One of the joys of writing a trail guide book is that you get to thoroughly research the trails and horse camps in a given area. You have to stay at all the horse camps, and you have to ride all the trails. What a tough life, huh?
When I was doing the research for my newest book, “Riding Southwest Washington Horse Trails,” someone mentioned that I shouldn’t miss White Pass Horse Camp, even though it was on the eastern fringe of the area I had planned to cover in the book. Boy, am I glad they suggested it, because White Pass Horse Camp is a gem!
Sand Lake lies beside the PCT in the William O. Douglas Wilderness.
Located just off Hwy. 12 at the crest of the Cascades, White Pass Horse Camp offers something for everyone. The William O. Douglas Wilderness lies just north of the camp, the Goat Rocks Wilderness is just south of it, and the Pacific Crest Trail runs right past the camp. Some of the surrounding rides are easy, most are moderate, and one is difficult. All of them offer knock-your-socks off scenery.
A view of the Goat Rocks from the PCT in the Goat Rocks Wilderness.
While packers often use White Pass as a staging area for multi-day treks into the wilderness, the horse camp also offers an array of spectacular day rides of varying lengths and difficulty. You can do easy trips to Sand Lake or Deer Lake. You can do moderate rides to Buesch Lake and Dumbell Lake, or ride through beautiful meadows of huckleberries and lupine in the William O. Douglas Wilderness, or travel to the summit of Pigtail Peak with its spectacular view of Mt. Rainier. Or if you want something more challenging, you can ride to Shoe Lake in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. And all of these are day rides!
Huckleberry meadows can be found in both wildernesses.
White Pass Horse Camp has six official sites, each with a picnic table and fire ring, hitching rail, trees for highlining, and room for one trailer. In addition, the day-use area and several overflow sites have hitching rails, trees for highlining, and trailer parking. Stock water is available from a nearby creek, but it’s too far away to comfortably carry water to most of the campsites so you’ll need to lead your horse to the creek several times a day or bring your own stock water.
The William O. Douglas Wilderness is dotted with large and small lakes.
To sum up, you’ll find nice overnight accommodations at White Pass Horse Camp, a variety of day rides to suit any rider, and beautiful scenery you’ll remember for a lifetime. Don’t miss it!
Getting There: From the west: From I-5, take Exit 68 (Yakima/White Pass) and drive east on Hwy. 12 for 85 miles. From the east: From I-82, take Exit 31 (northbound) or 31A (southbound) and drive west on Hwy. 12 for 51 miles. All: Turn north on Road 498, just east of the White Pass Winter Recreation Area. Take the first right to enter the horse camp.
Season: Summer through fall
Horse Camp Facilities: 6 sites with room for 1 trailer each. Toilet, picnic tables, fire rings, trees for highlining. Several overflow sites have hitching rails and parking for 1 trailer. Large day-use parking area. Stock water from a creek about 0.1 mile away. A Northwest Forest Pass is required.
More Information: The trails at White Pass Horse Camp are covered in more detail in Riding Southwest Washington Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, Ponderosa Press, 2016.
Reprinted with permission from The Trailhead News, March/April 2016, Back Country Horsemen of Washington.