They typically close the Mountain Loop Hwy every winter, so I decided to sneak up to Goat Lake for one more “hurrah” before it became really hard to access. I went on Thursday Dec 1.
The road to the trailhead is clear, although if you come in from Darrington it is full of potholes. Almost as bad as the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rd. used to be, so leave some extra time for that. In the morning, I drove in from Granite Falls over Barlow Pass, and there were 3-5 inches of snow on the ground at the pass, and some slick sections. After I passed the Mt Dickerman/Perry Creek trailhead I was the only car back there, or at least the only tracks since it last snowed. I didn’t have to chain up, but I’m guessing if more people drive back there it will get more packed down and more slick and ultimately you’ll want chains (if they don’t close the road soon anyway). On my way out, I went through Darrington in an attempt to avoid driving back over Barlow Pass. Despite growing up in Wisconsin I tend to drive pretty cautiously in the snow, and I thought it would be faster to exit via Darrington, but in hindsight I was wrong. Going out via Granite Falls would’ve been faster, even if conditions over Barlow Pass were still slippery.
I took the Lower Elliot trail up to the lake, and the Upper trail back down to the trailhead (confused yet?). Snow was 0-6 inches on both trails, with deeper amounts at higher elevations and in clearings out from under the trees. Once the trails converge and you enter the Henry Jackson Wilderness, the snow starts getting a bit deeper. By the time you reach the lake, the snow is 1.5 – 2 ft deep in clearings. Under the trees (i.e., at campsites) there were 2-4 inches of snow on the ground, and the toilet is not yet buried. It would probably make a good winter camping spot if you have the right gear and don’t mind the occasional tree bomb!
OH! And I saw a coyote! It was beautiful in it’s fluffy winter coat. I wasn’t nearly fast enough with my camera to get a photo, but it was really cool to see the coyote and then look closely at the tracks it left behind. Coyote tracks aren’t exactly rare or difficult to identify, but it was neat to be 100% sure what animal had left the tracks, and when.