Packwood Lake is a wonderfully scenic destination for equestrians. The Packwood Lake Trail travels through the Goat Rocks Wilderness to the picturesque shore of its namesake lake. If you like, you can ride along the lake shore and take in the splendid views over the lake. Then you can loop back to your trailer via the non-wilderness Pipeline Trail.
- Moderate – the Packwood Lake Trail has a few steep side slopes
- 8 miles round trip to Packwood Lake, or 12.5 miles round trip if you continue along the lake shore
- Elevation gain 550 feet
Since the Packwood Lake Trail goes through the Goat Rocks Wilderness, it’s rather a surprise to arrive at the lake and see buildings on the shore. It turns out the entire lake is outside the wilderness boundary. A hydroelectric plant has operated there since 1964, and the lake once had a small resort, complete with a general store and boat rentals. (The Forest Service shut down the resort in 1992 to protect this sensitive area.) Today Packwood Lake is a popular destination, as well as a jumping-off spot for backpackers who want to explore the Goat Rocks Wilderness.
The Packwood Lake Trail runs through pretty forest to the shore of Packwood Lake, where you’ll have a great view of Agnes Island and Johnson Peak over the lake. At the lake, you’ll also see a historic Guard Station used by Forest Rangers who patrolled the Goat Rocks Wilderness on horseback.
You can explore the north shore of the lake on the Upper Lake Creek Trail, or you can return to your trailer by way of the Pipeline Trail. This latter trail is outside the wilderness boundary, so you may encounter ATVs and mountain bikes. Otherwise, the Pipeline Trail is an easy route, since it runs mostly on an old forest road and has little elevation change. The Pipeline Trail ends at the trailer parking area.
In the town of Packwood, turn right on Snyder Road, which becomes Road 1260. In 4.9 miles you’ll reach the paved trailhead, which on summer weekends is usually filled with hiker cars. Or drive only 4.7 miles and turn left on Road 066 into a dirt parking area with a green gate and a sign reading “Horse Trailer and ATV Trailer Parking Only.” Both parking areas are tight, so turn around when you arrive. Park facing out so you can’t be accidentally blocked in by other vehicles.
You’ll find more information about this trail in Riding Southwest Washington Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2016), available at www.nwhorsetrails.com.