If you've not yet explored the Goat Rocks area of Washington and really wanted to but don't have a couple days to do it right, Bear Creek Mountain on the north edge of the Goat Rocks Wilderness could be just the tease you need. You'll get great views into the area and all the major peaks and it will only take half a days hiking time. Bear Creek Mountain lies on the north end of the ridge that includes Devils Horns and Tieton Peak and the hike in is a pleasant one through lovely meadows, some flower-filled, some that seem like a beach (sandy ash from the St. Helens eruption in 1980).
There are two trails that could allow access to Bear Creek Mountain. The first one from the northeast starting at Section 3 Lake which gains only 1400 feet over about 3 and 1/2 miles. The other via Conrad Meadows from the southeast which would be about 3200 feet over 5 and 1/4 miles. Both meet shortly before the summit.
The area is filled with meadows and would make a great place to camp. Views from the summit not only include the Goat Rocks but you are very close to Rainier and Adams and the views of those two giants are impressive. Keep in mind that the Goat Rocks is the remnant of an ancient 12,000 foot volcano extinct now some two million years ago. It's been eroded down to the many different peaks you see from the summit. Watch for the namesake herds of goats while hiking this one.
To access the shorter hike in via Section 3 Lake, take Highway 12 to a point 7 or 8 miles east of White Pass. I know the book 100 Hike in Washington's South Cascades & Olympics says to take it to 9 miles east of White Pass but I found it to be shorter. Either way, at that point just west of Rimrock Reservoir, take a gravel road south named Tieton Road signed to go to Clear Lake. You'll cross the North Fork Tieton River and just before you hit 7 miles on this road, turn right onto Road 1204. Stay with this number is there are many sideroads and turnoffs (although most have signs directing you the right way to Bear Creek Mountain Trailhead). You'll take this 11 or 12 miles to road's end at the trailhead right at Section 3 Lake (more of a small pond really). Beware that the last mile or two of this road get kind of nasty. I would suggest taking a high clearance vehicle and if it is wet, make sure you have 4WD. The road is rutted and rough and I did not observe any passenger cars that made it to the trailhead. Also, keep in mind the trailhead is at 6000 feet so snow levels will also dictate how far you'll get early in the season. Downloadable text here
For access to the longer trail from Conrad Meadows, drive US 12 east from White Pass about 18 miles or west from Yakima to just west of Hause Creek Campground and turn south on South Fork Tieton Road, heading westward along Rimrock Reservoir. At 4.5 miles turn left on road No. 1000, signed 'Conrad Meadows,' and drive 14 miles to a gate at the edge of private property. Park near here, elevation 3900 feet." More information on this way here.
Red TapeNorthwest Forest Passes required to park at both trailheads.
CampingCampsites are all over in the area of the trailhead. There is also no shortage of meadows to camp in along the trail. May be buggy in early summer.
Mountain ConditionsNaches Ranger District (509) 653-2205
Wenatchee National Forest, Naches Ranger Station, 10237 Highway 12, Naches, WA 98937, 509-653-1400
When To ClimbSection 3 Trailhead at 6000 feet -- most likely July-September as snow levels dictate.
Conrad Meadows Trailhead at 3900 feet -- July-October as snow levels dictate.