Johnson Peak anchors the Northwestern terminus of the main Goat Rocks Wilderness complex of peaks, and is the last peak at the edge of the Goat Rocks to reach over 7000 feet. This peak is probably not climbed very frequently, but it is not all that remote or difficult. The main difficulty in climbing Johnson Peak is that, before August, the access trail will have very steep snow slopes covering the trail in places, and the access to the summit ridge will have very steep snow slopes. Before August and perhaps even September, knowledge of how to use an ice ax is absolutely crucial.
Drive US 12 from the Packwood Ranger Station west toward Randle 1.6 miles, passing the Packwood Lumber Company, and approximately opposite a small power substation, turn left on road # 48, following it 9 miles. At a fork, turn left and go 1.2 miles to the trailhead, which is easy to miss and on the right side of the road. Park in a small pull-out area. Elevation, 4900 feet.
Take the Lily Basin Trail #86 5.5 miles to below the Southwest Ridge of Johnson Peak. Climb steep snow slopes to intersect the ridge, then climb 1 mile to the summit. Elevation gain: 2600 feet. Roundtrip distance: 13 miles.
Upper Ridge of Johnson
TOPO! Software Image
This area lies within the Goat Rocks Wilderness. There are no restrictions beyond the use of self-service permits and a NW Trailhead Pass ($30/year). I have found this ranger station to be of very limited help. From my telephone conversations with them, it appears that only a couple of the rangers who work there actually seem to hike. To say that the information they provided us was out of date would be an understatement. To be more cynical, they seemed determined to keep us out of the area, claiming snowcover and conditions were much worse than they actually were. If bound and determined to call this station, the contact information is:
Packwood Ranger District
P.O. Box 559
Packwood, WA 98361
Heart Lake Basin
There are several camps hidden along the Lily Basin trail with good water sources. Once over the Southwest Ridge of Johnson, the trail drops down into Heart Lake Basin, where great camps abound, with an unfortunate loss of some elevation.