Billy Goat Trailhead to Whistler Pass Report

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Billy Goat Trailhead to Whistler Pass Report

Post by keithcomess » August 29th, 2020, 9:03 am

Here is a brief summary of our hike from the Billy Goat Trailhead to Whistler Pass in the Pasayten Wilderness.

We planned to drive from Portland to the trailhead on Forest Road 5130 and camp the first night at Drake Creek. However, road repairs/construction on Route 20 delayed us sufficiently (and need for frequent gasoline refills for our vintage Land Rover). Those developments thwarted our original plan and we arrived too late to follow the expected itinerary.

Next morning, we left Winthrop and drove ~26 miles on paved-->gravel-->somewhat rough dirt road to the corral/hiker start point. Unfortunately, the Rover broke down ~2 miles short of our goal, so we walked the remainder, beginning the actual trail portion of the trip ~11:00AM on Trail 502A. The temperature was in the high 80 degree range and the first few miles (~3) were hot, uphill and traversed an extensive burn zone to the Pass. Our destination was Larch Creek.

We took an apparently abandoned side trail (unnamed and indicated with a broken line on Green Trails map #19) for about 0.6 mile to a nice campsite adjacent to the Creek. There were no signs of recent occupancy and - in fact - we encountered nobody on Trail 502A after leaving the parking area. So, we were surprised when, at about 7:30PM a solitary and taciturn hiker stopped to refill water and vanished into the woods. It rained several times during the night which alleviated the dust clouds on the main trail.

The next morning, we hiked to McCall Gulch. Again, most of that was through an extensive burn zone, presumably remnants of the Diamond Creek Fire from about 3 years ago. We encountered a group of about 6 horses leaving the area on Trail 502 but nobody else all the way to McCall Gulch.

We camped at the "Gulch" (it's actually a valley) in an apparently rarely used site. We left our tent and continued up 502 to the junction to the Corral Lake cut-off and then over Whistler Pass. Views were expansive and (refreshingly), we were finally beyond the burn zone. Temperatures dropped into the 40 degree range during the night and there were intermittent storms.

Next morning we hiked to Larch Creek and camped that night at the main site near Trail 502. Three campers arrived later in the evening, but otherwise we encountered nobody.

We planned to follow Trail 502 from its junction with 502A to Drake Creek. However, this trail was completely covered with downed trees and difficult to traverse so we abandoned that effort after about 0.5 mile and returned to Trail 502A for the hike over Billy Goat to the parking area. As this was a Saturday afternoon, we unsurprisingly encountered a few hikers heading in, but they appeared to be overnight campers.

With regard to wildlife, there were several deer, a couple of grouse and woodpeckers and a few hummingbirds. Flowers were plentiful in the McCall Gulch area and some ingrowth of ground cover was present in the major burn zones.

Our Land Rover was still non-functional when we returned to it, but that's another story. Because of concerns with the truck, we cut our trip short. Our original plan was to visit the lakes and Peeve Pass. Our final route was about 35 miles.

In summary, water was plentiful, solitude was some of the best I've experienced over the last few years, scenery above the major burned areas was very appealing (with expansive views), Trail 502A is in good shape (though dusty) and Trail 502 to Drake Creek seems non-existent heading southwest from the 502 junction. Several other marked trails from 502 past Larch Creek also appear to be abandoned.

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