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Exploring the Iron Goat Trail

The lush, forested Iron Goat Trail offers a choose-your-own adventure into railroad history.

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Getting to the Iron Goat Trail is an easy drive up Highway 2, passing through Sultan and Gold Bar, and continuing east of the small town of Skykomish.

The lush, forested trail follows the upper and lower sections of an abandoned Great Northern Railway grade. The completion of the railway, crossing the Cascades at Stevens Pass, was significant in settlement of the Pacific Northwest, but winter conditions were very hazardous. In 1910, a snow slide swept two trains off the tracks and nearly 100 people died in one of the worst-ever rail accidents in the United States. A new eight-mile tunnel was opened in 1929 (and is still in use today). The abandoned grade became the Iron Goat Trail that hikers enjoy today.

Hikers can choose their own adventure, with three trailheads from which to start and end – Scenic, Martin Creek, and Wellington – with varying levels of difficulty. Helpful signage along the way explains the abandoned railway features and historic context.

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Starting from Martin Creek, you can follow a wide, level, ADA-accessible trail for about three miles on the lower grade through the peaceful forest. Should you choose to cross up to the west end of the upper grade, you’ll hike a much narrower trail. On that route, expect some encroaching foliage, including stinging nettles. The trail is easy to follow, though, and includes some terrific sights, including the Spillway Spur. As you continue through the forest, you’ll pass ruined snow sheds, several waterfalls and plenty of wildflowers and salmonberries. Be aware that black bears are sometimes in the area. The rocks at Windy Point Viewpoint make a very good perch for a lunch stop, whether you plan to continue on to Wellington or turn back and follow the switchbacks to return to Scenic.

If you’d like to stay overnight in the area, peaceful Money Creek Campground is just to the west at milepost 46, and reservable through recreation.gov. If you’re travelling back west and could use a bit of caffeine for the drive, watch for Espresso Chalet between Baring and Gold Bar (well-known as one of the shooting locations for the 1987 Bigfoot film “Harry and the Hendersons”). Hungry? Adam’s Northwest Bistro and Twin Rivers Brewery in Monroe has something for just about everyone, including their delicious bistro burger.

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Iron Goat Trail

Three trailheads to choose from, distance and elevation gain vary.
Pass needed: Northwest Forest Pass
WTA trip reports

Erika Olson
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