Trip Report    

Seattle Explorers Backpack - Goat Lake (Monte Cristo)

This shoulder season one-night overnight backpack trip was a perfect outing before the weather turned. The 10-12 year olds had little difficulty with the route and the lake was gorgeous.

  • Road rough but passable
  • This was a great, if wet, shoulder season hike, and the road and trail conditions reflected the weather. 

    The Mountain Loop Highway is wide with numerous potholes.  Forest Service Rd. 4080 (up to the trailhead) is especially pothole-ridden with pits as wide as the road.  AWD with a little extra clearance will help you get past the most treacherous holes. 

    Trail conditions along the Lower Elliot Trail were wet.  It featured the muddiest bridge ever.  Many shallow and a few slippery puddles required care.  Many stream crossings and occasional washes down the trail made proper hikers a must, but there were no technical crossings requiring alternative footwear or crossing techniques (though we used the potential hazard as a learning opportunity for the ages 10-12 Explorers).  The widest crossing was just at the wilderness boundary.  

    Beware the side trail to the waterfall just below Goat Lake.  You CAN scramble up to the lake, but you would rather take the well-trodden stone switchbacks that last tenth of a mile.  Walk back to the wide open trail junction and look uphill to the southeast  to see the trail, which if raining, may look like a shallow stream.


Backpacking with the Youth Clubs in the time of COVID is a great way to escape screens and get out with a moderately low risk social activity.   Two of the 10-year-olds planned this overnight trip because of its low altitude, but decent mileage.  It had rained most of the week, but we had a crisp and dry ascent, an afternoon to explore, build a fort and fish, and then experienced the joy of rain in the morning and on the hike out.  Masked Ascent.jpg

We chose the Lower Elliot Trail, which gave us views of the thundering torrent of a 'creek' most of the way to the wilderness boundary.  There was plenty of room to pass and almost all users wore masks on the trail.    

The lake had a teal color to it, slightly silty from the glacial dregs. and the snowline was about 1200 feet above camp.  A few day users  enjoyed the Instagrammable view and a few other overnighters braved the wet night to come.

Mushrooms abounded, invasive Brook Trout were catchable (and delicious), and the large camping area with two new (2019 or 2020 vintage) pit toilets makes this a prime youth and family backpacking destination

Brook Trout.jpg

If rain is in the forecast, be sure to pick a tent site that is not in a bowl.  The duff gets saturated quickly and can leave you in your own little lake.  There are plenty of slightly sloped options, but some of the areas with nice views and good camp cooking set-ups have significant potential puddles.

As far as other activities, there are good scree fields for scrambling, there's a stable logjam that the adventurous can cross, there's a fisherman's trail that leads to some good fishing holes and a waterfall, and the well-used campground does have plenty of well-trodden safe areas where young builders can erect forts (and then take down to leave no trace).  No campfires are ever permitted at Goat Lake, and while evidence of rule breaking exists, it seems most people respect the wilderness guidelines, which is a good thing, since this is a gem.