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South Tieton Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Walking up the first large stream, a fork of Conrad Creek (Jerry Adams)
Keep walking up the stream to a nice alpine meadow (Jerry Adams)

Contents

Hike Description

This is a less well known route up to the alpine areas of the Goat Rocks. There's a trail through alpine meadows at about 6000' that goes for about three miles, with possible routes above. It's possible to get up to 8184' Gilbert Peak.

Being on the East side of the Cascades, it's a long way to go from Portland or Seattle. If you're in the Yakima Valley however, it's right in your back yard. The Wenatchee National Forest website lists the trail as heavily used by hikers and horses. When I was there in mid August mid week there were 4 cars at the trailhead plus a couple horse trailers, which isn't nearly as many as Snowgrass Flats or other Westside trailheads.

Detail

The trailhead is at 4040'.

The trail starts up a road to a gate blocking vehicle traffic. Just before the gate is the signed junction with the Bear Creek Mountain Trail #1130 which goes right (North).

Just after the gate, a sign directs you onto the trail which goes left. The trail goes through Conrad Meadows, a privately owned cow pasture. Expect to see cattle along the trail. We disturbed several that acted fairly defensive, so we waited a couple minutes and they wandered away. There are a couple somewhat difficult stream crossings. After a short distance the Ten Day Creek Trail #1134 goes left at a signed junction. There are a number of places where there are several choices of where to go, but probably they all end up at the same place. It is easier to just stay on the road past the gate. You miss out some of the beauty of Conrad Meadows, but since it's a cow pasture, maybe that's not a big deal.

However you get there, at mile 1.7, 4100 feet elevation, is the end of Conrad Meadows. The several trails reach the gravel road, go left (Southwest). In a short distance there is a sign directing you onto the South Fork Tieton Trail #1120 and the end of the confusing roads and trails.

From here, the trail is fairly good, wide, dirt, through forest.

A short distance off the road is a self registering wilderness permit station. After a while, the trail crosses Conrad Creek on a bridge, the outflow from the alpine area we are going to, and a good drinking water stream.

At mile 4.2, 4300', is the Surprise Lake Loop junction. You could go either way, but I somewhat arbitrarily say to go left, and come back on the other trail.

The trail goes along and crosses the South Fork Tieton River on a bridge, then goes steeply up.

At mile 6.5, 5300', surprise!!!, it's Surprise Lake. There are a number of well developed campsites right where you reach the lake, and along the trail as it goes along the lake.

In the next mile are a number of better campsites and streams to get drinking water from. These are better than Surprise Lake but nothing like what's to come.

At mile 7.7, 5400', is an unmarked junction with a more primitive trail going left. There's a rock cairn. We want to take this trail. If you had taken the other leg, it's 0.2 miles longer.

For the next 0.6 miles, the trail is very primitive and goes steeply up. At mile 7.9, 5650', is an okay campsite and drinking water stream.

At mile 8.3, 5900', is a pass, the end of the difficult trail, and the beginning of the really nice alpine area. From here the trail is fairly level for the next couple miles. There are some nice campsites and small streams that dry up later in the summer.

At mile 8.7, 5900', is a large stream, a fork of Conrad Creek, and the official end of this hike. This is the best source of drinking water. There are a number of campsites nearby. Return to the trailhead the way you came, except take the other leg of the Surprise Lake Loop. Total mileage is 17.6 (the other leg is 0.2 miles longer). The other leg has a steep section with many switchbacks. No drinking water or anything.

There are a number of possible extensions from mile 8.7 which are highly recommended. These are the real reason for going up here. If you don't do some of this, you're wasting the long approach hike. If you camped at least two nights here it would allow enough time to really experience the area.

One trip would be up to Warm Lake. Just before the large stream is an unmarked trail going left (up - Southwest). At times the trail sort of peters out so you have to watch for it carefully. The trail goes along the stream to a very nice meadow area, the source of the stream, very scenic. The trail then angles up to the left (up - South) to Warm Lake at mile 9.7, 6300'. There are some campsites here and drinking water from the lake. From here you could probably go up to the ridge above you, and then possibly along the ridge towards Mount Gilbert.

If you wanted to get to the top of Mount Gilbert, I would go up towards Warm Lake, and then rather than leaving the stream, go the other direction towards Mount Gilbert. There are two large cliffy ridges between you and the mountain. Maybe you could go between them and find a wy up. I don't think there's any way you could go up either cliffy ridge directly.

Another trip would be to continue on the main trail. You pass a number of nice campsites, small streams, and tarns. At mile 9.7, 5900' you cross another large fork of Conrad Creek, this one quite silty. From here the trail becomes difficult to follow at places, passes some small streams and possible campsites, and slowly gains elevation to below Devil's Horns at mile 11.1, 6300'. From here, I saw no trail continuation. I did see a faint trail switchbacking up the ridge to the left of Devil's Horns.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • NW Forest Pass not required.

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Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

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