An easy out and back in Goat Rocks is Packwood Lake. Start at the Packwood Lake Trailhead about six miles from the town of Packwood. Packwood Lake is probably the second most popular trail area in the Goat Rocks Wilderness, next to Berry Patch/Snowgrass. Packwood Lake sits around 4000 feet in elevation. The lake was formed when soil and rocks slid from Snyder Mountain and dammed up Lake Creek. The trail doesn’t loop around but does extend the east side for a one way total of 5.75 miles.
Right at the start of the trailhead is a view of Mt. Ranier. The first mile has most of the climbing at 433 feet. It wanders the conifer forest until a view of White Pass is offered near the top. The trail then descends toward the lake for about a half-mile and stays flat from there.
Along the way are forest flowers like the Colt’s Foot, Calypso Orchids, and Red Flowering Currant. Deer fern aligns the trail. Pacific Yew and moss feed from the streams heading toward the lake.
Eventually, the trail reaches the guard station that was built in 1910 and then Packwood Lake comes into view, with Johnson Mountain towering above it.
Cross a bridge and start heading around the lake. The lake is fed by several streams from the glaciers giving it a pale green color. At the bridge, the hydroelectric power station comes into view. Energy Northwest developed the station in the 1960s. At full capacity, Packwood Lake can generate 27.5 megawatts per minute. Over a total year, that’s 94 million kilowatt-hours, enough to power 8000 homes.
Once past the dam, stay right on the Upper Lake Creek Trail to continue around the lake for another 1.5 miles. Toward the end, the lake becomes marshy and stocked with skunk cabbage. At the end of the trail, Mt. Ranier peaks over a ridge for the reward. The trail actually continues on to the Packwood Saddle and the PCT via the Coyote Trail #79 for a longer run. The Packwood Lake Trail connects to Three Peaks Trail, Clear Lost Trail, Bluff Lake Trail and Coyote Trails for more exploration of Goat Rocks.