While snow-averse adventurers count down the minutes until Paradise and other nearby hikes defrost, the journey to Packwood Lake is the perfect early summer jaunt.
Just a few minutes out of Packwood proper, hikers step out into the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and watch Mount Rainier disappear behind the trees. Reporters with The Chronicle went on Wednesday evening with the intent of watching the sunset from the lake.
Be warned: despite long pants, long sleeves and emptying out a can of bug spray, we still returned home with bug bites galore. Other evening hikers visiting would be wise to bring their strongest bug repellant.
Besides the swarms of mosquitoes, this hike is the perfect combination of length and little elevation change to put it solidly in the moderate category.
Even before reaching the pristine lake, hikers get the thrill of weaving through Douglas fir giants strapped with shaggy bark as a fireproof armor. Still in the forest, visitors can note a wide variety of fungi and enjoy the sounds of a hungry pileated woodpecker.
Once there — if it’s sunny — the Goat Rocks tower over the lake and its tiny island at the center with a brilliant reflection. A bridge takes guests over an emerald green creek to continue moving around the lake.
Alltrails.com states Packwood Lake Trail is 11.9 miles total out and back, but that includes reaching the far end of the lake, which is not necessary for fantastic views.
The Packwood Lake trail can make a backpacking trip, day hike or even a camping destination. Besides the trail itself, there is access with ATVs for those who wish to camp.
The trail itself weaves through the Goat Rocks Wilderness, but as it is mostly in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, dogs on leashes are welcome.
To reach the trailhead from U.S. Highway 12 going east, go through Packwood and turn right onto Snyder Road, continue as it becomes Forest Service Road 1260 and drive about 6 miles until reaching the parking lot.
National Forest Service passes can be purchased at Blanton’s Market just before the turn on Snyder Road in Packwood.