Photographing in the Goat Rocks Wilderness

Photographing in the Goat Rocks Wilderness

By David Cobb

Heather in bloom above snowline with a view of Mt. Adams.

The Goat Rocks are located in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, between the Mt. Adams wilderness and Mt. Rainier National Park. The remnant of an old volcano which stood at over 12,000 feet is now an area of alpine scenery with many peaks over 8,000 feet. I’ve hiked through this area a few times before, but recently made a trip into the backcountry with my camera gear.

The Goat Rocks offers many beautiful trails and I decided on a loop beginning the trip at trail number 96. Connecting with the Pacific Crest Trail quickly put me in the high country and in position for some of the best photographic opportunities. On the way to the alpine country, I passed many of the best wildflower areas too such as Snowgrass Flats. The wildflowers were stunted this year due to a cool summer, so I’ll be back to photograph here another year.

The high country offers a number of knife ridges just off and along the Pacific Crest Trail. Camping near Packwood glacier allows views of the surrounding Cascade Mountains, like Adams, St. Helen’s and Rainier, and distant views of Glacier Peak and the North Cascades. A climb to the top of 7,930 Old Snowy in the early morning supplies views of many of the surrounding peaks and glaciers in this incredible wilderness.

Continuing on my loop, I stopped off at Goat Lake which is usually frozen into mid-August. Here is a fantastic spot to photograph the sunset of Old Snowy or sunrise reflections along the lake. This is also a good viewing area for mountain goats, and I spotted more than 40 in this area on my last trip. Marmots and Pika are common here too, and descending Goat Ridge I also came upon a wolverine on the trail.

Leaving Goat Lake early, I continued on my loop to photograph sunrise along Goat Ridge. The ridge stays high in the alpine scenery, but the valleys drop off immediately to reveal gaping views of the distant Mt. Adams. Descending from here, there are a few reflective tarns with views of St. Helens and the often cloudy valleys below. I completed my loop and my trip along trail 95 through woodlands and meadows, which offered wildflower macro opportunities. For photographing the peak of the wildflower bloom, a trip here in early to mid-August is the best time for backcountry photography.


~ by photocascadia on August 29, 2010.

7 Responses to “Photographing in the Goat Rocks Wilderness”

  1. Dave,
    Can you give us an idea of how long the loop is? Could you do some of it in a day hike?

    • Hi Jody, it’s only a 13-15 mile loop, so it could easily be done as a day hike. There is a bit of elevation gain and loss, also it takes a long time to get to the trailhead by automobile. Plan on driving four hours from Portland each way. They’ve taken out a lot of the road signs too, so it can be confusing on your first trip here. If it’s your first time, I’d plan on an overnighter.


  2. It’s always exciting to see a new post from you. Stunning work!

  3. I like the format of this post, beautiful images too. Its nice to see more than one image from a great hiking/backpacking trip!

  4. Wow! These photographs are stunning! The second one, with the distant mountain almost appearing out of nowhere, is just mind-stoppingly surreal.

    I commend you and everyone else on this blog for the excellent photography. Actually, I like it so much that I would be delighted if you would allow me to use the second photograph as the inspiring image of the week on my blog. Naturally, credit to you and a link back to your blog would be included.

    Please let me know if you would rather I not. Until then I am sincerely grateful for your contributions.


    ~Dorian Wacquez

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