John Guilford's Hikes
Goat Lake on 1997-06-14
People: (including myself): Pam
My Alt. Real Alt Miles (approx)
Leave home: 12:00
Arrive Trail: 1:45
Start: 2:00 1900 1920 0
Old Trailhead: 4:00 2600 3-1/2
Begin hill: 4:20 2750 4-1/2
Goat Lake: 4:50 3180 3161 5
Bottom hill: 6:30 2740
Old Trailhead: 6:45 2640
Out: 8:07 1980
The drive from our house to the trail head took about an hour and forty
five minutes. Getting out to the Mountain Loop highway via Granite Falls
isn't as close as when I lived in my old house. We didn't get an early
start, but the day was sunny and nice and sunset is very late this time of
year (a bit after 9 pm) so we weren't terribly worried. As I plan on
climbing Mt. Rainier this summer, I used this hike as an opportunity to do
some training. I carried my internal frame pack with about 30 pounds of
stuff (extra clothing, gobs of camera stuff, tripod, a couple ice axes). I
didn't expect to use all the stuff but wanted to get some weight w/out
having to carry rocks.
On the way in we stopped at the Verlot ranger station to inquire about the
road conditions. I recalled that the road had been washed out a while back
and wanted to make sure that it was open before driving all the way out
there. The washout was between Barlow Pass and the Goat Lake trail head and
would have prevented us from being able to get there. The ranger assured
me that the road was open (the washout had been fixed last July - almost a
year ago), but she said that the road had only been opened the previous
Sunday (6/8) when the snow had gotten low enough. Hearing this, we
expected that we'd be hiking in snow or at least mud most of the way in.
This turned out not to be the case. From what we could see, we couldn't
figure out why the road would only have been opened that recently as it was
fine and dry the whole length. The only reason we could think of was that
perhaps there was a big pile of snow at Barlow Pass (from plowing the road)
that blocked the road and that they had to wait for that to melt.
To get to the trail head, drive about 5 miles beyond Barlow Pass. Along the
way you'll pass by Monte Cristo Lake on the left and Myrtle Lake on the
right. The road to the trail head is the only real right you can take after
the pass and is about 5 miles beyond it. The road switchbacks up about a
mile and ends at the trail head. I had been expecting it to be relatively
empty. The first time I had gone here (89-10-08) was late enough that it
wasn't too crowded. I had forgotten about the next time (94-09-24) when
the trail head was pretty full. This time it was also full and we had to
turn the truck around and come down a little bit on the road before finding
a spot on the side we could fit the truck. I had to have Pam get out and
check out the ground under the vegetation to make sure it didn't drop off
or anything that would get the truck stuck (the spot was fine, however, and
From the ranger's comment about how recently the road opened, we expected
to run into snow or mud (though it turns out that there was no snow and
minimal mud). We started off wearing our spiffy new gaiters that I had
bought last year. These gaiters featured a solid rubber base that
stretches over the rand of the shoe. Unlike most gaiters, these aren't
really adjustable (except for their stretch) and need to be sized to the
shoe. The advantage is that the stretched rubber forms a good seal over
the whole shoe, keeping the shoe dry. This was more important with Pam
(who had her lighter, non-waterproof boots on). We started off the hike
with the gaiters on, figuring it was easier to put the gaiters on clean
shoes than to wait for the mud and then put the gaiters on over the muddy
shoes. We were very disappointed in the performance of the gaiters. They
continually crept up coming loose over the front of the foot. We even
tried stretching them so that a considerable amount of rubber was under the
sole of the shoe but that didn't prevent it from again working loose.
Perhaps the gaiters are designed to be worn on boot with stiffer soles. My
boots have a pretty flexible sole and it might be that the flexing slowly
worked the gaiter up and off. Instructions that I've seen with similar
gaiters recommend gluing the gaiter to the shoe's rand using some glue
(Barge cement?) that could be peeled off at the end of the season. I
hadn't wanted to try that, but it may be required to make these gaiters
useful. In any event, as the day was warm and our legs were getting hot
and sweaty, as we didn't come across any much, and since we couldn't keep
the gaiters on anyway, we took them off a couple miles down the trail.
Prior to that I had ditched my pant legs. I was wearing my convertible
nylon pants that allow one to zip off the legs and convert them to shorts.
Before we got rid of the gaiters, I had unzipped the legs since my legs
were getting hot and sweaty. I didn't want to take the shoes off to get
the pant legs off, so I initially just folded them over the outside of the
gaiters (much to Pam's amusement) and later stuffed them into the gaiters.
When the gaiters came off, so did the pant legs. We both went the rest of
the way in shorts (Pam started off in shorts, though she brought the legs
in case she wanted to put them on). This went fine except for once when we
each got nettled in the shin from a plant leaning across the trail.
I didn't even think about taking the old river-side trail, instead taking
the ex-road that is now the normal trail. Back in '89 I had taken the old
trail and found it overgrown. I figured that it would be completely gone
by now. That doesn't seem to be the case, however. Near the lake we
stopped and talked with a couple of backpackers who had come up the old
trail. They said that it was a bit overgrown in spots, but not that bad.
