Iron Goat Trail
Iron Goat Trail
History and nature converge on the Iron Goat Trail unlike anywhere else, a tribute to both the beauty of the environment in its pristine condition and man’s amazing ability to transform it. Hiking the Iron Goat is like exploring a living museum in the wilderness, showcasing some great engineering achievements and the men who changed the world forever by building them. Throw in wildflowers, high mountain views, and a virtually flat, singletrack trail, and the Iron Goat is an absolute must for any Washington State hiker. Many people believe Stevens Pass was named for Isaac Stevens, the first governor of the Washington Territory from 1853 to 1857. But it is actually a tribute to railroad engineer John F. Stevens, who managed the construction of more than 1,000 miles of James J. Hill’s Great Northern Railway at the end of the 19th century. Hill, sometimes called “The Empire Builder of the Northwest,” hoped to lay track from St. Paul, Minnesota, all the way to Seattle to link the rich natural resources around Puget Sound to the markets of the east. But to realize this dream, a difficult Cascade crossing had to be built, and Stevens was the answer. Stevens had made his name by discovering Marias Pass through the Rocky Mountains with the help of a Native American guide in late 1889. At only 5,300 feet, Marias was the lowest-elevation crossing of the Rockies, located on the southern edge of what is now Glacier National Park. Managing to find the pass in frigid winter weather, Stevens saved the Great Northern millions of dollars and the need to travel hundreds of extra miles on a circuitous route through the notoriously rugged Bitterroot Range. Hill counted on Stevens to duplicate his success in the Cascades, but it was actually Stevens’ assistant C. F. B. Haskell who located a suitable pass in 1890 and named it in honor of his boss. In a rush to get the trains running as fast as possible, a tricky route was chosen across the mountain gap using eight separate switchbacks; this later proved to be extremely hazardous. Heavy snowfall and frequent avalanches often closed the tracks in winter, prompting Stevens to oversee construction of what is now known as the First Cascade Tunnel, a 2.6-mile passage under the Wenatchee Mountains and a remarkable engineering achievement. A series of showsheds were built over long sections of the track, and additional tunnels were later added for further protection, all constructed under difficult and dangerous conditions. All of this history is close enough to touch on the Iron Goat Trail, which follows the old right-of-way used by the Great Northern and gets its name both from the Great Northern logo, a mountain goat on a precipice, and from the idea of trains as iron horses.
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Directions to: Iron Goat Trailprint directions
Trail Statistics & Information
|Elevation Gain||450 ft|
|Duration||3 to 6 hours|
|Season||Hikable late spring–fall|
|Trailhead Elevation||2,400 ft|
|Top Elevation||2,850 ft|
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