Thursday, January 31, 2013

Gold Creek Basin Snowshoe

GOLD CREEK BASIN SNOWSHOE Gold Creek Pond and/or Gold Creek Trail (East of Snoqualmie Pass) If you’re seeking an easy, scenic snowshoe tour Gold Creek Basin meets all those requirements and more. The shortest snowshoe (or cross-country ski tour) would be the 1-mile loop around Gold Creek Pond. Snowshoers wanting more of a work-out or solitude can go further up into the basin to Heli Pond or even the Gold Creek Trail. The scenic basin is bordered by Rampart Ridge, Chikamin Ridge and other Snoqualmie peaks. Gold Creek Pond is especially popular on weekends as it is suitable for all ages, ranging from senior citizens to families with small children, some with dogs. If this is your first snowshoe or cross-country ski-trip the pond is ideal for a first-time snowshoe experience. You will need an early start (especially on a weekend) as this is a popular place and a Sno-Park permit to park at the trailhead. We enjoy Gold Pond year-round but there is always an air of festivity in winter. From the trailhead/portable toilet go uphill onto the forest service road to the junction where a spur (left) leads to Gold Pond. Experienced snowshoers can bypass Gold Pond and continue on the forest service road to the Gold Creek trailhead past privately owned cabins – the Gold Creek trailhead is about ¾ mile from Gold Pond. At the pond we snowshoed (counterclockwise) onto the path that borders Gold Pond (in summer the path is barrier-free). On a clear day take time to enjoy the views to the head of Gold Creek valley. Bring the map to identify the peaks that enclose the valley –Chikamin Peak, Alta Mountain and Snoqualmie Peak to mention a few. That bulky ridge that rises on the right-hand (east) side of the valley is Rampart Ridge. Rather than completing the loop we left Gold Pond at the trail junction (1/4 mile from the Gold Pond trailhead) for the Gold Creek trail. This short spur connects back to the forest service road and passes several cabins and homes (foot traffic is OK). Before you get to the Gold Creek trailhead you’ll pass Heli’s Pond (left) with a scenic, curved bridge. The pond originally belonged to Burlington-Northern Railroad and later was purchased by private land-owners (it is public land today). The pond was named Heli’s Pond to honor a previous property owner. It makes a nice side-trip. Past Heli’s Pond (about 3/4 mile from Gold Pond) you’ll come to the Gold Creek Trail at the end of the road (the sign may be buried so look for tracks where others have gone). In summer the trail crosses Gold Creek (a potentially hazardous crossing – no bridge) and strong hikers often continue on fading paths to Alaska or Joe Lake. The Gold Creek Trail also offers more opportunities for solitude; though this is a beautiful trail year-round it is not as visited as often as other trails along the I-90 corridor. In winter most snowshoers turn around at the first avalanche chute where the Gold Creek Trail breaks out of the trees where you may see avalanche paths (in summer look for waterfalls tumbling down the cliffs of Rampart Ridge after the snow melts). The first avalanche chute is about a mile from the beginning of the Gold Creek trail and is a good turnaround. Getting there: From Seattle take I-90 east over Snoqualmie Pass and get off at the Hyak-Gold Creek (Exit No. 54, about two miles from Snoqualmie Pass). Go left under I-90, turn right onto the Gold Creek frontage Road and in about a mile find parking near the end of the frontage road where it is gated. Do not park under I-90 – parking is prohibited there and you are apt to be towed. If there’s no room to park at the end of the frontage road turn around and drive back along the frontage road until you find one. A Sno-Park pass is required. Additional information: The Gold Creek Pond (Trail No. 1250) is about a one-mile loop with minimal gain. From Gold Creek Pond it is about 3/4 mile further on the forest service road to the Gold Creek trailhead (Trail No. 1314) with little gain. Your mileage will depend on how far you venture up into Gold Creek Basin). Map: Green Trails No. 207 Snoqualmie Pass (trail and road numbers may not match older maps). If you are going beyond Gold Pond get an avalanche forecast before venturing beyond Gold Pond - visit the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center website at or call their Avalanche Information Hotline at 206-526-6677. For information on where to obtain a Sno-Park permit visit the Washington State Parks website at for trail conditions call the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in North Bend at 425-888-1421. Karen Sykes