It sounds like it might be in the same shape it was back in '89. We didn't
want to take it on the way down this trip (and risk getting out late if we
lost the trail) but thought that it might be something to try the next time
we come. We did locate both ends of the trail. At the parking area, find
the trail about 20' from the sign board on the right (when facing the
trail). There is a sign a short distance down the trail warning that the
trail is not maintained (i.e. use at your own risk). The upper end of the
trail is about 5 minutes from the end of the old road/start of the upper
trail. It is a side trail in the middle of a relatively straight portion
of the main trail and is demarcated by a series of stones that form a line
between it and the main trail. We initially walked by it, neither of us
noticing the side trail. However, Pam noticed the stones, recalled the
comments of those hikers we spoke with, and we checked it out and found the
upper end of the trail.
It was early season and the snow melt led to several streams that crossed
the trail. Along the old road, some of the streams ran through culverts
under the trail, but on some, the streams ran over the top. After getting
on the old trail, all the streams were over the trail. We had no trouble
crossing these as they weren't very big with enough rocks/logs to safely
cross w/dry feet, even in Pam's non-waterproof boots. Along the ex-road
portion of the hike we passed several pretty waterfalls including one that
sprayed a fine stream almost mist-like, reminiscent of a shower. We also
got a good view up Pearsall creek with views of the flanks of Sheep
The old roadway is mostly and even upward slope, though the end is a
stretch of level down slope. It makes for a relatively fast pace. The
width of the trail is about the same as before. There are stretches where
two can walk abreast, but usually it is easier to follow behind.
At about 3-1/2 miles there is a large clearing that must have been the old
parking area for the trail. The old trail starts here. It is a tad
rougher than the old roadway but still in easy walking condition. One soon
enters the Henry M. Jackson wilderness. While hiking here, we noticed
several trees with old, rusty wire protruding from the trunk. On one tree,
we found an old insulator. Apparently before that part was designated
wilderness, there must have been some mining activity that they brought
power or communication lines in for. We also found some other indications
of non-wilderness use, notably a long length of rusty half inch iron cable
half way down a hillside. According to 101 Hikes, there is the remnants of
an old mining town across the river about 4 miles in. Furthermore, there
is the site of an old hotel on a knoll above the lake (this is the
designated camping spot now).
I won't bother repeating the description of the trees and terrain - see the
previous accounts for those descriptions. In one location we hit some
terrain where the trail had vegetation encroaching a bit. Unfortunately,
some of this vegetation was nettle and Pam and I both got stung (about the
same time) before becoming a bit more careful.
When we finally hit the steeper terrain just before the lake, we had to
slow down a bit (in my case, due to the extra weight of the pack). Coming
earlier in the year (than previous visits), there was more snow melt than
before. This made the waterfalls out of Goat Lake more impressive and
voluminous though Pam thought that it was prettier with the lower water
flow that we'd witnessed the previous time (when the rocks weren't as
covered by water).
We started heading around the lake looking for a nice rock (that I thought
I remembered from my first visit) to eat our snack on. About a third of
the way around the lake the trail started to peter out and we decided to
just go back a ways and find some clearing to sit by the water and eat. I
had thought that I must have remembered the rock from somewhere else, but
later, checking my notes from the first hike, the rock *was* here, we just
hadn't gone far enough. I didn't check these notes before this hike (which
I probably should have) hence I wasn't sure.
While eating we noticed some speckles in the water (which seemed to have a
coating of pollen on its surface). Checking it out, it appeared to be
little tiny flecks of gold in the water. Not being a mineralogist I can't
say whether it was gold or perhaps something like iron pyrite.
We saw numerous backpackers heading up and down. This is undoubtedly a
After snacking on bread, cheese, strawberries (which were quite good), and
cantaloupe, and taking some pictures of Foggy Peak and the deep blue-green
lake (color due to the silt from the glacier melt water) we headed back
For the most part there weren't any bugs to bother us. The only time the
bugs were at all annoying was at the trail head at the end of the hike.
Bugs showed up while we were changing out of our hiking boots, but we
quickly were done with that and left.
On the drive home, we decided that instead of retracing our approach, we'd
continue on the Mountain Loop highway through Darrington and compare drive
times. At that time of night there was little traffic and we made good
time. In the more protected spots the road was damp enough that we didn't
raise much dust, though on the more open spots it had dried out enough to
raise a cloud. Along the way one gets some good views of Mt. Pugh and
White Chuck. We hit paved road just before the turn off for White Chuck
and got to Darrington in about a half hour. We got to Arlington about an
hour and a half from the trail head. Adding 20 minutes for Arlington (we
stopped for pizza at the Pizza Factory, which gets our recommendation, so
I don't have a time for getting home) the return took about ten minutes
less than 2 hours, so it seems like Goat Lake is about the break even point
for driving via Granite Falls or via Darrington.
Looking up Pearsall Creek drainage with Sheep Mtn on the right.
Goat Lake and Foggy Peak.
Cascades off side of trail.
Please send comments or corrections to
Last updated on: Mon Jun 8 16:50:16 PDT 2015