Last weekend we decided to take advantage of the extra day off and go backpacking. We’d gone on our first backpacking adventure last fall to Waptus Lake, which was a long and grueling hike, and I struggled a lot. This time we opted for a shorter hike that we’d done before, so that we’d know what to expect. Over Memorial Day weekend we’d hiked to Goat Lake in the North Cascades and absolutely loved it, so we decided it would be perfect for our first backpacking trip of the year. It’s only 5.5 miles out to the lake, and we knew it was relatively flat until the last mile. It seemed like a great choice to get used to carrying heavier packs with a little challenge.
We got everything packed up Thursday night so that we could get an early start Friday morning. We were very selective this time in what we brought with us, so that we could avoid carrying unnecessary weight. My pack ended up being about 27 pounds and J’s was 37. (Thanks J! :))
It was a beautiful day and we were excited to get started!
I love this section of the trail that winds through a forest of birch trees. The trail splits about a quarter mile in, and you can choose between the Lower Elliott trail, which follows a beautiful river with cascading waterfalls for about three miles and has some gentle uphills and downhills, or the Upper Elliott, which is mostly flat and has a gentle grade uphill and then back down. The trails rejoin here and continue on to the lake. We opted for the Lower Elliott on the way out to the lake because it’s a nice view along the river. There were tons of bugs though, so I was glad we brought plenty of bug spray.
We reached Goat Lake in about 2.5 hours and found a nice campsite in the forest nearby. There were three or four other groups of backpackers, but everyone was able to have their own private space to camp.
After quickly setting up our tent we headed down to the lake. This was the view heading out of the forest!
I loved all the wildflowers along the trail.
And finally, here’s Goat Lake! When we’d hiked here over Memorial Day weekend, it was very foggy and cloudy, so we couldn’t see much across the lake. I am so glad we came back on a clear day, because it was incredibly beautiful! We sat here by the shore and ate our lunch.
I loved the color of the water – it’s fed by snow melt, which causes the turquoise tint. It’s beautiful!
For a different view of the lake, we climbed out on these stacks of logs. It was a little tricky to navigate through and find logs that were stable enough to walk on.
It was a great place to sit in the sun, relax, and enjoy the view!
After soaking up some sun, we decided to go for a swim! This was my first time swimming in an alpine lake, and I was a little nervous about how cold it would be. Lots of others around us had been jumping in and screaming about how freezing it was, which didn’t help. But J and I had pinky-promised each other earlier in the week that we’d jump in, so I had to give it a try!
It was actually really refreshing! I only stayed in for a few minutes because my toes and fingers started getting really cold, but after the heat wave we’ve been having in Seattle, it felt really nice to jump in a cold lake 🙂 J jumped in too!
After swimming and hanging out by the lake for a while, we headed back to our campsite to take a nap. We deserved it after carrying all our stuff up here! I absolutely love the backpacking tent we got at REI. It has a rain fly, which we put on at night to keep us warmer inside, but during the day we left it off and had this beautiful view of the forest around us.
And this is the view out the top of our tent!
For dinner we’d packed our backpacking stove and a freeze-dried meal from REI. It’s a pretty cool setup and works really well for backpacking, or anytime you’re camping – especially now when there’s a burn ban in effect for most of Washington. All you have to do is hook up a little propane tank and light with a match. There’s an aluminum shield that you can set up around it.
All you have to do is boil 2 cups of water,
and then pour in the bag!
Wait 8-9 minutes (stir halfway), and viola! A quick, easy, delicious meal.
After dinner we walked back down to the lake to try and see the sunset. The water was getting calmer since it was later in the day, and it was very peaceful with only a few other backpackers still there with us.
After watching the sun go down, we headed back to our campsite, and J had THE BEST surprise ever – he’d secretly packed some Oreos for me! I was so excited, and it was a wonderful treat!
We slept in a bit in the morning and then headed down to the lake to filter some more water so that we could cook some breakfast. The sun was just starting to peek over the mountains, and wow was it beautiful!
Our breakfast was a similar freeze dried meal as our dinner, but with eggs, hash browns, sausage, and peppers. I ate it too fast and forgot to take a picture. It was great though, and so quick to make! After eating, we packed up our gear and headed back down the trail. It took us a little over two hours on the return hike. We took the Upper Elliott trail on the way back and noticed that it’s about a half mile longer than the Lower Elliott trail. However, it’s a pretty even, slow grade up and then a slow grade back down to the beginning of the trail, which we appreciated on day 2 with our heavy packs.
We returned home in the early afternoon and had just enough time to unpack a little, shower, and head to a 4th of July cookout with some friends!
It was a great holiday weekend, and I’m already missing being out in the mountains. Goat Lake is a great hike for a first-time backpacking trip; it’s a good distance to get used to carrying heavier packs and has some steep sections toward the end, but it’s not overly difficult. And it’s a beautiful location!
Check out some of my other favorite hikes here.
Distance: 10.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1400 feet
Location: North Cascades
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