Goat Rocks Wilderness Area is a former volcano located in between Mt. Adams and Mt. Ranier in the Cascade Range in Washington. It first erupted 2.5 million years ago and was almost as tall as Mt. Ranier. The volcano stopped erupting about a half million years ago and melting subterranean ice from glaciers carved the crags and peaks to what it is today.
The annual snowfall is over 25 feet and melts in July, leaving the lakes and streams full all year long. Dedicated as a wilderness area by the US Congress in 1964, Goat Rocks is known for its beautiful and sweet-smelling wildflowers, which begin to bloom in late July and early August. The area is named after the goats that frequent the area at the higher elevation. Gilbert Peak (8,201 feet) and Old Snowy Mountain (7,930 feet) are the tallest points in Goat Rocks.
There are over 120 miles of trails in the Goat Rocks Wilderness area, most of it in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The Pacific Crest Trail runs right through the middle of it, with several access trails to the PCT. Most trailheads require a Northwest Forest Pass.
Packwood is the closest town to the area, which lies on State Highway 12, near White Pass, halfway between I-5 to the west and Yakima to the east.
Trailhead/Trails that access Goat Rocks Wilderness within Gifford Pinchot National Forest:
- Trailhead: Clear Fork – access to Trail #61 Clear Fork.
- Trailhead: Bluff Lake – access to Trail #65 Bluff Lake.
- Trailhead: Three Peaks – access to Trail #69 Three Peaks.
- Trailhead: Clear Lost – access to Trail #76 Clear Lost.
- Trailhead: Packwood Lake – access to Trail #78 Packwood Lake.
- Trailhead: Lily Basin – access to Trail #86 Lily Basin.
- Trailhead: Glacier Lake – access to Trail #89 Glacier Lake.
- Trailhead: Angry Mountain – access to Trail #90 Angry Mountain.
- Trailhead: Jordan Creek – access to Trail #94 Jordan Creek.
- Trailhead: Berry Patch -access to Trail #95 Goat Ridge.
- Trailhead: Snowgrass for hikers -access to Trail #96 Snowgrass.
- Trailhead: Walupt Lake – access to Trail #101 Walupt Lake and Trail #98 Nannie Ridge.
- Trailhead: Coleman Weedpatch – access to Trail #121 Coleman Weedpatch.
- Trailhead: Midway Pacific Crest – access to Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail #2000 southeast of Goat Rocks.
Snowgrass Flats Loop– The most popular section of the Goat Rocks Wilderness. In late July and early August, this section is full of wildflowers. The loop is just over 14 miles, and can easily be done in a few hours. Add an out and back to Hawkeye Point, Old Snowy Mountain, and The Knife’s Edge of the PCT to make a full day in Goat Rocks.
White Pass PCT to Shoe Lake – The White Pass trailhead is right off of HWY 12, making it easy to get to. An out and back to Shoe Lake provides views of Mt. Ranier to the North, Goat Rocks to the South, and Pinegrass Ridge and Tieton River to the East. If you don’t like out and backs, make a loop with two cars by connecting to Clear Fork and Clear Lost Trail back to HWY 12.
Packwood Lake– A beautiful serene lake in Goat Rocks Wildnerness and makes an easy out and back from Packwood Lake trailhead. On a nice day, Johnson Mountain and Mt. Ranier will reflect right on the lake.
Mountain Goat Coffee– A coffee shop located in Packwood with several blends, including one called Goat Rocks coffee. In late summer and early fall, this place is full of PCT thru-hikers. Mountain Goat provides pastries and other breakfast items to get the day started.
Bear Country Espresso– If you are looking for a small-town coffee stand on the way to Goat Rocks, Bear Country in Randle will do.
The one brewpub in the area is Packwood Brewing. Packwood has beers named after areas in Goat Rocks like White Pass Ale, Cowlitz Kolsch, and Tree Line IPA. Live music and food can be consumed both indoors or on the outdoor patio on nice summer days.