As a rule, I hike a trail only once, but there are two exceptions: The Enchantments and a section of the PCT from Harts Pass to Rainy Pass. I hike them both towards the end of September, when they’re at their best. In addition to the spectacular scenery of the Harts Pass to Rainy Pass trip, most of the hikers you meet on the 29 mile walk south on the PCT started out at the Mexican border in April, and are finishing up their through-hike. I always ask them what their favorite part of the trail is, and many say Goat Rocks. Considering that these people have about 2600 miles of trail to choose from, that’s a pretty good endorsement.

Goat Rocks 4I wanted to see the whole Goat Rocks section, so I planned a trip which starts out at Walupt Lake, goes up the Nanny Ridge trail to the PCT, across Cispus Pass, and out to White Pass. This results in a 30 mile, three day walk with good campsites at the 10 and 20 mile points.

Goat Rocks 5The trail up to the PCT from Walupt Lake gets right to it—1000 feet per mile of elevation gain for a couple miles, then ups and downs to the trail junction. After that, it is typical PCT grade, relatively gentle and even. The trail crosses a saddle before you get to Cispus, and that’s the beginning of the big views.

Goat Rocks 3
At the ten-mile mark is Snowgrass Flats, which in mid September is a huge flower garden, punctuated by flat sandy patches which make for ideal camping. There are great views all around from this vantage point, particularly of Mt Adams. Finding water along the trail was not a problem.

Goat Rocks 1The next morning we headed up to Old Snowy, which marks the middle of the hike. This part of the trail winds through an area of mixed volcanic and sedimentary rock formations, some unlike anything I had seen before. On the north side of Old Snowy the trail runs along the top of a knife-edge ridge, which is sometimes no wider than a boot track, for about 2 miles. No looking around while you’re walking here—stop, admire the scenery, then continue.
The grade is all downhill from Old Snowy, and just beyond Tieton Pass is a clearing which makes a good campsite for the night. My companions reported that a herd of elk passed through during the night.

 

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