17.2m 4,753ft gain
Ancestral homelands of the: Cowlitz, Klickitat and Siletz
Old Snowy Mountain is a beautiful rocky peak situated along a stark knife-edge ridge between the Packwood Lake basin and the Tieton River valley, right at the heart of the Goat Rocks Wilderness. It also lies within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The PCT passes below the summit and most thru hikers consider this area to be some of the best miles along the 2,653 mile trail. Old Snowy and the Goat Rocks were on my to do list even before moving to Washington because of all the appeal. High mountain meadows, rocky peaks, glaciers, wildlife, maintained trails, incredible views of three volcanoes plus some great names and great backpacking opportunities! The peaks of the Goat Rocks were once part of a 10,000ft+ high stratovolcano which has been extinct for two million years and was eroded by glaciers. Together with Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, and Mount St. Helens, the Goat Rocks volcano is part of a triangle of volcanoes, an arrangement not found anywhere else in the Cascades.
1st Trip: 8/1/21
After a flat tire prevented us from reaching the trailhead in 2019 it felt great to finally touch foot and paw in the Goat Rocks. Saturday morning Moose and I met Ben and his dog Autumn in Packwood, WA before driving to the Snowgrass Flats trailhead via 16 miles of gravel roads.
The first 4 miles are mostly flat in a dense forest not far from Goat Creek.
Wildfire smoke wasn’t terrible in the Goat Rocks but it was in the surrounding area which blocked the incredible views of Rainier, Adams and St. Helens. On a positive note, there were no crowds so the dogs could enjoy being free outside for two days!
We put our focus on the scenery of the Goat Rocks and watching two happy dogs live their best life! After another mile of gradual incline, we reached Snowgrass Flats and connected with the Pacific Crest Trail.
Our objective soon came into view! There were plenty of good camp spots as soon as we reached the flats but we killed some time and went on a search for the best spot for another mile.
After taking a break on some rocks we knew where we wanted to setup camp but we had to backtrack to the junction with the PCT.
We setup camp at 5pm and didn’t move too much for the rest of the afternoon to prepare for an early summit push the next morning.
Time for bed. Moose enjoyed using his own sleeping pad and his awesome Groundbird Gear turtle top sleeping quilt designed for backpacking dogs!
We never have to worry about anyone or anything bothering us with Autumn around. She stays ready to protect Ben at all times. With that peace of mind and some rain acting as white noise we slept great and were up and at it before 6am.
We followed the PCT north for 2 miles and 1,250ft of gain to the junction with the Old Snowy spur trail. This marks the highest point along the Washington section of the PCT at 7,650ft.
The route gets more and more rocky, with a few snow patches to cross.
As we approached the summit we navigated steep loose rocks. Us humans had to use all fours in a few places including the final summit block.
We may not have witnessed the glorious collection of volcanoes in the backdrop but the smokey views along the spine of the Goat Rocks were still astounding! The traverse over to Ives Peak is on the to do list but it’s not a safe option for dogs.
By 8:30am we were already retracing our steps back to camp and to the trailhead.
Moose did not want to leave. He enjoyed the outdoor freedom too much and we both enjoyed the company of our amazing friends! Ben and Autumn are excellent hiking and camping compadres!
The hike out went by quickly and before parting ways we celebrated with a beer from Packwood Brewing Co. We may not have seen the crazy surrounding views or the areas namesake, a mountain goat, but we were still amazed by this wild place! Definitely want to come back when the weather is clear and in the winter season.