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Goat Rocks Traverse

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Cispus Basin from Cispus Pass (Jerry Adams)
Old Snowy from the South (Jerry Adams)
Goats along the trail (Jerry Adams)

Template:Elevation loss

  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Seasons: Summer
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: Area between Cispus River and Old Snowy is crowded


Hike Description

The Goat Rocks are a spine of alpine area in South central Washington. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) runs down the middle. This is one of the nicest sections of the PCT. This is definitely a must see area.

This hike is a good way to hit most of the nicest spots of the Goat Rocks.

I have not done the middle section, from Old Snowy to Teiton Pass so I'm just estimating this. Also, I don't have a GPS track from Teiton Pass to the end at White Pass. These estimates should be pretty close though.

Now, here's the bad. The first part of the hike is up a steep slope through trees - not all that interesting. And the trailhead, Walupt Lake, is 500 feet lower elevation than Snowgrass Flat trailhead. And the last part from Teiton Pass to White Pass isn't all that interesting either. And you miss Goat Lake and Lily Basin.

Yet, this traverse is a great hike. Maybe a better hike is to combine with the Goat Lake Loop Hike. Start at Snowgrass Flat trailhead. Hike up to the PCT. Over to Cispus Pass. Backtrack and go up to Old Snowy, maybe over to Elk Pass. Then backtrack to Snowgrass Flat trail and down to Lily Basin Trail. Over to Goat Lake and continue to Lily Basin and then back down to Berry Patch and then back to your car at Snowgrass Flat trailhead.

Detailed Description

Start at the end of the road, at the end of the campground at Walupt Lake, at 4000 feet elevation.

Follow the trail along the lake a short distance to the trail junction and turn left on the Nannie Ridge Trail.

The trail switchbacks up a fairly steep trail through forest. There are a couple small streams right at the beginning, but nothing else until Sheep Lake. At 3.1 miles and 1900 feet elevation gain is a junction with an unmarked trail. You can take this, 0.3 miles and 300 feet elevation gain up to the summit of Nannie Peak at 6140 feet. You get some views but not real good - too many trees. This would be a nice destination if this is as far as you wanted to go.

At 5.2 miles and 1700 feet elevation gain you reach Sheep Lake at 5700 feet elevation. This is a small lake with no apparent inlet or outlet. You could drink this water, but I bet people and creatures go for a swim on occasion - I'd want to treat it. Early in the season you can find drinking water streams on the PCT, above, but in late September when I was there, there wasn't any good water until the Cispus River. There are many established campsites in the area around Sheep Lake.

You reach the PCT at mile 5.4 and 1750 feet elevation gain. If you go right, the Walupt River is 0.5 miles and 150 feet elevation loss. I got some drinking water there, but it was no better than Sheep Lake.

We want to go left on the PCT. A short distance later is a small spring below the trail. This is probably the best drinking water possibility. The flow was very low in late September.

From here, the trail gets up to the really nice, alpine, Goat Rocks scenery. At mile 7.7, 2500 feet elevation gain, 6500 feet elevation, is Cispus Pass. Great views of the Southern end of the Goat Rocks like Gilbert Peak. On the other side of Gilbert Peak is Warm Lake (see South Tieton Hike). Theoretically, you could climb up Mt Gilbert, and then down to Warm or Cold Lakes. There are some tracks leading from Cispus Pass, but definitely more climbing than hiking.

At mile 8.7, 300 feet down from Cispus Pass, is the Cispus River. This is the first good drinking water. Nice campsite. There are a couple streams going across the trail. At the second stream, you can go up a ways to a nice area to camp. Or, get water from the second stream and camp at any of several sites within a mile. I think that might be about the best campsite I can think of.

From here, continue on the PCT. Expect to start seeing the hoardes from Snowgrass Flat. This is the nicest area of the Goat Rocks, and everyone knows it. I passed about 20 groups of people on the weekend and maybe 5 groups mid-week in September.

At mile 10.3, elevation 6400, 2900 feet elevation gain, and 500 feet elevation loss is the junction with the Snowgrass Flat Trail. It's 0.8 miles and 500 feet elevation loss down to the Lily Basin Trail and the Goat Lake Loop Hike. Nice campsites along this trail, but pretty close to the trail. The snowgrass flat stream is about 0.3 miles to the South. This should be a reliable, year-round source of drinking water.

To continue our hike, keep going on the PCT. There are many excellent campsites, but you have to bring drinking water from the Snowgrass Flat stream.

At mile 12.4 is the high point at 7600 feet. 4600 feet elevation gain and 1000 feet elevation loss from Walupt. It's a short scramble of 0.3 miles and 300 feet elevation gain up to the summit of Old Snowy. It seemed like maybe some class 3 rocky climbing towards the top so I didn't bother.

There are a couple streams as you get to the top. It's a trail, but there's a lot of loose Shale you have to walk over so it's a bit difficult.

I haven't been on the next section. The trail down from the high point is through more loose Shale.

At mile 14.2 is Elk Pass. 6700 feet elevation. 4600 feet elevation gain and 1900 feet elevation loss from Walupt. Someone in a trip report said there's water a mile or two North. There's a trail going down, to the East, to McCall Basin, which I've been to before, which is very nice. Another possible trip would be up the North Teiton River on the East side, up to McCall Basin, and then up to Old Snowy.

Continuing on our hike, at mile 17.1 is Teiton Pass. 4800 feet elevation. 4600 feet gain and 3800 feet loss from Walupt. I've hiked from White Pass to here before, but I have no GPS track.

The trail goes by Shoe Lake at about mile 20.9, 6200 feet elevation, 6000 feet gain, and 3800 feet loss from Walupt. It's a short distance down to the lake. You can get drinking water but there's no camping at the lake. There are places above the lake I camped at.

From here the trail goes up to 6700 feet elevation, then down to White Pass at 4400 feet elevation. Mile 25.0, 6500 feet gain, and 6100 feet loss from Walupt. The last bit is a ski area. There's a store, a lodging area that's probably not open in the summer, and a campground that's not open in the winter.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • NW Forest Pass required.


  • Click on a map below to enlarge
Map of the Route

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