Suiattle River area 9 day goat pack trip
Thursday, August 20, I got back from a 9 day pack trip with my packgoats.  I took Grant, Albert, Bryce and Benson.  The goats were each carrying 24 to 28 pounds; part of that was goat gear.

We went up the Suiattle river, north of Glacier Peak, WA.  I saw a lot of beautiful country.

I started Wednesday, 8/12 from the Suiattle River trailhead.

The Suiattle River Road is paved a good part of the way, then is a pretty good gravel Forest Service road with some wash boarding.

The Suiattle River Trail goes up the river valley about 7 miles to where it connects to the PCT.  We got started hiking about 10 am and hiked from the Suiattle River trailhead to the PCT junction, then north on the PCT, for a total of 9 ½ miles to camp just before the Image Lake / Miners Ridge Trail junction. 

The first mile of the Suiattle River Trail is on an old roadbed.  The first 2-3 miles are through beautiful old growth forest with large firs and cedars.

The Forest Service Darrington Ranger District had a 6 person trail crew working for 9 days on clearing logs and fixing up trail tread on the Suiattle Trail, PCT north from the Suiattle, and the Miners Ridge Trail to Image lake.  So those trails were in very good condition.  The Suiattle Trail had a few trees to go under.  I met the trail crew coming out, as I was hiking in this day.


Thursday, 8/13 we continued on the PCT north to the junction with the Buck Creek Pass Trail and turned off there.   There was quite a bit of blowdown in the first mile or so of the Buck Creek Pass Trail, I cut some trees and limbs.  The goats did a pretty good job getting through it.

Where the trail crosses Middle Ridge, we turned off and headed up to the Sheep Camp area which is a nice meadow at the base of Fortress Mountain.  It has a good stream, nice camp places, and view of Glacier Peak.   We went 9 ¼ miles with 3,800 ft. gain that day.


Friday, 8/14 we hiked from the meadow on Middle Ridge back to the Buck Creek Pass Trail, then south, going down to Small Creek, then back up toward Buck Creek Pass. 

About 1/3 mile before Buck Creek Pass is the side path to Flower Dome.  We stopped for a break there, then hiked up to Flower Dome.  There were a lot of Lupine in the meadows on the NE side of Flower Dome.  From the top there was a nice view north of Miners Ridge.  But the view west of Glacier Peak, and to the south was blocked by a fringe of trees.

From there we went back to the Buck Creek Pass Trail and continued on to Buck Creek Pass and the Liberty Cap Trail junction.  There is a nice view of Glacier Peak from near this junction.  The main trail continues east down Buck Creek to the Chiwawa River and Trinity.  Buck Creek Pass is located on the Liberty Cap Trail very close to the junction.  Buck Creek Pass is a nice place with a mix of meadows and trees, but no view.

We continued on the Liberty Cap Trail to a saddle south of Liberty Cap.  We camped there.  This was about 2 miles from the Buck Creek Pass Trail junction.  After the first ¾ mile, the Liberty Cap Trail is mostly in mountain side meadows with a great view of Glacier Peak and the mountains at the head of the Suiattle River. This is a good trail.  That day we went 7 ½ miles with 2,300 ft. gain.


Saturday, 8/15 we hiked 0.6 miles further south on the Liberty Cap Trail, going a little beyond the next saddle where the trail goes over the ridge to the east / Buck Creek side.  Shortly beyond the saddle the trail traverses across a steep rocky slope.  The trail tread looked like it had slid out in a couple of places.  There were enough places to step that people had been continuing on, but it was sketchy enough that I decided it would be safest to turn around at that point.


From there we headed back north on the Liberty Cap Trail to Buck Creek Pass, then back over Middle Ridge, down to the PCT, then north on the PCT to camp near Miners Creek.  Total miles for the day was 8 ¾ with 1,600 ft. of gain.

Sunday, 8/16 we continued north on the PCT, up over Suiattle Pass, down to the Cloudy Pass Trail, which then goes down to South Fork Agnes Creek and up to Cloudy Pass.  We camped at Cloudy Pass which is mostly meadow country with a great view of the Lyman Lakes and Spider Gap area.
Total miles for the day was 6 ¾ with 2,300 ft. of gain.  This was a pretty warm day, but there were cooling breezes at times.


Monday, 8/17 We hiked up the ridge from Cloudy Pass toward Cloudy Peak.  As we went higher the views kept getting better and better.


After hiking up the ridge from Cloudy Pass toward Cloudy Peak we went back down to Cloudy Pass and on to Lower Lyman Lake and took the main / east trail up toward Upper Lyman Lake. 

There is a foot log across the stream coming out of Lower Lyman Lake.  It’s a large log with a flat top, about 16” wide.  This trail is not built for horses, it’s essentially a hiker, probably originally a user trail, and probably not actually built as a trail.  It’s a little rugged, but not difficult.  The goats did fine.
Above Lower Lyman Lake the trail opens up into meadow country.  Below the Upper Lyman lake / Spider gap area is a side path to a camp area near several shallow lakes along the stream coming from Upper Lyman Lake.

