One of the quintessential hikes around this area is up Packwood Lake Trail (trail No. 78, from trailhead at end of Forest Road 1260) to the so-named lake. This gentle climb starts in a few harvested forest areas before hitting the Goat Rocks Wilderness area.
It might not be pretty to walk through, but the Forest Service is in the business of managing our timber resources—how else are we going to build roofs over our heads? Besides, in this instance the clearings offer a great peek at Rainier on clear days.
Once you hit the wilderness boundary you’ll be surrounded by plenty of old-growth forest all the way until the trail meets trail No. 81, when Packwood Lake Trail leads just outside the wilderness boundary down to the lake (4.2 miles from trailhead), which provides good summertime fishing.
You can continue up in elevation along the trail past Packwood Lake to Mosquito Lake and Lost Lake until it ends 9.6 miles later. Because this trail does lead through the wilderness area, mountain bikes are not allowed, but horses are. Bikers should consider the parallel Pipeline Trail (trail No. 74, from trailhead at end of Forest Road 1260), which runs 4.5 miles up to the lake.
The lake itself reflects Mount Rainier on clear days and is home to a thriving rainbow trout fishery that anglers can take a crack at by shore or float tube. This is one of the best fishing holes around Packwood, but far from the only—other favorites include Dog Lake, Leech Lake for fly fishers, and Skate Creek, accessible from the small and virtually unknown Packwood State Park (www.parks.wa.gov). This park has tall trees and decent fishing, but no facilities. Access is via Forest Road 52 across the Cowlitz River.
Packwood is also great fun in the winter. Cross-country skiers and snowmobilers flock to the Packwood Winter Recreation Area to slip and slide on the white stuff. Go about seven miles southwest of Packwood on Forest Road 21 to reach Johnson Creek Sno-Park, from which miles of groomed trails extend. You must have a Sno-Park Pass to access the park. Get one at Tatoosh Food Mart (13053 Hwy. 12, 360/494-7001).
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition