Goat Lake

With a very sunny day forecast Kim joined me for an old favorite early season hike. My first visit to Goat Lake was on 4-25-87. A little over 29 years ago. That was just three years after the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness was created. Over the years the road walk version has nearly always been open to hike. The old puncheon mining road has sometimes been hikable and sometimes not. There was a clear cut section before reaching the old parking lot where the two routes meet and continue on to the lake. In 1991 the lower trail along Elliot Creek was a mess. I wrote that I was "cut to ribbons" while hiking back through the clear cut. It was a mess of sticker bushes. In years later I hiked it again when the trail was repaired. Right after that near the start at the parking lot the trail fell into the creek. That first part is not not able to be hiked. More recent hikers know that the lower trail is now accessed from the road/trail just a short way up from the parking lot. This day we chose to go up and down the creek route.

We drove over Barlow Pass and left the Mountain Loop Highway at the Elliot Creek trail sign. There were at least 20 cars in the small lot when we arrived at about 9:05 am. On my 2003 visit I arrived at 9:30 am and was the first car in the lot. It was become more popular. We found skunk cabbage by the parking area and a good variety of spring wildflowers from the start all the way to the lake. Lots of trillium in bloom plus yellow violets, bleeding hearts, fungus, and more. The forest walk along the creek was comfortably cool. Elliot Creek has a lot of water flowing and we heard the roar of the creek. We took a number of photos stops and had many folks hike on by us. We had a good crowd this day but it will be much larger after Memorial Day. This trip is too popular for me to hike in the summer.

Just after leaving the road/trail and heading down to the creek we found that the clay slope was sloughing. There are several big cracks in the trail. One bridge had the end fall several feet. It can still be crossed but the center support is starting to tilt. This part of the trail needs help and the sooner the better. After that the trail was in fine shape. Near and in the old clear cut there were several trees down across the trail. None were a problem to go over, under, or around. We passed several groups of backpackers heading out. They said there were half a dozen groups camping at the lake on Friday night. There would be many more on Saturday night. At the old parking lot the road/trail and creek trail meet. My old hiking guide says the lot held 80 cars. At that time the hike to the lake was only about 2 miles. I'm glad to see the road was closed to cars. I remember when the lot was bare dirt and gravel. Today it has 30 foot trees growing in it. It does not look like it was ever a parking lot.

After a little more old clear cut the route entered forest. Really nice forest. There are some very big trees along the trail here. I think the forest is ever bit as impressive as Goat Lake. I often slow down here to just enjoy the huge fir and cedar trees. Though well into the Cascade Mountains the lake is at only 3161'. The big trees are at about 2700'. The last mile has a good chunk of the elevation gain. Even that is not much. The mining road crossed the creek on a long gone bridge and the trail climbs higher. Soon the old road comes back in on the right after recrossing the creek. That bridge is also long gone. More gentle switchbacks lead to the lake. It was already 12:20 pm when we arrived. A leisurely 3 hours to hike up 4.5 miles

Foggy Peak sits behind the lake and it is most impressive in the spring when it is still covered in snow. A really great backdrop. We headed down the lake to see of we just might find a spot near the minimal shore to have lunch. Every spot was taken by the time we reached the spot where nice forest gives way to small thick trees and little shore. The group at the last good spot were just packing up. They left and we took a great spot. S mall rocky bit of shore with views of the lake and the snowy peaks behind. It was shady with a slight breeze. Perfect in every way. Warm but not hot, no bugs, and fantastic views. Well worth the effort to hike up to the lake. We spent about 1.5 hours at the lake. There were lots of folks there but our spot was spectacular. A pair of hikers joined us and just before 2:00 pm we headed back. Great conditions for those who were camping.

There area a series of waterfalls starting just after the lake outlet. They are loud and worth looking for. McIntosh Falls is the name. We hunted around and found some good viewpoints. There was a whole lot of water flowing by. A slip into the creek here would almost certainly be fatal. It is an impressive falls. We spent the better part of half an hour around the falls.

The amazing fact is the number of backpackers we saw coming up while we hiked down. Several times more than the existing campsites. I'm not sure where people end up putting down tents. There are a lot of places with great solitude in the mountains for backpacking and this is not one of them. We made better time hiking down but still had a lot of photo stops. Though it was a warm day it was never hot on the forested trail. Back at the parking lot Kim wanted to check for the start of the old trails. There was the original one right out of the old parking lot and a newer one that also crossed the short flat section then switchbacked steeply down to the creek and the old puncheon mining road. Try as we might we could not find either one. We both had hiked both in the past. No tread, no cut logs, nothing. I'm not sure of the current lot is at a different place or what. After about half an hour we gave up. It will remain a mystery.

Although Goat Lake is very popular we managed to have a great hike. Lots of other hikers but with big breaks between seeing them on the trail. Nothing like Mt. Si, Mailbox Peak, or Snow Lake. The conditions were ideal. The wildflower show while not among the best was about as good as it gets. We last hiked up in November 2013 and saw one group all day. I may be back in late fall again but this spring trip was a blast.

Over The Side
Sloughing Trail
Bridge Fell
Creek Through Trees
Big Log
Poking Through
"Black" Bird
Green Bank
Big Fungus
Bright Colors
Chicken Of The Woods
Shade & Sun
Bleeding Hearts
Wild Ginger
Brown Stripe
Broken Old Sign
Kim & Big Tree
New Wilderness Sign
Snowy Peaks
Goat Lake
Lake & Foggy Peak
Green Lake
Nice Backdrop
Big Waterfall
Heading Out
Kim Near Outlet
Top Of Falls
Middle Falls
More McIntosh Falls
Back Near Creek
Elliot Creek
Hiking Along Creek
Past Prime Trillium
Troubled Bridge
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2016