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Iron Goat Trail

Whether a summer hike or a winter snowshoe, the former grade of the Great Northern Railway, and Seattle’s first railroad connection to the East, makes a pleasant mountain ramble easily accessible from either side of the Cascades.

More than 100 years ago, the Empire Builder railroad rumbled west from Minnesota through a narrow gap in the Cascades named for railroad engineer John F. Stevens. The trains are long gone, but the route remains, offering hikers the opportunity to walk in the path of this relic transit line and witness some of the artifacts of a mountain crossing railway — and visit the site of a 1910 disaster.

Beginning at the Iron Goat Scenic Trailhead and Interpretive Site, you have the choice of following the grade westward to the workcamp site known as Cornea or taking the Windy Point Cutoff to the upper grade. The Cutoff trail is only about a mile, but is very steep. If you’re snowshoeing, this trail can be difficult to navigate, so we recommend you skip the Cutoff in winter and take the normal route.

The grade westward to Cornea is never steep, as it was originally intended for trains, and hikers will enjoy the shady, thick forest that line the path.
Although the roar of Highway 2 never fully recedes, the forest is welcoming and pleasant.

Along the way, which is well signed, thanks to efforts from volunteers, you’ll quickly encounter impressive concrete retaining walls built to anchor snowsheds to the mountainside and replicas of mileposts marking your distance from St. Paul. Crumbling tunnels yawn invitingly along the route, necessitating more than a few side trips to peer cautiously into the darkness—but do not enter!

Just short of two miles from the Interpretive Center, give your brain a rest from digesting history, and enjoy a view up Deception Creek valley. You're nearly to the junction with the Corea Crossover Trail -- only a half mile to go! From the junction, the Iron Goat continues straight on to the Martin Creek trailhead, where WTA work crews have worked to improve the trail. Hike to this other end, or continue on to complete a loop hike that will end back at the parking lot you started from.

To complete the loop, you can turn right, passing a short spur trail (the Spillway Spur) to a reservoir. On the way, enjoy waterfalls, which run high and impressive in the spring. You can also bask in the views from overlooks of gorgeous nearby mountains. After hiking for nearly 4.5 miles, you will come to the junction with Windy Point Crossover Trail.

Take the Windy Point Crossover Trail back to your car, but don't forget to take a short side trip to Windy Point for more mountain views. This spur trail is only 0.25 round trip.

If the loop hike is too much, there are plenty of other options. With nine miles of trail and three different trailheads, the Iron Goat Trail has more than enough to explore. The trail sections between the Martin Creek Trailhead and the Scenic Trailhead and between the Wellington Trailhead and Windy Point are ADA accessible and stroller friendly in the summer months.
Driving Directions:

Take U.S. Highway 2 to milepost 58 at Scenic. Turn north on Old Cascade Highway, FR 67 and go 2.3 miles to FR6710. Turn onto FR6710 and go 1.4 miles to the Martin Creek trailhead parking lot and the Iron Goat Interpretive Site.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 90 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Iron Goat Loop — Aug 20, 2011 — HikerKeith
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Overgrown | Bugs
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This is a pretty day hike with great mountain views and interesting historical sights. At various p...
This is a pretty day hike with great mountain views and interesting historical sights. At various points on the trail there is old railroad tunnels that offer some refreshing "A\C" on a hot day. 75 percent of the trail is shaded which also makes for a good day hike on a warmer day. The only issues to report was that the trail can be slightly overgrown in some areas but not a big deal. Be sure to bring your bug spray as well! Also the sounds of hwy 2 follow you pretty much the entire time, but not to the point of being an annoyance. Overall definitely a great trail if you are short on time or are just getting back into the season.
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Iron Goat Trail-Stevens Pass-West — Aug 11, 2011 — Muledeer
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
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We hiked the Iron Goat Loop last year, got interested in the history, and read 'The White Cascade' b...
We hiked the Iron Goat Loop last year, got interested in the history, and read 'The White Cascade' by Gary Krist this winter. After reading the book, we had to hike up to the Wellington townsite and site of the 1910 avalanche railroad disaster. We started at Scenic and took the Windy Point cutoff north. The switchbacks are steep and narrow, but the trail is in good shape. Imagine glissading down this in 1910 street clothes as some of the survivors did! Once the railroad grade is reached the trail is a very gentle uphill. Remments of the old snowsheds built after the avalanche line the trail and old spikes from the track are still there. There are some nice views occasionally but most of the trail is in the forest. The old snowshed just west of the townsite is the only tunnel that is safe to enter and the trail goes right through. This would be a great hike for kids starting from the Wellington trailhead. One caution, the left hand turn from Hwy 2 is hard to spot. After the big sign,its right after the concrete jersy barrier.
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Iron Goat Loop — Aug 07, 2011 — yinz
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Overgrown | Bugs
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First time on this trail. We started at the interpretive center (the middle starting point). We fo...
First time on this trail. We started at the interpretive center (the middle starting point). We followed the suggestion here and took the lower trail toward Martin Creek. We encountered mosquitoes right away and were glad we had bug spray.

