DISTANCE
4.8 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
2,874 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

hiking

no dogs

hiking
1 month ago

Fossil Trail 242: Gifford Pinchot Forest
13 August 2018
This is an overlooked hiker trail I can recommend – moderate difficulty for the first mile then easier. Well traveled by horses but no shoe prints or bike tracks today. With the temperature in the mid-90s this August hike was 95% in the cool shade of a moderate growth forest. The trail starts in the north end of the Kalama Horse camp – walk 100 yards and cross the FR 81 to the trail signpost. Begin at 2,200’ elevation. The first quarter-mile is relatively flat then joins an old caterpillar track and ascends 30° for a mile with a couple switchbacks – this is the steepest part of the whole trail. The second mile is easier at a 10° ascent and by mile 3 is level at 3500’ (highest elevation).
On the ascent and right side of the trail looms Goat Mountain (4,965 feet tall). It is NE of the trail and viewed from time to time through the trees. Essentially the trail follows The Fossil Creek Valley and contours around the western slope of Goat Mountain. There are no trails marked on the map for a Goat Mountain climb. Along the way the only opening in the forest are four avalanche chutes – easily traversed.
At mile 3.3 the trail enters the Mount Saint Helens Monument boundary and follows it in and out for a mile. It is here the trail descends to Goat Marsh Creek – the only water source. On this part of the trail, now traveling east, a few glimpses of MSH can be seen. The trail eventually joins up with Road 8123 and ends south of Blue Lake where the Blue Lake Trail and Toutle Trail can be accessed leading back to the Kalama Horse Camp; a 14-mile loop.
The quality of the forest makes this hike. Patches of moderate and old growth Nobel & Hemlock Fir, and Western Red Cedar marks this as a mature mixed forest. Many large trees are >4’ DBH and a couple >6’. The tread is entirely ash/pumice and in many places the trail needs brushing, berms knocked down, the trail widened, and limbs trimmed. Long pants and hiking poles are recommended. No ticks.
Wildlife: abundant bear and coyote scat, along with elk droppings.
A report on this trail by Tom Paulu Oct 2, 2014 (The Daily News) says the Forest Service opened the trail in 2003 and it was built by Backcountry Horsemen of Washington.