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Goat Lake Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Goat Lake Basin (Martell)
The seed heads of western pasque flower in Snowgrass Flat (Cheryl Hill)
Goat Lake (Martell)
Looking towards Mt. Adams from Goat Lake (Jerry Adams)
Goat Ridge Meadow from above (Jerry Adams)
Looking back up to Goat Ridge Meadow from the Goat Ridge Trail (Jerry Adams)
Map of the route (click to enlarge)
  • Start point: Snowgrass Flat TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • Ending Point: Goat Lake
  • Trail Log: Trail Log
  • Hike type: Loop
  • Distance: 12.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2590 feet
  • High point: 6,685 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult if done in 1 day, moderate if done as an overnight backpack
  • Seasons: Summer
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: Yes


Hike Description

This is one of the best alpine hikes in Oregon and Washington - on your "must do list" for sure. The highest section of the hike, around Goat Lake, is snow covered until about late July and is very exposed during bad weather, so keep an eye on the weather reports. Also, consider taking mosquito repellent for this hike because bugs are numerous there in July and August. Since it's so nice, this route tends to get overrun, especially on summer weekends, so you might want to do a different hike then. And don't expect solitude: see this Craig Romano article.

It says not family friendly above because it's fairly long and the trail somewhat rough, but an adventurous family should be able to do it just fine. Maybe it's not so appropriate for small children.

You can start at either the Snowgrass Flat Trailhead or the Berry Patch Trailhead, and you can go either clockwise or counter-clockwise. For this hike, we arbitrarily start at Snowgrass and go counter-clockwise. If you're going up and back on the Snowgrass Trail, it saves 0.4 miles to park at the Snowgrass Trailhead rather than the Berry Patch Trailhead. If you're doing the loop, it saves 0.4 miles to park at Berry Patch. There is a large area at Berry Patch to park with big trees to the south so you get better shade for your car.

The Snowgrass Trail to Snowgrass Flat can be extremely busy on summer weekends - expect to pass 20 groups of people. Don't worry - at Snowgrass Flat several trails fan out in different directions, so the people start thinning out. From the Snowgrass Flat Trailhead, you start on the Snowgrass Hiker Trail (#96A) which ends at mile 0.2 where it joins the Snowgrass Trail (#96). The Berry Patch Trailhead is left 0.6 miles. Stay right on the Snowgrass Trail.

At mile 3.7 is the junction with the Snowgrass Bypass Trail (#97), which goes right. Stay left on the Snowgrass Flat Trail (96). The Bypass trail takes you up to the Pacific Crest Trail, which goes south to Cispus Pass: this would make a good alternate hike. There are many nice campsites along this route.

At mile 4.9 is the junction with the Lily Basin Trail (#86), which goes left - that is where we want to go. This is the beginning of the Snowgrass Flat area which contains many nice campsites and a stream for drinking water a short distance to the right (southeast). A good alternate hike would be to continue on the Snowgrass Trail, up to the PCT, and then north to Old Snowy and the PCT Summit, which is the highest section of the PCT in Washington.

Following the Lily Basin Trail, in the next 1.5 miles are about 10 of the nicest campsites you've ever seen (Goat Lake to Snowgrass). You get great views of Goat Rocks and Goat Ridge above you to the north and east and great views south and west towards Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens. There are a number of streams for drinking water that cross the main trail. Whenever you see a short side trail, it probably goes to a campsite. Fires are allowed, and there are enough trees around for firewood, but keep this to a minimum to reduce impact.

At about mile 5.5 is an unmarked side trail that goes up to the PCT, Old Snowy, and Elk Pass. At anywhere about mile 6.5 you can go off-trail, up to Goat Ridge, and then follow it up to the PCT and Old Snowy, but this route can be fairly difficult, especially towards the top, where there are difficult slopes. You encounter some tarns and nice campsites away from other people.

At mile 7.4 is Goat Lake. The mile before and after is the most alpine, the most exposed, and the last to be free of snow section of the hike. There are great views. It's too steep for camping except at Goat Lake, where there are about six camp spots, but it's so exposed that it's not the best. If you do camp there, make sure and keep your stuff tied down or it will blow away. Keep your eyes open in this area and expect to see mountain goats on the ridge above you (Goat Ridge).

At mile 8.2 is the intersection with the Goat Ridge Trail (#95). This is the highest point of this loop at 6,685 feet. The Lily Basin Trail continues a steep ascent to the right along alpine areas and would make a good side trip. In about 0.5 mile, that trail reaches the crest of Goat Ridge. You can then follow the ridge on a primitive trail to Hawkeye Point which overlooks Goat Lake. You can continue on the Lily Basin Trail to other beautiful alpine areas. The trail goes even a bit higher than Goat Lake, and there are north facing slopes, so expect to see snow even later, often all year.

For this Goat Lake Loop Hike, stay left on the Goat Ridge Trail. The trail loses about 300 feet in elevation in the next 0.5 mile where it joins a stream through Goat Ridge Meadow. There are several nice campsites near here. One inviting place is next to a tarn a way off the trail to the west. This area would be much less exposed than camping at Goat Lake, and there are probably fewer people.

At mile 9.1 is the intersection with the Jordan Creek Trail (#94). This trail is frequented by horses. It goes down to a trailhead you passed on Road 21. Continue down the Goat Ridge Trail to its beginning at the Berry Patch Trailhead at mile 12.0.

Presuming you parked at the Snowgrass Flat Trailhead, take the Snowgrass Trail (#96) to the junction with the Snowgrass Hiker Trail (96A) at mile 12.6, and turn right to get to the trailhead at mile 12.8.

Fees, Regulations, etc.


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Topozone of Goat Lake
  • Green Trails Maps: Goat Rocks - William O Douglas Wilderness #303S
  • Green Trails Maps: Blue Lake, WA #334, Packwood, WA #302, and White Pass, WA #303
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Goat Rocks Wilderness
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Cowlitz Valley Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Gifford Pinchot National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Goat Rocks, Norse Peak and William O. Douglas Wilderness Areas

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A


  • Day Hiking Mount Adams and Goat Rocks by Tami Asars
  • Hiking Washington's Goat Rocks Country by Fred Barstad
  • 100 Classic Hikes in Washington by Ira Spring & Harvey Manning
  • 102 Hikes in the Alpine Lakes, South Cascades and Olympics by Ira Spring & Harvey Manning
  • One Night Wilderness: Portland by Douglas Lorain
  • Day Hikes in the Pacific Northwest by Don J. Scarmuzzi
  • 100 Classic Hikes: Washington by Craig Romano
  • Day Hiking: South Cascades by Dan A. Nelson & Alan L. Bauer
  • Hiking Washington by Oliver Lazenby
  • 95 Virtual Hikes of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument by Northwest Hiker
  • Washington Hiking by Scott Leonard
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill

More Links


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.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.