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Thread: Goat Trail in Wrangell St Elias

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    Default Goat Trail in Wrangell St Elias

    Looking for any input/firsthand experience on the goat trail in WSE. Info on the hike here and here.

    Planning to hike with my gf in a couple of weeks. If anyone's done the trail this summer I'd be interested in conditions, how hard the actual trail is to follow (trail vs route-finding), how the river crossings were, and mostly if doing the trail in 4-5 days is doable. Most of the guide services are 5-9 days to do the trail, which seems way to long for 25 miles...I am hoping they are exaggerating the timeline to leave time for folks not accustomed to long hikes. My gf and I are in good backpacking shape and can regularly bang out 12-15 miles in a day, so I'm hoping 4-5 days for the trail is enough time to finish but still keep a relaxed enough pace to enjoy the scenery and take pictures.

    Any info is appreciated!

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    Don't have any info, but we're also interested in doing the hike someday. If you gather any additional info or if you do the hike and have a trip report, I'd appreciate hearing about it. TIA

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    Member AKFishOn's Avatar
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    This would be an awesome trip.

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    Just got back last night. Hike was amazing, one of the cooler things I've done since I've been in AK. I am already itching to get back and explore more of WSE...I am thinking the Slana to McCarthy traverse with a packraft is on next summers schedule.

    I'll post a TR once we get unpacked & through all our photo's.

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    Awesome- looking forward to it.

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    Alright so I'll just add on to what the NPS page on this hike has to say.

    The dropoff runway in Skolai Pass is about 1.5 miles north from the runway marked on the USGS maps. Its pretty easy hiking down to where the route is marked, with awesome views of Castle Mountain & Russell Glacier. There is a trail on the hillside just above the brush that goes in & out, we ended up losing it and just scrambled up the hillside to the first shoulder. We saw a black wolf here so keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. From the first shoulder you just keep going up, and eventually you'll see a stream. It was pretty low and easy for us to cross back & forth, you just follow it up to Chitisone pass - we circumvented around to get a better view of the pass and then once the ground got spongey headed up to the ridge. Saw tons of sheep in this area, and then further down the pass we saw a wolverine with kits. Pretty cool.

    We ended up camping towards the end of the pass next to a big glacier & a freshwater stream. From here you just follow the pass down, a pretty decent trail becomes apparent after a few miles...if you don't see it stay low next to the river. Eventually the pass narrows into a valley and the trail starts making its way higher up the side of the valley. If you're not in a rush I'd camp before the trail really starts heading up, you have freshwater & great views and it makes a good spot to rest to hit the scree slopes fresh the next day.

    There are 3 sections of scree slopes with nice grassy areas in between to take breaks on. The first two have a couple sketchy parts but aren't too big of a deal. The third is the one with the most exposure and if you're afraid of heights the view down once you're on it could definitely give you some vertigo. The trail itself is narrow but good though, and if you've hiked on scree before you'd be fine. Just make sure you stay high in the yellow rocks...the lower trail in the red looks more traveled at the beginning, but basically peters out at some bluffs you'd need to rope up to get around.

    Once you're around the last of the scree slopes you have a beautiful view at the top of Chitisone Gorge. This would be a great spot to camp but is really windy later at night. We made our way down to the stream and camped not too far from it as we needed to refill on water. The gorge itself is beautiful and worth spending a day or more in to explore...there was a group of two austrians & a german we ran into that took a break in the gorge & day-hiked the ridge to left.

    You cross the steam in the gorge and make your way back up to a green plateau, the trail through here seems pretty good and is hard to lose. The sun was shining when we hiked through so we took our time here. The trail eventually gets harder to follow as you get into some brush, just keep following the plateau around until you get to the end, a large rocky area with great views. You could bushwack your way down to the river from here, but I would spend the time to find the trail...even with the trail you end up bushwacking a good bit. Without a trail it'd be alot worse and you risk getting cliffed out. The trail is just past the large open rocky area.

    Once you're down to the river you just head upstream, pretty easy hiking. The Chitisone river (above the confluence with the Chitisone Glacier river) was easy crossing, the first braid is the deepest but even then only knee high. All of our river crossings were lower than expected though, I think maybe it being the end of summer during a colder spell really reduced the melting rate up high. From here we hiked back to the glacier and crossed over it to avoid another stream crossing...you'd really sink into the mud around the glacier river and we didn't feel like risking the crossing to what might be quicksand on the other side. Fair warning though the hike back to the glacier isn't easy & is time consuming...no trail, you're walking on loose rocks, and going over the moraines is constant up & down. I wished we'd either setup camp before hand, or started earlier in the day. Watch your step on the glacier as well, there are a few crevasses and a few parts where theres only an inch or so of gravel over the ice and its super easy to slip.

    The hike south from the glacier is pretty easy. There are game trails in the woods where theres no room to hike next to the river. Take your time to enjoy the scenery here and keep an eye out for bears...tons of tracks in this area. The first river crossing heading down was easy (knee high), the second river crossing we were able to just hop on rocks to get over. There is a bushwack you have to do right before Toby Creek - another point you want to make sure you find the trail before you start going through. The trail itself requires some bushwacking and squeezing through tree branches, bushwacking through without the trail would be pretty tough. From here it's easy hiking to Toby Creek, which was also low (just over my knees) and easily crossed. There is freshwater on either side of Toby Creek up the valley a bit, make sure you fill up.

    Finding the runway is pretty easy...just stick to just outside the woods as you approach the confluence and you'll find rock markers for the trail. We camped out about a mile before the runway on a nice flat spot next to the river to get some awesome views looking up the valley the next morning.

    All in all the hike took us 4 & 1/2 days, and we could've been done in 4 or less if we needed to. GPS had us at about 35 miles total (we weren't really strictly following the trail). Worth noting we hiked end of the season so the trails were more estabilshed than they would be in the early summer, and that any of the stream crossings could be much bigger obstacles than they were for us depending on how they're flowing. If I were to do this again I'd commit to atleast 6 or 7 days to have more time to explore and enjoy the scenery. Also for flights in & out - Gary @ McCarthy Air is hard to beat. Super nice guy with probably more experience & knowledge in the area than anyone else you could find.

    Cheers

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    Skolai Pass, Russel Glacier in the background




    Skolai Pass Waterfall



    The scree slopes and "goat trail" the route is named for, the correct route is the high yellow colored rock. Decent amount of exposure in spots but nothing you'd get too sketched out on.


    Not

    Camp for the night @ Chitisone Gorge

    Attached Images Attached Images

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    View of Chitisone Gorge on the way down to the valley

    Chitisone

    Valley


    Chitisone
    Chitisone River in the morning

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    Outstanding- thanks for posting this- very helpful and well done!

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    Great report, and wonderful pictures. Next summer...

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