|Area: Crystal Mountain Area||Starting Point: Corral Pass Road|
|Distance: 2.5 miles, RT||Duration: 2 hrs||Difficulty Level: Moderate|
|Elevation Start: 2,700 ft||Elevation End: 3,200 ft||Elevation Gain: 500 ft|
This is a short snowshoe trip up a little known trail to a small waterfall tucked in a hidden rocky slot. While it’s located just off of SR 410 close to the popular Silver Springs Campground, it’s not very well trodden. And except for one small spot, it’s a fairly easy journey on snowshoes and ideal for beginners.
The actual trailhead is about .75 mile from the substation parking area and is easily accessed in the warmer months when the snow level is well above the valley. However, in winter the road leading to the trailhead is only occasionally plowed and when it is-there isn’t much room on the roadway, no place to turn around and often still a layer of snow and/or ice on the surface. Save yourself a lot of hassles by not getting stuck or blocking a driveway of one of the cabins, and hike or snowshoe the road to the trailhead. This trip is short as it is, so the extra distance will be a welcome and a good way to warm up.
Walk or snowshoe up FR 7174 passing by rows of old cabins leased on Forest Service land. Some of the cabins are quite charming, lovingly kept up by their owners over the decades. At about .5 mile turn right onto another roadway leaving FR 7174 which continues steeply and for some distance to Corral Pass. Walk another .25 mile on road coming to its end at a small parking area (which may be buried in snow) wedged between a couple of cabins. This is the official trailhead.
Strap your snowshoes on if you haven’t already and follow alongside tumbling Goat Creek. Ignore a footbridge and continue up the creek’s right bank skirting a couple of more cabins. Now with civilization left behind, work your way up the increasingly tighter valley embracing the creek. Notice the trees. There are some pretty impressive old Douglas-firs, western hemlocks and western red cedars growing along the crashing creek.t
Come to a nice bridge spanning the waterway and continue up valley now on Goat’s left bank. The surrounding slopes get steeper and tighter making the way more interesting. Louder too as the creek’s crashing and thundering is amplified off of overhanging ledges. Look up at those ledges too as they are usually draped in a dramatic display of icicles resembling stalactites. Be careful not to cross too close beneath them as they do break apart and can be quite dangerous with their sharp points.
The way gets a little steeper as it closes in on Goat Falls. At one point it makes a log crossing over a gully that may be a little tricky if buried in deep snow. In which case it is possible to bypass by dropping down closer to the creek. The trail makes one final grunt climbing beneath a steep mossy and ice covered ledge emerging at the foot of the falls plunging ten feet through a tight chasm.
Goat Falls aren’t very high or wide, but when there is good water flow they’re pretty impressive squeezing through a narrow rocky slot. Lack of direct sunlight in this well shaded setting should aid you in getting some decent photos. After enjoying the frosty waterfall, retrace your steps back towards your start and contemplate perhaps extending your snowshoe trip.
Back at the junction with FR 7174 you can continue right .3 mile up toward Corral Pass reaching a three way junction at a gate. From here you can make a nice little kid-friendly 1.5 mile loop. Follow the White River Trail north and at about .2 mile come to a viewpoint of the White River Valley. At .5 mile cross Deep Creek on a good bridge and come to the Deep Creek Trail Junction. Continue left a short distance coming to a side trail taking off left. Take that trail crossing Deep Creek and reach a Forest Service Road by some more cabins. Follow this road .2 mile to the Alta Crystal Resort. Then turn left onto the signed Forest Trail and snowshoe .6 mile back up to the three way junction. Turn right and return to your vehicle.
Permits: None (Northwest Forest Pass required at actual trailhead)
Map: Green Trails Maps – Mount Rainier Wonderland no. 269S
Trailhead directions: From Enumclaw follow SR 410 for 32 miles turning left (just past Milepost 56) onto FR 7174. Immediately come to a power substation on your right. Park here (but do not block gate).
Notes: When snow level is low, parking may be a challenge. Do not block access to substation gate or any of the adjacent cabins.
– Craig Romano
Parking at substation: N 46° 59.968′, W 121° 31.695′