Goat Rocks Wilderness and Iron Creek Campground

My friends and I spent the final weekend of July camping in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, with day hikes in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. Our campground of choice (this is the second year we’ve been there) is the Iron Creek Campground. It’s well-maintained, laid out in such a way that it never seems crowded, even when every campsite is full, and has the added bonus of proximity to the lovely Cispus River, perfect for cooling off after those hikes! In short, highly recommended. Our evenings were spent around a campfire at the “main” site of the three our group had. An innovation this year was a group dinner on Saturday night of campfire nachos, which were great!

On Saturday, I joined the majority of the people in our group in a hike toward Heart Lake/Johnson Peak, up and along a ridge overlooking Packwood Lake and Mt. Rainier. Getting to the trailhead involved some self-doubt, as I was driving the lead car and the directions our thirty-year-old guidebook gave along the twisting snarl of Forest Service roads were sketchy. We had a modern map to help things along, but it was still very much a case of “just as you start to think you should turn around and go back to x turn and take the other choice, you arrive at the trailhead.” We may have cheered.

The guidebook said that the trail runs, “up and down, but mostly up” on the way out, and that was certainly the case. Truthfully, the first few miles of this route aren’t a lot of fun. They aren’t horrible, either – mostly just monotonous. The trail in all its late-summer bushiness would have pleased the Knights Who Say Ni, but miles of dust and leg-whacking shrubs wasn’t the most fun I’ve had on a trail.

Magenta paintbrushes. Oh, and a mountain.
Magenta paintbrushes. Oh, and a mountain.

That being said, the views from about mile 3.5 onwards made up for it. Continue reading