Sunday, July 02, 2006

Goat Flats from Tupso Pass

Quick facts
Driving distance from Seattle: 2 hours
Hiking distance (both ways): 10 miles (16km)
Elevation gain: 2,000ft (600m)
Green Trails Map: 109 and 110
No permit appears to be necessary to park at the trailhead at this time

We did this hike in early July when there was still plenty of snow. The snow was soft and slushy and the trail was muddy in many places but the hike was pleasant nonetheless and no technical gear (besides sturdy boots) was necessary.

The first 2/3 of the hike goes through an old growth forest; in the lower parts there are plenty of enormous old cedars. Later the trail weaves between the forest and small charming meadows and finally enters the Goat Flats -- a flat grassy area with some tiny lakes and stunning views of the Three Fingers but also North Cascades and the Olympics! We had a beautifully clear view of Mt. Baker and a surreal view of other mountains with each subsequent range drawn in paler and paler blue until they would become just faint outlines against a mostly cloudless blue sky.

A meadow on the way to the Goat Flats[Snow is already melting on the meadows on the way to Goat Flats]

Some people continue on to the lookout point at one of the Three Fingers peaks. the trip requires a simple traverse of the Quest-Alb Glacier. Given slippery snow and lack of sufficient equipement (the glacier traverse looked somewhat steep in places so an ice axe would be an advisable safety precaution) we decided to just hike up the first of the few knolls towering over the Flats. From there we a very nice view of Big Bear and Liberty Mountains opened up before us.

This hike had some of the best views of all the hikes I've been on. Given the small (2000ft) elevation gain, this should be a great weekend destination once the snow melts.

Three Fingers and the Goat Flats[Three Fingers (left) and Goat Flasts (right)]

Big Bear Mountain[Big Bear Mountain as seen from the knoll just beyond Goat Flats]

Goat Flats[Goat Flats as seen from above]

Driving Directions:
Drive through the town of Granite Falls and take a left onto Mountain Loop Highway. Look at your odometer -- in about 7 miles after this turn, you will bear left onto a paved road. Contrary to what my hiking book says, the intersection is unmarked (all you see from the Highway are a couple of private lanes branching off). Right after you turn onto this road, you will see a sign announcing that you are on Road #41 to Tupso Pass. Very soon the pavement will end and the road will split: take the left fork. The road will split a couple more times but one of the branches will always be clearly more travelled by -- stick with the crowds. After about 11 miles you will pass the Meadow Trail trailhead. After a total of about 17 miles the road will widen a little and you will see the sign for the Goat Flats trail on left-hand side of the road.