A 105,600-acre alpine wonderland, the Goat Rocks Wilderness is a portion of the volcanic Cascade Mountain Range in southwestern Washington between Mount Rainier and Mount Adams. The Goat Rocks are remnants of a large volcano, extinct for some two million years. This ancient volcano once towered over the landscape at more than 12,000 feet in elevation, but has since eroded into several peaks averaging around 8,000 feet. The cluster of rocks and peaks have become known as Goat Rocks because of the bands of mountain goats that live here.
Goat Rocks Wilderness features mountainous terrain with elevations from 3,000 feet to 8,201 feet on Gilbert Peak. Much of it lies above timberline, providing out-standing alpine scenery. Many high-elevation trails remain impassable, due to snow, until July and snow can return as early as September.
The wilderness values of this area have long been recognized. On February 13, 1931, approximately 44,500 acres were officially dedicated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, as the Goat Rocks Primitive Area. In 1935, this was expanded to 72,440 acres. In 1940, the area was increased to 82,680 acres and designated the Goat Rocks Wild Area by the Chief of the Forest Service.
When Congress passed the Wilderness Act on September 3, 1964, this Wild Area became a Wilderness, part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Congress added additional acreage in 1984. Forest Service management is designated to preserve and enhance the wild character of the Wilderness while providing for public use and enjoyment.
The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCNST), stretching from Canada to Mexico, passes through the Goat Rocks. The Washington State portion of this trail was formerly known as the Washington Cascade Crest Trail completed in 1935. In 1968, it was designated as part of the PCNST by the National Trail System Act.
The Yakima Indian Reservation, bordering the Goat rocks Wilderness on the southeast side, is closed to the general public except for the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail route.