GET OUT: Prime time for Goodwin

By on September 17, 2013

91813getout3JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Goodwin Lake is one of those hikes I have to do every year. It’s sort of a benchmark trek where you’ve done it so many times in just about every condition (from in shape to not-so-in shape to early season-still-snow-everywhere to late season-low-lake-levels) that it is a handy trip to kind of measure everything by. I mostly do it now with no water and half-jogging.

[youtube id=”Tapwk99xw4A” width=”620″ height=”360″]

Goodwin is a good option for this time of year if you want to head into the woods without having to worry about wearing blaze orange head-to-toe. Hunters don’t come up here. Maybe the best part about Goodwin Lake is that it offers easy access to a high mountain lake (9,500 feet) without having to climb hardly any of it. You drive most of the elevation on the way there. The trailhead is at 8,000 feet above sea level.

The bad part is the road. It is possible to feel guilty about what you are doing to your vehicle’s undercarriage even if you’re driving a rental. The last half-mile is brutal. The hike is not all that bad, really, a total of 3.7 miles each way with no stupendous uphills to speak of. The path is well defined and rocky on top, making it a pain in the ass for horses who will need to choose their footfalls carefully or sparks will be flying.


Because of the fairly heavy traffic on this route (there is ALWAYS someone besides you parked in the trailhead lot), you probably won’t see any animals. There is an alt-route via Forest Road 30440 that connects with the main trail via a faint two-track. You will notice it on your way back down but probably not on the way up. I sometimes take this and might spook out a deer or two.

Turn around some. The views of the valley are awesome for much of the first mile. After that, the trail heads into cover. You will eventually be treated to the Sheep Creek drainage on your left (east). Watch for bighorn sheep on the far western slope of Table Mountain.

91813getout4One of my favorite things about this trail is the plethora of trees near the top that have multiple trunks. I don’t know what the technical arborist term for them is but there are a disproportionate number of trees that have, like, three or four or five trunks growing together out of the ground. What’s going on with the soil up here?

The lake is rimmed with snow until July. I’ve gotten up here in June but early in the month is usually pressing your luck unless you want to posthole some. In 2005, I encountered snow at the lake in mid-September. My favorite part of the hike is jumping off the rock that’s on this little jetty on the far side of the lake. I usually do it au naturel unless there’s a crowd. I’ve also fished Goodwin with mild success – mostly small ones.

 Continuing on

From Goodwin, adventurous hikers with gas left in the tank can tackle Jackson Peak. Some mistakenly scramble up the scree field above the lake thinking they will top out on Jackson. Not so. You will be on an unnamed lesser peak at 10,280 feet with another half-mile of climbing to go. This is the most direct route but it is arduous boulder hopping.

Better to circle the lake and pick up a trail heading south. By the way, keep an eye out for a connecting trail shooting off on your left (east). This accesses Sheep Creek and a ski cabin less than a mile from the lake. You could return via this Sheep Creek trail.

On to Jackson Peak: It’s another 1.5 miles with some serious steep sections. You’ll gain 1,200 feet over the mile-and-a-half stretch, much of it in the last half-mile. At just under one mile from the lake, you’ll notice a trail split. Take a right. A left will put you on a trail that drops down into the Cache Creek drainage or connects you with the headwaters of Flat Creek and a trail back to the ranch and Flat Creek Road. Or push further southeast to Turquoise Lake from here.

From the top of Jackson Peak you will look down on nearly everything, including Nowlin Peak, named for DC Nowlin, the second state game warden Wyoming ever had. He served for eight years and later managed the Elk Refuge.

Looking down on Goodwin from Jackson Peak.

Looking down on Goodwin from Jackson Peak.

About Jake Nichols

Jake is a work in progress.


  1. 22

    September 17, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    Hunters are all over that area, the few times I have been up there the majority of folks have been dudes with shotguns. It’s hard to get in the back to nature mood when rifleshots replace birdsong, but the views are worth it.

  2. Barbara

    September 17, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    Heard there was a griz on Snow King so ya might want bear spray if you’re out traveling…anywhere….especially this time of year.

    Additionally, if I ran into a naked Jake, I’d want bear spray.

  3. jake

    September 18, 2013 at 7:29 am

    @Barbara. I know. I asked for the MTV ‘blur out’ or the celebrity rehab ‘black out’ but our art department was hot to get ‘crack’ in this issue. Bears have been very active this fall, black and griz. And @22, I aint never seen a single hunter up on that trail. There is a huntcamp one drainage over, though. And I dont know why they would have shotguns. Bears

  4. 22

    September 20, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    Sure guns, camo, hunting camps, four wheelers, you bet all those guys are just paranoid about bears, or it’s a gay sex thing where they tell everyone that they are ‘going hunting’. The loud bangs are just the noises they make when they are having a real good time am i right? It would be a readable article if youj could actually investigate where hunting is and isn’t allowed, where the majority of hunters go and when they are there. My guess is that they have more land access then the average hiker and infinitely more land acces then the average cyclist, my preferred method of backcountry travel.

  5. Jordan Rivers

    September 23, 2013 at 1:09 am

    See, I was right, Jake-Off’s ass is made of candy. Looks like Sta-Puff Marshmallow.

  6. Jake Shakes It

    September 23, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    The big questions are: What was Jake doin’ with no pants? Which woman was brave enough to witness? Was the lake drained and cleaned afterward? Where’s the real video?

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply