Forum Index > Trip Reports > Johnson Peak (Goat Rocks) - 9/11/21
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hapemask
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hapemask
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PostSun Sep 12, 2021 12:56 am 
I first read about Johnson Peak in Fred Beckey's Cascade Alpine Guide. Of the route on the south face from Heart Lake, he says, "... (est 6200ft). Ascend due N; no difficulties." Well, it turns out that if you forget the elevation where you're supposed to leave the trail, as I did on my first visit to the area last fall, you may in fact have some difficulties. I still had a great night camping at the lake, and decided I'd have to return for the peak, maybe as a day hike.

Sunset at Heart Lake last year.
Sunset at Heart Lake last year.

This time back, I chose what I hoped would be an easier route for a day hike. If you start at the Lily Basin TH, the Lily Basin trail offers a gentle approach to the bottom of the SW ridge of the peak, where you can climb basically straight up. I was thinking to follow this past TR but I don't think I quite managed. Also of note, the "trail crux" in that report has since been dynamited and is no longer an obstacle.

I drove out after work to camp in my car and get an early start. Some WTA reports describe FR48 as very rough, but in fact it's an amazingly smooth forest road. There's a caveat: one horrendous washout in the middle of a steep hill climb ~4.5mi from the trailhead. My Outback made it with some coaxing (when in doubt, floor it) but for once I actually doubt a sedan would make it w/out spending a lot of time stacking rocks.

"Early morning start" for me is 7am, after snoozing my alarm for an hour.
"Early morning start" for me is 7am, after snoozing my alarm for an hour.

My goal was just to climb the peak, and I wasn't expecting to get so many awesome views on the way there given the cloudy forecast. Goat Rocks never disappoints though, and the weather was mostly clear all day.

The Lake Creek valley to the north was full of clouds which slowly drifted away as the sun rose.
The Lake Creek valley to the north was full of clouds which slowly drifted away as the sun rose.

The off-trail portion starts 5mi from the trailhead. I started up a rocky gully, and then after gaining ~100ft I climbed out and continued up a meadow to reach the base of a wall of rocks embedded in some kind of fairly stable conglomerate. I decided to just scramble up it which was fun. Some big ones were loose and a helmet may have been advisable.

Looking back from the base of the scramble. I came up the meadow in between the two gullies.
Looking back from the base of the scramble. I came up the meadow in between the two gullies.
I scrambled up on the left, directly towards the sun.
I scrambled up on the left, directly towards the sun.

Once you gain the SW ridge, the rest of the way up is fairly straightforward if a bit loose and steep in places. I followed the ridge up for a few hundred feet until I was just starting to cross onto the south face, then continued up to the summit on steep grassy slopes.

The first view of the peak from the ridge.
The first view of the peak from the ridge.
Gendarme higher up the ridge. You could probably climb this, but I wouldn't.
Gendarme higher up the ridge. You could probably climb this, but I wouldn't.

You can tell how popular this peak is w/goats because it smelled like a barn. The goats were easily spooked though so I didn't get any good shots.


The views from the summit were pretty amazing. Rainier and Adams are looming close, and Mt. St. Helens isn't far off.

Old (not-very) Snowy, Mt. Ives
Old (not-very) Snowy, Mt. Ives
Hawkeye Point and the rest of the Lily Basin trail to the SE.
Hawkeye Point and the rest of the Lily Basin trail to the SE.
Mt. Adams
Mt. Adams
Mt. St. Helens
Mt. St. Helens
This is my favorite view of Rainier I've had so far.
This is my favorite view of Rainier I've had so far.

The route was surprisingly straightforward given my poor route-finding skills but here's what the GPS track looked like for the climb up in case it's helpful.


Tom, jaysway, runup, JimK, Dave Weyrick, neek, RichP, fourteen410  HikingBex, awilsondc
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Bootpathguy
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Bootpathguy
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PostSun Sep 12, 2021 7:52 pm 
hapemask wrote:
Sunset at Heart Lake last year.
Sunset at Heart Lake last year.

I really like these images. So beautiful! Thanks for sharing 👍

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Experience is what'cha get, when you get what'cha don't want

hapemask
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BW
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BW
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PostSun Sep 12, 2021 9:40 pm 
Yeah that light coming through the trees is something special. Great texture on the Rainier zoom, too.

hapemask
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jaysway
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PostMon Sep 13, 2021 7:12 am 
Those views from Johnson are fantastic  biggrin.gif  I guess I'll have to add this to my ever-growing list?

How was the road getting to the Lily Basin TH? I was going to camp at Heart Lake this weekend, but TRs from the last year or so list the road as having one truly awful section, so I bailed.

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hapemask
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hapemask
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PostMon Sep 13, 2021 12:30 pm 
iRemeberToby wrote:
How was the road getting to the Lily Basin TH? I was going to camp at Heart Lake this weekend, but TRs from the last year or so list the road as having one truly awful section, so I bailed.

It does still have one truly awful section. An SUV should be able to get up it with careful driving, a sedan may have issues. Supposedly at least one sedan has been spotted up there after stacking rocks to bridge the gap in the hill.

If you want to go to the lake and are concerned about the road, you should try the approach from the Berry Patch TH. When I went last year I was still driving a Honda Civic and so I chose that TH, it was an easy drive (the hike is a bit longer though via the Goat Ridge trail).

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