Opening northward from Snoqualmie Pass, Gold Creek Valley offers glimpses of the rugged landscape of peaks, creeks, and lakes deep in the Cascade Mountains. From their shared trailhead, the Gold Creek Pond Loop and Gold Creek Trail offer varied opportunities to enjoy this window into the wilderness.
The Gold Creek Pond Loop circles Gold Creek Pond, which was once a gravel pit that contributed paving material to nearby Interstate 90 and has since been restored to natural subalpine habitat for the benefit of wildlife and humans alike. Alternating between pavement and smooth-surfaced bridges and boardwalks, the Gold Creek Pond Loop is a fully ADA-accessible trail that offers spectacular views and a bit of wilderness just a short drive from the freeway. Level and beyond reach of the avalanches common to the area, the loop is also a popular wintertime snowshoeing and cross-country skiing destination. (During winter’s snows, the parking area at the trailhead is closed, limiting access to those who can reach it by foot from one of the nearby Sno-Parks.)
The non-ADA Gold Creek Trail branches from the loop trail and proceeds up the valley for approximately 5.50 miles/8.60 km. Shortly after departing the Gold Creek Loop, the trail joins a gravel road that provides access to private residences for approximately 0.90 miles/1.40 km before reverting to regular trail. Generously posted signs guide hikers along the trail and away from private drives. From there, the trail tracks Gold Creek upstream through alternating forest, scrub, and talus. At 4.30 miles/6.90 km from the trailhead, the trail crosses Gold Creek and, in quick succession, two of its tributaries. In most seasons, the creeks must be forded — be prepared to get wet or, when spring snowmelt swells their flows, to end your hike with a creekside view if they cannot be safely crossed. The trail ends abruptly in deep forest at the edge of Alaska Mountain’s massive avalanche chute, but, as indicated by signage, rough-hewn boot paths continue, one proceeding farther up the valley and the other, profiled here, climbing steeply to Alaska Lake high on the valley’s western wall. Beyond the main trail, be prepared to encounter eroded terrain and low-hanging branches in return for increasing mountain views and a bit of backcountry solitude. Be sure to check trip reports at the “Additional Info” links above for recent trail conditions.
Furthermore, the Gold Creek Trail crosses several avalanche chutes, the largest of which has scoured a massive swath down the western flank of Alta Mountain and flattened forest on the opposite side of the valley. Avalanches shape this rugged landscape and have proven near disastrous to snowshoers traversing their chutes on this trail in winter — when snow is present, be sure to check avalanche forecasts before taking to the trail.
At least one additional permit may be required to access the trails when snow is present. In winter, the trailhead parking lot and road are maintained by the State of Washington and require a state-issued Sno-Park Permit for access, in addition to a federally issued Northwest Forest Pass. And, if parking at the nearby Hyak Sno-Park and proceeding to the trails on foot, be aware that the Hyak Sno-Park requires a state-issued Discover Pass, rather than a Northwest Forest Pass.