For those traveling through Packwood without time to drive forest roads to the trailheads in Goat Rocks Wilderness, the Pacific Crest Trail can be accessed from White Pass. The PCT to Shoe Lake trailhead is 5.75 miles with 2347′ of ascent, making the out and back 11.5 miles.
The first three miles climb through dense forest, with a few meadows of wildflowers and a couple of small ponds. Mt. Ranier starts to appear to the North. After a few switchbacks over a mile, the saddle will be reached. The trail follows the Hogback Ridge. The ridge overlooks the Tieton River and Pinegrass Ridge to the East.
The trail follows the ridge for 1.7 miles until the Shoe Lake trailhead is reached. 360-degree views of Goat Rocks, Mt. Ranier, Shoe Lake, and Tieton Peak are available on a clear day.
If there are two cars available, a loop can be made by running to Tieton Pass from Shoe Lake. Stay on the PCT for 3.6 miles to Clear Fork Trail #61. Turn right at the Clear Fork junction. The Clear Fork is not maintained or traveled like the PCT, so expect a little bushwacking and some blowdown. Follow the trail for 6.3 miles to the Clear Lost Trail #76 and turn right. In a mile, there is a crossing of the Clear Fork of the Cowlitz River that can be challenging. It’s not too deep, but the river can move fast. Once the trail is crossed, climb another mile up to HWY 12 where the second car is waiting for a total of 19.35 miles.
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