During September’s cold snap Steve and I decided it would be a good idea to hit the trails for a quick overnighter in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. Braving sleet and below freezing temperatures we hiked up to Snowgrass Flat, then over to Goat Lake and down Jordan Basin to complete a loop hike starting at the Snowgrass Trailhead.
Distance: 13 miles (with tons of options for side trips, ours ended up being around 16 miles)
Time: 2 days or more
Difficulty: Moderate (only because of the exposure and 3000 ft. elevation gain)
Season: End of July to October
Dog Friendly: Yes, as long as they know to stay on the trail and are confident walking on narrow trails with steep drop offs
Pros: Stunning views of Mt. Adams, wildflowers, mountain goats, plenty of water
Cons: busy trail, horse use in places, weather can change quickly
On the first day we hiked up to Snowgrass flat on trail #96, a pretty straightforward easy 4 mile hike. After continuing about a mile past the flat to find a site closer to day two’s destination, and finding the best sites already taken, we ended up backtracking to the flat and camping near a pretty little creek. Shortly after we set up camp a small storm blew in and brought with it sleet, hail and very cold temps. We were so happy we packed warmly and brought our waterproof gear.
If we hadn’t been worried about the weather we could have done one of the great side trips on the PCT over to Cispus Basin or up to the summit of Old Snowy, both have been highly recommended by fellow hikers.
As I was laying in the tent debating whether to leave my positively toasty Marmot sleeping bag or not, I looked up and thought “Wow, there’s no condensation we must have vented the tent really well.” NOT, all that condensation was FROZEN. The whole meadow had a frozen layer of frost/ice over it, but happily we woke up to a stunning view of Mt. Adams peeking through the trees on the other side of the flats. We were glad to see the skies had cleared and we would finally have some views. A hiker we passed on the trail said his thermometer read 22 degrees Fahrenheit….brr, no wonder everything was frozen.
The hike over to Goat Lakes on the Lily Basin trail (#86) is pretty moderate, just a slow and steady uphill with spectacular views of the valley, wildflowers, and Mt. Adams. After about 3 miles you’ll reach Goat Lake, which was still partially frozen in September. If you’re lucky you might see some mountain goats up on the slope behind the lake; we saw at least 20 mountain goats above the lake.
Hiking down from the lake the trail is fairly narrow and was even muddy in a couple places, so watch your step. If you turn around and look back the way you came you have a great view of Old Snowy.
Less than a mile past the lake is a junction which takes you up to the top of Hawkeye Point and over to Lily Basin. To complete the loop continue straight and head down into gorgeous Jordan Basin,which looks like it just drops off at the base. There is a really pretty campsite near the bottom, although fairly exposed.
Continue on trail 95 or to check out the Goat Ridge lookout detour to 95A which rejoins 95 as it heads back down to the start of your hike. To complete the loop either walk on the road back to your car or take the trail marked Snowgrass Flats that goes through Berry Patch and over to where your car is parked at the Snowgrass trailhead.
As you pack for this trip don’t forget the Ten Essentials and to pack your layers.
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