular side trips and colorful wildflowers in the summertime, this hike is a must. 

This is a rather long out and back, however, it can also be done as a backpack, which would give you more time to explore the Goat Rocks Wilderness, which is highlighted in other Adventures. For your trip to Elk Pass, begin your trek in the Snowgrass Flats parking lot. A Northwest Forest Pass is required. A short spur trail takes you west towards Trail #96 to Snowgrass flats. Two miles in woods brings you to Goat Creek and winds through a swamp. If you go earlier in the season this part of the trail is swarming with mosquitoes. 

Over the course of the next two miles the trail climbs over 1000ft elevation before reaching the meadows at Snowgrass Flats. This is an excellent, albeit, crowded place to set up camp if you plan on backpacking. Additionally there is a side trip to Goat Lake that is about 4 miles round trip. Continue on from here about one mile until you reach the PCT. Continue N on the PCT through the open meadows and take in the Views of Mt Adams and the spectacular meadows. The trail eventually comes to a split to either head up to Old Snowy or to bypass Old Snowy and follow a narrow path cut below the ridge. Both ways are challenging. The Bypass has steep snow fields to cross and loose rock, the route up towards old snowy is steep and narrow with loose rock. We chose to try each. On the route up towards Old Snowy, a small trail leads to the top if you would like to summit. On your way down you will continue on to “The Knife,” a roller coaster of a ridgeline that has beautiful 360-degree views of Mt Rainier and nearby mountains and valleys. If you are lucky, fog will have flooded the valley below and wind will cause the fog to flow over the ridge, which is quite the spectacle. Hike about a mile further to highest point of the ridgeline for your turn around spot, Elk Pass, and a great place for lunch. 

This hike is long and will take all day, make sure to bring adequate water and snacks.

Pack List

  • 10 essentials
  • Camera
  • Bug Spray
  • Northwest Forest Pass
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Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:



Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:



18.2 Miles

Elev. Gain:

4000 Feet


Dog Friendly
Easy Parking

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