Hiking: Goat Rocks Wilderness-Snowgrass Flats Loop
A couple of good friends and I decided to continue an annual tradition of a fall get together with a backpacking trip. Since we only had a weekend for the trip, we needed to choose a place that was fairly close to Portland and a hike that was short in distance. Goat Rocks Wilderness area was only a 3 hour drive from Portland and a perfect destination. I honestly loved every part of this hike. The scenery was so beautiful and open. There were many points throughout the hike that we had a perfectly clear view of majestic Mt. Adams. It had some challenges but wasn’t the kind of hike where you felt like you were going to die. This allowed us plenty of time to chat and catch up, which was just what we needed for a girl’s weekend.
Hike: Snowgrass Flats-Goat Ridge Loop Backpacking Trip- 3 days; 2 nights
Date: September 15th-17th, 2017
Hiking Buddies: Liz and TJ
Total distance: approx. 16.6 miles
Elevation gain: 3000 feet
Permit required: Northwest Forest Pass ($30 for annual); wilderness permit (free and available at trailhead)
Beer pairing: Tall Timber Restaurant -Rainier
Day 1: Snowgrass Flats trailhead to campsite just before Jordan’s Basin
Total distance: 3.6 miles
We left Portland around 1:30 on Friday and arrived at the Snowgrass Trailhead around 5 pm. Many sources say this hike is extremely popular and that parking can be difficult, but due to the fact that it was the end of the season and the temperatures were cold, we didn’t have any issues. We decided to take the loop clockwise, taking a sharp left immediately on a horse trail followed shortly after by a right on the Goat Ridge Trail and ascended into a forest. Since we didn’t have too long before the sun started to set, we were on the lookout for a campsite and found one shortly after a stop to gaze at Mt. Adams. We set up camp and made dinner as it was getting dark. The temperature was dropping fast and we had to crawl into our tents to try and get warm. The wind was pretty intense all night and the temperatures probably somewhere in the low 40s. Freezing cold feet all night long led to a sleepless night but the beauty of the next day would distract us from feeling tired.
Day 2: Campsite near Jordan’s Basin to Campsite in Snowgrass Flats
Total Distance: approx. 9 miles
We woke up sleepy and chilly and enjoyed some warm coffee. Then we set out for what was almost immediately my favorite part of the loop. The trail climbed a little more and then into Jordan Basin, where we stopped to pump some water. The views here were wonderful and we were surrounded by large open, green areas. Then after climbing through some switchbacks and spotting some marmots in the rocks, we were at 6600 feet elevation and had a straight on view of the Goat Rocks crest, as well as Mt. Adams. The trail then descended to Goat Lake, which is covered with ice a lot of the year but was a beautiful blue color.
We stopped shortly after for a lunch break and then continued on to the Snowgrass Flat area where we reached an intersection of trails. We took one small trail to find a campsite and as we were setting up, got a visit from a Black Bear about 75 feet away! It was about 2 pm and we were happy to be ditching our packs so early with some time left in the day to explore the area. From back at the trail junction, we took the trail to the left up until it intersected with the PCT. We passed several exposed campsites along the way with amazing views that would have been perfect had it not been for the cold temperatures and heavy wind. After learning that part of the PCT was closed ahead for trail maintenance, we followed the PCT down towards Cispus Basin and stopped at a campsite for happy hour and some views. We finished off by backtracking up the PCT until it intersected with the Snowgrass Trail and took us back towards our campsite. After dinner, the temperatures dropped drastically again and we found ourselves seeking warmth in our tents for an early bedtime.
Day 3: Snowgrass Flats to Snowgrass Trailhead
Total Distance: 4 miles
We woke up, enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and packed up. The short, mostly downhill hike back to the parking lot was all in the forest, and a peaceful way to start the day and end out the trip. Hungry for lunch and ready for a beer, we stopped at the first inviting looking restaurant in Randle and enjoyed some delicious cold, crisp beers with some hearty food!