Where: Goat Lake, North Cascades (2 hours from Seattle)
Distance: 12miles/1400 elevation gain – 10.4 total roundtrip to lake (we added on 1.5 with hiking up the lake too)
My husband, myself and two other couples (from Ryan’s residency program) + 3 dogs headed out to Goat Lake for a one nighter. This weekend was also a celebration of Ryan turning 27! We left Seattle a little after 6 AM to arrive to the trailhead by 8:30. The small parking lot was already full with cars starting to park on the sides of the road. This is why we always leave very early for hikes. We donned our packs and headed up the Upper Elliot trail. There are 2 trails that you can take for this and both will reconnect before the lake. The 5 miles in was a very gradual incline until the last 15-20 minutes where it got more steep. The trail was also very gentle and wide most of the time. Right before the lake you will see a waterfall to the right that cascades down into a waterfall that follows the lower trail down.
We reached the top in about 2.5 hours. The first view of the water was breathtaking. I had never seen a lake so green before! First things first was to find a campsite. I read that there are designated spots a bit away from the lake and this is true. When we got there, there where many people already set up but there were also many spots still available. We found one that would be big enough for our 3 tents and set up camp and then ate lunch.
My friend Dorris helped me devise a plan to set up a big celebration at camp for Ryan’s birthday. We had the guys go ahead and go down to the lake (2 minute walk from camp) and the girls blew up the balloons and set up “happy birthday” banners and streamers! We met up with the guys and the dogs were having a blast swimming in the alpine lake. We came back to camp and surprised Ryan with the decorations. We then took a siesta as it was only 1 in the afternoon and the lack of sleep was starting to hit us.
After awaking we explored the trail as far as it would go up the lake (1.5 round trip). We all could just not get over how gorgeous the lake was and the perfect backdrop of the mountain behind it. We then made dinner (freeze dried chicken teriyaki for me- very good!) and chili mac for Ryan. I had one more surprise up my sleeve for Ryan- I brought the most processed cake type things I could find and built him a little cake out of it which was surprisingly good (anything is good on the trail). We then drank boxed wine, made a hot toddy type of drink (apple cider packet + whiskey + boiled water new favorite trail drink!) Thanks Caitlin! And enjoyed each others company as we rolled into the evening.
I did not sleep well that night as well, I think it had to do with the previous weekends events (bear run). I sat awake seemingly all night listening to every noise that came by becoming more and more paranoid by the hour. Even our pup Cooper slept good not moving the whole night. My brain would just not shut off. Sleeping in the wilderness exposed to any creature is something I have to get over and accept. Bear run in’s are quite rare, or so they say. We did all the right things by hanging all of our food as well. Next time will bring ear plugs and drink a little more whisky perhaps..
We woke up by 8ish in the morning and slowly ate breakfast, breathed in the foggy PNW air, and drank hot coffee. We packed up camp and headed back down on the lower elliot trail. This one eventually follows the river down, which is a nice change of pace.
Overall this hike is not very strenuous (good for the pups) with a high pay off of a gorgeous alpine lake. Definitely won’t be our last time here!