This was an easy trail with several great views of the surrounding mountains along the way (we were glad it was a bright sunny day with blue skies). We took our time and checked out all the interpretive information about the railroad and history along the way, including the tunnels. We continued past the Corea crossover trail and instead took the Martin Creek crossover to the upper trail.

The upper trail also offered interpretive information, tunnels, and beautiful views. The side trip to the spillway was definitely worth the quick side trip. It started out as relatively easy, but further along the trail was very overgrown. There were a few spots where water ran over the trail, but it was easily stepped over. The upper trail was also more exposed than the lower, which made it a bit warmer than we would have liked since it was early afternoon when we were hiking there.

The descent just past the windy point tunnel was definitely different from the rest of the trail; quick drop in elevation with many switchbacks.

If we were to do it again, we would start by doing the steep ascent to the upper trail and finishing with the leisurely, shadier lower trail. Overall, a very enjoyable hike on such a beautiful day.
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Iron Goat Loop — Jul 30, 2011 — KatWalker
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
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Parked the car at Martin Creek trailhead -- we were the first ones there at 9:30 a.m. We planned a d...
Parked the car at Martin Creek trailhead -- we were the first ones there at 9:30 a.m. We planned a day-long, 12 mile trek to Wellington and back. Within a few hundred yards of the trailhead we took the Martin Creek crossover to the upper trail and hiked east, enjoying the old tunnels, concrete snowshed walls, and railway artifacts along the way. Multiple waterfalls spill over the various concrete snowshed walls but do not affect the trail. An avalanche sometime this past winter above the Spillway Spur has left a debris pile to scramble through, including hardened snow. Not too slippery but choose your footing carefully. We took a break at Windy Point to enjoy the 180-degree view. Between Windy Point and Wellington there were more artifacts, snowsheds, and somewhat overgrown trail conditions, but a group of workers were doing a great job of clearing the trail. Thank you! As we walked through the tall, long, all-concrete snowshed just west of Wellington, we both noticed that the light and sound reminded us of being in an old cathedral. The viewpoint for the avalanche disaster site was well marked and easy to find. Having read "The White Cascade" about the 1910 disaster, it was a little gut-wrenching to stand there and imagine the moment the avalanche hit. We paused for lunch at the Wellington townsite, viewed the entrance to the old Cascade Tunnel, then set out to return west to Martin Creek. One of the trail workers suggested we take the old Cascade Highway as an alternate route, which we did. Because a vehicle bridge over the river washed out a few years ago and was replaced by a foot/bicycle bridge only, not only was there no vehicle traffic on the road, but we didn't run into anyone else. This route gave us views along the river and up to the ridge line we'd hiked in the morning. The only catch to this return route is that the old road joins Highway 2 just above the Iron Goat Interpretive Site at mile post 58. We didn't find a trail along the road, so we had to walk on the highway shoulder for 1500 yards -- ugh. Re-entered the hiking trail at the interpretive site where the red caboose sits, and walked along the wide ADA-accessible trail back to Martin Creek. Interpretive signs at points of interest all along the trail share the incredible engineering story of this rail line. Our total mileage for the day was somewhere between 12 and 13 miles. Weather was clear & sunny, about 75 degrees at mid-day. Left the parking lot at 4:00 p.m.; only two other cars were there.
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Iron Goat Trail-Stevens Pass-West — Jul 17, 2011 — ART85
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
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Left from the Iron Goat Interpretive Site at about 10:30 am. Took the switchback trail up toward Wel...
Left from the Iron Goat Interpretive Site at about 10:30 am. Took the switchback trail up toward Wellington. It was a very nice hike, there was a lot of water pouring over the cement retaining wall along the way. There are definitely stinging nettles close to the trail, so gaiters or pants would have been a smart idea. The snow has since cleared off of the trail, but the remains of the avalanche are still there. We didn't see too many people, and there were lots of wildflowers blooming. Ate lunch at Wellington, and then walk/ ran parts of the trail back to the Interpretive Site. Overall a nice easy hike with lots to see. The dog was happy with the many runoff streams along the trail, he sampled water out of every one of them.
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iron goat trail hiker steve.JPG
WTA worked here!
2010
Location
Iron Goat Trail (#1074)
Central Cascades -- Stevens Pass - West
Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Skykomish Ranger District
Statistics
Roundtrip 6.0 miles
Elevation Gain 700 ft
Highest Point 2800 ft
Features
Rivers
Mountain views
Ridges/passes
User info
Dogs allowed on leash
Northwest Forest Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
Green Trails 176S: Stevens Pass

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Red MarkerIron Goat Trail
47.7120293 -121.1622797
  • Trail Work 2010
(47.7120, -121.1623) Open in new window
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