From the camp area below Upper Lyman Lake, I explored around looking for the best way to cross the stream to get to the west side.  The stream is fairly deep, probably 2 ft. + where people cross a bit above the falls going down toward Lower Lyman Lake.

I chose to cross above the middle lakes, a few hundred feet above/south of the camp area.  There were rocks sticking out of the water going across the stream at that point.  I’m guessing that they had been put there at one time to make crossing easier.

I switched to sandals for fording the stream. Although I might have been able to rock hop across and keep my boots dry, I figured the likelihood of keep them dry was slight.  I first led Albert across.  The other goats did not follow, so I led them across one at time.  I did slip once and got a little wet.  The water was not deep, but the main part of the stream was about 15 feet wide and cloudy from glacial silt.

We then hiked through the meadows and rock heading north along the middle lakes.  Where the stream goes over the waterfalls to Lower Lyman Lake, we followed the rock route/path around to the west and down a rough path through the rocks and heather to Lower Lyman Lake. 

 From there we picked up the trail which goes along the west side of Lower Lyman Lake.  That evening we camped in the camp area north of Lower Lyman Lake.  This day we hiked 7 3/4 miles with 1,400 ft of gain.

Tuesday, 8/17 we hiked back up over Cloudy Pass, to the PCT.  We headed south on the PCT to the junction with the Miners Ridge Trail, and then west along Miners Ridge to the Image Lake area, where we went on the Canyon Lake Trail to camp on the north side of Miners Ridge.  That section of the Miners Ridge Trail had not been logged out, so I cut a number of downed trees to make it easier for the goats to get through.
Part way across the Miners Ridge Trail we came to a fairly wide stream crossing which was occupied by 5-6, almost naked men, in the stream…they were only wearing the briefest of G-string swimsuits. Leading the goats across that stream crossing was an interesting experience!

The western part of the Miners Ridge Trail, east of Image Lake, is through meadows with a spectacular view over the Suiattle Valley of Glacier Peak, the mountains east of it, around to Buck Creek Pass, Middle Ridge, and Fortress Mountain.

Where the Canyon Lake Trail crosses over the ridge to the north side of Miners Ridge there is a great view north over the Canyon Creek Valley of the mountains to the north.  This day we hiked 8 ¼ miles with 2,300 ft of gain.

Wednesday, 8/19 we went back over Miners Ridge to the Image Lake Basin and then hiked 10 ½ miles down to the Suiattle River Trail and then west to the camp at the Canyon Creek Bridge.  A little way below the lookout trail junction, I found some ripe huckleberries alongside the trail to sample. This was all good trail.

Thursday, 8/20 we hiked out the Suiattle Trail to the trailhead, going about 7 miles. A couple miles from the trailhead we passed a WTA trail work party. They were fixing a wet section of the trail.

On various days I met quite a few people doing interesting hikes.  The first day on the Suiattle trail, I met some people who had gone in via the North Fork Sauk River Trail south of Glacier peak, then taken the PCT north, going around the west side of Glacier to the Suiattle and out to the Suiattle TH.

On the PCT I met a fair number of PCT section hikers…Columbia to Canada, Stevens pass to Rainy pass, Stehekin, or Harts pass; and one through hiker who had started at Mexico and was headed for the Canadian Border.

There were also a few groups doing a Glacier Peak circumnavigation, starting at the White River southeast of Glacier Peak.

When I got to the Buck Pass Trail, I started meeting a lot of people doing the Spider Gap – Lyman Lakes – Cloudy Pass – Image Lake – Buck Creek Pass loop, or a variation of it.  This seems to be a very popular hike now.

There were several of the days where it was quite warm.  It seemed like it was noticeably buggier on those days. Other days were very comfortable, with very few bugs.

My Packgoats: Bryce, and sometimes Grant, we nervous about passing other hikes.  I think COVID face coverings and bug head nets which people were wearing contributed to their nervousness.

Benson was usually last in line, often when we passed other people, he would stop and greet/sniff them.

Except for the stream crossing at Upper Lyman Lake, where I had to lead each goat, they did well with the other steam crossings.

After the first few hours of hiking each day, I would usually take about a 10 minute break every 1 to 1 ½ hours to give the goats some rest.
Overall, the goats did well on this hike.

It was a wonderful hike, with great views of Glacier Peak from various locations, and I particularly like the view of the Lyman Lakes from Cloudy Pass.
Awesome adventure! Thanks for sharing!
Beautiful photos & narrative, Perry! Thanks for posting!

Looks like you have been getting out on some epic adventures with your goats this year. I did that "popular" loop (Spider Gap – Lyman Lakes – Cloudy Pass – Image Lake – Buck Creek Pass) many many years ago, before I got goats. It would be fun to go back up there again with my boys.

Wishing you many happy times with your goats for the rest of the season--Saph
Well. That beats almost everyone for long-duration hikes. Only Clay Zimmerman and his Uinta Highline Trail can match it.

I think my problem is that I tend to be a forced-marcher. I need to make use of my awesome camp chair and bring some good books.
I don't drink beer, but if I did, I'd prefer Dos Equis.  Stay thirsty my friends!
Amazing adventure! Thanks for sharing the trip and those great pictures!!

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