At the trail head you will have to cross the water which is 12" to 30" depending on season and route through the water. The trail gains altitude through the forest before turning into a single vehicle width shelf road for another 2 miles. The narrow trail can create a challenge as Goose Lake is an Out and Back trail so you may come across opposing traffic and will have to find the nearest spot to pullout for passing. Forest returns for approximately the next 3 miles. The last few miles to the lake becomes more rocky, there are no major obstacles but the rocky road can be bouncy.
The trail is easiest from middle of summer until early fall. Snowfall creates challenges at the higher altitude. It is common to have snow pack remaining in the middle of June, this can create a fun challenge for those experienced with snow wheeling, but the unstable snow packs will often create stuck situations, so go prepared and bring multiple vehicles for assistance. At the lower altitude, spring can be challenging because of downed trees which will require a saw to progress.
The trail is narrow at the shelf road area with limited pull out spots for allowing traffic to pass each other.
There is a small parking area as you pull in from the highway, approximately 8 cars, or 3 trucks with trailers. Additional Trailer parking is available as pullouts on the highway above, as shown in Photo 1, signage marks how close to highway parking is available. The parking area is available to air down, as well as drying out from the river crossing, as shown in Photo 3. Word of caution to those driving directly from Highway 38 or returning down from the trail, do not attempt to cross the river with hot brake rotors. Stories abound of vehicles that have cracked a rotor or pads due to hitting the ice cold water with the excessive heat that builds up from coming down the Highway 38 decline or riding their brakes coming down the trail, use low gear in your transmission for both scenarios.
2. Trailhead River Crossing
The trailhead is the largest obstacle for the late summer and early fall season. Passenger vehicles must cross the river to access the trail, the water is a minimum of 12"deep and can approach 30" in the center of the river. Vehicles need to cross in a U shape away from the bridge to avoid the deepest center, this track will put you closer to the mesh fence with no trespassing warnings, You WANT to be near the fence line before returning towards the trail. The video will detail the path to take, along with a Pinzgauer showing how deep the center can be. The bridge is used for hikers and accessible to UTV and side by sides.
With a standard transmission, remember to choose a proper gear and not use your clutch while in the river, stalling or using neutral while in the river may cause problems with the internals of the clutch and starter. DO NOT enter the water with extremely hot brake rotors from the highway decline or returning down the trail, if you can smell your brake pads, take a moment and enjoy the scenery before entering, so that you can enjoy the rest of your trip.
3. Little Cave
At waypoint 3 is an interesting highlight for the young or young at heart. The remnants of a mining cave, or maybe just someones shelter. The room is only about 8 feet into the mountain and probably 20 feet wide, but offers the chance to tease others about the presence of bears, and during the heat of the day creates a nice air conditioned room.
4. Cabin Cluster
Through out the trail you can find old cabins, but this point offers the greatest cluster of former homes. Remember to be careful around the old cabins as they are returning to nature, and after every season they become less stable than the year before.
5. Quadruple Junction
The quadruple junction can seem confusing at first. If you will look for the sign in the tree, as pictured in Photo 1, there is an arrow directing you on to Goose Lake. Also, the trail you are seeking is directly ahead of the trail you have been traveling. At the junction there are three other paths, two are unmarked and the third is FR 486A. FR486A is a tight trail for any fullsize vehicle but will take you less than a mile to another cabin before forcing you back down the trail returning to the junction. At the junction is also the remnants of a former home.
6. Triple Junction
The Triple Junction will require you to take the left trail to continue on your shortest path. All three weave back into the trail within 500 feet, but can leave you with the feeling of being in a maze. The trail marked 171 on the right is marked as No Jeeps further down the trail, so save your gas and avoid it if you don't want to be disappointed.
7. Parking Vault
The only vault toilet on the trail is at the entrance to the destination parking lot. Depending on season, it may or may not be open for business. Parking is spacious with room for 20 or more vehicles.
8. End at Lake
At the southern most point of the parking area is the the gate to prevent any further motorized activity. It is a short walk to the lake, with hiking paths around the lake, as well as to the top of the surrounding peak. Fishing is a summer option and primitive camping spots are available just below the parking area. On the peak side of the lake, marmots as well as rams can often be spotted. When you are exhausted from the activities or just the altitude, return down the mountain the same way you arrived. Remember, use low gears instead of riding your brakes, it is a steep descent, and you have the ice cold water to cross at the bottom.