Gold Creek Pond (East of Snoqualmie Pass)
Gold Creek Pond is one of the easiest snowshoe hikes near Snoqualmie Pass, with great views to the head of Gold Creek valley. The valley is situated below the formidable cliffs of Rampart Ridge, Chikamin Ridge and other Snoqualmie peaks. The loop around Gold Creek Pond is suitable for snowshoers and cross-country skiers of all ages and abilities. With views, exercise and photo opportunities what’s not to like?
You will need to purchase a Sno-Park permit to park and we also advise getting an early start, especially on a weekend; otherwise you may need to hoof it down the frontage road to the Gold Pond trailhead (that’s almost a mile one-way).
More experienced snowshoers often continue from Gold Creek Pond onto the Gold Creek Trail, at a signed junction near the far end of Gold Creek Pond and go as far as time, energy and conditions allow (getting to the Gold Creek trailhead is another ¾ mile on a forest service road that is also used by property-owners).
The snowshoe/ski route starts from the frontage road that parallels I-90 near a gate and portable toilet. From there go uphill onto Forest Service Road No. 144 (Road No. may differ on older maps) and follow this to the junction where a spur (left) leads to the summer trailhead at Gold Creek Pond. If the Gold Creek trail is your destination you can bypass Gold Creek Pond and continue on the Forest Service Road to the designated Gold Creek trailhead (the sign may be buried under snow). Since the road provides year-round access for property-owners you may meet a snowmobile belonging to a property owner (not someone breaking the rules).
Gold Creek Pond was our first stop – here we found ourselves amidst a cheerful crowd of snowshoers, skiers and families with children and/or dogs (dogs must be on leashes).
At the pond we hiked counterclockwise onto what in summer is a barrier-free path that borders the pond. We found the snow firm enough that snowshoes were not needed though we wore them to avoid post-holing in the snow. Since it was a clear, sunny day we stopped to view the peaks; the view up the valley is especially dramatic with Chikamin Peak dominating the other peaks at the head of the valley. The other peaks include Snoqualmie Mountain, Kendall Peak, Mount Thompson and Alta Mountain (bring the map to identify them). The bulky ridge on the east (right) side of the valley is Rampart Ridge.
The north end of Gold Creek Pond had not yet frozen over so we were also treated to splendid reflections in Gold Creek Pond as we listened to the cheerful voices of snowshoers mingling with the cries of ravens and crows. Rather than complete the loop we opted to turn right (east) at the junction for the Gold Creek trail (1/4 mile from the Gold Creek Pond trailhead) to see how far we could go. Though the sign is mostly buried in snow there are tracks to follow.
The short spur from the pond connects to the forest service road, passing several cabins and homes (foot traffic is allowed). You will also pass a pretty pond with a curved bridge – it is named Heli’s Pond to honor a late property owner on land previously owned by Burlington-Northern Railroad. There are also a couple of helpful directional signs at road junctions. In about 3/4 mile from Gold Pond you’ll come to the designated Gold Creek Trail (the sign may be buried but you’ll see where others have traveled).
We met a few other snowshoers on the trail including one couple with two beautiful huskies. The Gold Creek is usually not crowded; though this is a pretty trail any time of the year it doesn’t get as much use as other trails near Snoqualmie Pass.
In summer the Gold Creek trail continues along the east side of the valley between Rampart Ridge and Gold Creek alternating between open slopes and forested pockets before it reaches a challenging crossing of Gold Creek but wait until summer to venture that far!
In winter most snowshoers, including us, turn around at the first avalanche chute where the trail breaks out of the forest. An avalanche chute is an open slope without anchors such as trees, rocks and vegetation to hold the snow in place; you will likely see where avalanches have already come down.
The avalanche chute is about a mile from the beginning of the Gold Creek trail; a good turnaround. Though it was a beautiful day and tempting to continue up the valley we retraced our steps back to the road and Gold Creek Pond to finish our circuit of the pond. At the pond we stopped for lunch on an isthmus that extends out from the shoreline and saw tracks where others had snowshoed or walked out to a small island (this is not recommended).
Getting there: From Seattle take I-90 east and in two miles get off at the Hyak-Gold Creek (Exit No. 54) go left under the freeway and turn right onto the Gold Creek frontage Road and in about a mile look for parking near the gate (the east end of the Sno-Park). Do not park under I-90 – parking is prohibited there and you are likely to be towed. If there isn’t space at the trailhead turn around and drive back along the frontage road until you find one. A Sno-Park pass is required.
Additional information: The Gold Creek Pond (Trail No. 1250) is about a one-mile loop with minimal gain (if you need to park further west on the frontage road that will increase your mileage). From Gold Creek Pond it is about 3/4 mile further on the forest service road to Gold Creek trail No. 1314, no significant elevation gain (mileage will depend on how far you snowshoe up the valley). Map: Green Trails No. 207 Snoqualmie Pass (trail and road numbers may not match older maps). To get an avalanche forecast visit the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center website at www.nwac.noaa.gov/ or call their Avalanche Information Hotline at 206-526-6677. For information on where to obtain a Sno-Park permit visit the Washington State Parks website at www.parks.wa.gov . For trail conditions call the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in North Bend at 425-888-1421.