Snowgrass Flats Loop

Distance: 12.1 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 2200 feet

Drive time from Seattle: 3 hours, 20 minutes

Pass: Northwest Forest Pass or America the Beautiful Pass

Permit: Wilderness Permit (free at trailhead kiosk)

Restroom: One vault toilet at Berry Patch Trailhead

In search of wildflowers and mountain views, Grace and I headed to Snowgrass Flats in the Goat Rocks Wilderness this past Sunday. Although the views of Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, and Mount St. Helens were hazy from wildfire smoke, the sheer variety of wildflowers blooming bright--red and magenta paintbrush, pink monkey flower, lupine, subalpine mariposa lily, bistort, cinquefoil, and pasqueflower--made our day.

The Goat Rocks Wilderness is located in between Mount Rainier and Mount Adams in the Southern Washington Cascades. It became a designated wilderness area when Congress passed the Wilderness Act of 1964 and President Lyndon Johnson signed it into law on September 3, 1964.

We started our adventure heading northeast on Snowgrass Trail 96 from the Berry Patch Trailhead. Reaching a junction with Snowgrass Trail 96 and Bypass Trail 97, we veered east onto Bypass Trail 97. Then, we looped north on the PCT into vibrant wildflower meadows and views of Old Snowy Mountain and Ives Peak. At a junction of the PCT and Snowgrass Trail 96, we turned left onto Snowgrass Trail 96, descending southwest back to the trailhead. 

We arrived at the parking area for the Berry Patch Trailhead at 7:45 a.m., thinking we would get an early start and beat the crowds. Boy, we were wrong. The parking lot was almost full from folks who were backpacking, with only a couple parking spots left. 

After gearing up, we followed a sign marked "95/96" from the parking lot. At the traihead kiosk, we picked up a free map, filled out our wilderness permit, and headed northeast onto Snowgrass Trail 96. The trail is gently rolling the first few miles, then starts gaining more sharply--just over 800 feet in the following 1.4 miles. We passed creeks, a wooden bridge, several campsites, lots of bugs, and backpacking parties hiking out. The trail was clear and dusty, with no snow along our entire route.

In 4.3 miles, we reached a signed junction for Snowgrass Trail 96 (on the left) and the Bypass Trail 97 (on the right). Here we could take a left and do our loop clockwise, or turn right and do the loop counterclockwise. We chose right, heading east on the Bypass Trail to start our 3.5 mile loop. 

After 1.0 mile, we spotted an enormous cairn, which Grace theorized was part of the Pacific Crest Trail. She was right! We turned left at the cairn, heading north onto the PCT.  Almost immediately we were greeted by glorious purple, red, white, and yellow meadows of lupine, paintbrush, bistort, and cinquefoil. We waved backbackers on, keen to stop, take pictures, and absorb the scenery.

Traversing the PCT for another mile, we reached the high point of the trail--a scenic, pasqueflower studded meadow with Old Snowy Mountain and Ives Peak watching over to the northeast. Many hikers and backpackers were resting here at a flat space next to the junction with Snowgrass Trail 96 and the PCT. We pet a dog named Floyd, chatted with hikers about an upcoming trip to Diablo Lake, and took at break at a shady campsite. 

We started our descent from the junction of the PCT and Snowgrass Trail 96, hiking southwest on Snowgrass Trail 96 for 1.5 miles to complete our counter-clockwise loop. Reaching the junction with the Bypass Trail, we continued straight on Snowgrass Trail 96 for 4.3 miles back to the trailhead. 

Tips:

1. There are two separate trailheads to access Snowgrass Flats. One is the Berry Patch Trailhead, which is where we parked and hiked from. A Northwest Forest Pass is required for parking here. The other is the Snowgrass Hikers Trailhead, located at the end of a spur road just before the Berry Patch Trailhead. No pass is required for parking at the Snowgrass Hikers Trailhead. 

2. Taking Bypass Trail 97 and doing a counter-clockwise loop lead to fantastic wildflower and mountain views along the PCT as we gently climbed to the junction with Snowgrass Trail 96. We both agreed that this was a great approach to the Flats.

3. There were many bugs out, and wearing a long-sleeved shirt, pants, and a bug net helped prevent (most, but not all!) bug bites.

4. Creek crossings provided opportunities to filter and resupply water.

5. There are several campsites along the route, and lots of great options for a backpacking trip, such as continuing on to Goat Lake or taking the PCT further towards Old Snowy Mountain.

6. The Pie Goddess, located in Enumclaw, was a fun post-hike stop for a delicious slice of pie. We both loved their jumbleberry pie, a mix of blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries. They also sell savory pies, like chicken pot pie, to take home.