Saturday, August 6, 2011

Glacier Lake, Goat Rocks Wilderness

Glacier Lake (Goat Rocks Wilderness)

We’re glad we didn’t read trail reports before we discovered this hike. Last year the road to the trailhead was inaccessible, blow downs and landslides messed up the trail and those doughty souls who made it to Glacier Lake despite those obstacles were so fatigued by the time they got there they were disappointed.

We found the trail on a Green Trails map and since it was close to Packwood, one of our favorite areas to explore, we drove there to check it out. Getting there was easy enough though we did find Road 2110 unsuitable for a passenger vehicle. Instead, we parked along the shoulder of FS Road 21 – the trail is signed.

After a short jaunt on the forest service road we came to two washouts – the road is closed prior to the washouts but there is no room to park. It wasn’t a deal-breaker as the road walk is less than ½ mile and in August the road was bordered with wildflowers.

There is also a sign where the trail begins so it’s hard to miss. There are self-issued permits at the trailhead to enter the Goat Rocks Wilderness so be sure to fill one out. We weren’t sure about the NW Forest Pass so we made sure it was visible on the car.

The trail has several ups and downs, some of them steep. Trekking poles are advised for some of the steep sections. While the steep stretches are not exposed it’s easy to skid on the dirt/pebble surface. Other than that the trail is in good condition though I wouldn’t recommend the hike for children.

Though the trail is short I’d rate this as a strenuous hike as per the GPS the elevation gain is greater than in previous hike descriptions. The trail offers views of old-growth forest at its finest with plenty of vine-maple all along the trail and at the lake. As you approach the lake mossy boulders begin to appear and the trail skirts a jumble of jumbo boulders en route to the lake. You can make your turnaround the boulders if you prefer – there are views of the lake – or continue a short stretch to the lakeshore for better views of the lake.

At one time a trail went around the lake (the lake is huge) but the tread we found appears to show little use so we didn’t pursue it. There is an enormous cedar tree that frames one of the campsites near the shoreline; one of the most impressive we’ve seen.

Solitude is practically a given – we only encountered two other hikers.

On our way home we stopped at Packwood to visit the Packwood Museum (it used to be a school) as it was open. We spent a couple hours there viewing the exhibits and talking to the nice folks that volunteer their time and work to keep it open. We can honestly say this is one of the most interesting museums we’ve ever visited so make it a point to stop by.

Getting there: From Packwood drive 3 miles (west) on US 12 to FS Road No. 21 (signed) then continue to spur 2110 (signed) on the left – the road is okay for passenger cars. The map is Green Trails No. 302 Packwood WA.

The hike is 6.5 miles round trip, approximately 2,100 feet gain with ups and downs.