Despite an exciting name and a promising locale in the Goat Rocks Wilderness Area, Glacier Lake is a bit of an under-performer. We still think it's a worthy destination for a short hike near Packwood, but don't expect a pristine alpine lake at the finish or else you'll be sorely disappointed. On the plus side, there is rumor of wonderful fishing at this lake, and it's likely you'll have the place to yourself if you go on a weekday.
The trail currently begins on the north side of Forest Road 21 at the turnoff for Forest Road 2110, which is closed because of several major washouts. Not to worry, the actual trailhead is less than a half-mile up the road, and it's easy hiking to get to it. (Note that our mileage callouts reference starting at the road.)
After walking the gentle uphill grade of Forest Road 2110, carefully passing by each washout, arrive at the official trailhead at 0.40 miles. The trail quickly narrows to single track and rolls up and down through recovering forest along the slopes above Glacier Creek. At about 1.0 mile, the path drops down next to the creek momentarily before climbing back away. At 1.5 miles, pass by a sign that marks your entrance into the Goat Rocks Wilderness area.
The remaining mile is a moderate uphill push to a boulder field that forms a natural dam at the west end of the lake. At 2.4 miles, reach a vantage point on the boulder field with a nice view overlooking the lake. From here, the trail all but disappears as you navigate your way through a campsite clearing and down to the log-strewn shores of the lake at 2,900'. Further exploration (bushwacking) along the shoreline is possible for those with the energy and desire, otherwise it's out the way you came.
Permits & Tips
No passes required while Forest Road 2110 is washed out. No toilets available. Even with the road washout, the trail was in good condition (summer 2012), but be prepared to navigate through fallen trees and trail washouts as necessary. Bug spray is recommended. Swimming at the lake is certainly possible, but bring something to wipe off the muck you'll pass through along the shore. Don't leave valuables in car.
How to get there
From US 12, at milepost 129, about 3 miles southwest of Packwood, WA, turn south onto Forest Road 21. This gravel road is clearly signed for Chambers Lake and Walupt Lake. At 0.7 miles, enter Gifford-Pinchot National Forest. At 1.0 mile, veer right to stay on Forest Road 21. Drive for four more miles to the signed turnoff for Forest Road 2110 (signed from the east, so look carefully). Park on the south shoulder of Road 21 and walk up the washed-out Road 2110 to the trailhead. Safety barricades may be across the washout.