Welp, it’s Labor Day weekend already. Summer doesn’t technically end for another few weeks, but it feels like this Monday marks the last real hurrah before the rain comes back for good (if Friday’s crazy thunderstorm was any indication). In the spirit of what has been a gorgeous season this year in Seattle, I thought it ought to end on a particularly spectacular note for us by crossing off a hike I’ve had on our wishlist for a while. I’m glad I did, because the Iron Goat trail was definitely worth it.
Combine scenic views with the creepy remnants of an abandoned railroad, cover it all in mosses and ferns, and that pretty much sums it up!
If you’re at all interested in visiting, definitely check out the website. In my opinion, this is a majorly underrated trail in an area where other day use sites are often overcrowded. Located about 1 1/2 hours away from Seattle, just before Steven’s Pass, the area actually features a number of trail combinations to accommodate any level of hiking ability. A 3-mile portion is wheelchair accessible, narrower trails with steep switchbacks complete a 7-mile loop, and an extra 6 miles can be added with a trip to the Wellington townsite and back. Nearby Kelley creek trail to the Horseshoe tunnel and additional biking trails make for a lot of ground to explore. Today we opted to start at Martin Creek following the ADA trail to the Interpretive site, then up past Windy Point a bit and back along the rougher upper trail to Martin Creek again, straying off on the short spur to an old spillway. That will…all make more sense if you look at the trail map :).
All along the beautiful forest paths are interpretive signs explaining the history of the Great Northern Railway and how the many crumbling tunnels and other artifacts were erected and subsequently abandoned. The trail pretty precisely follows the path the old railroads took, so you’ll want to watch your step, or risk tripping on the many spikes and ties left scattered around. Many tunnels and snow sheds still remain, some safe to get close to, some very obviously not. Scrambling up the steep hill to Windy Point on a mild 60ºF day we were suddenly conscious of how backbreaking the work must have been to carve this path at all, much less build a railway and maintain it in sweltering summer heat and the fierceness of the winter snows and avalanches. The history of this site is heavy, but fascinating, and the century-old structures in all of their spooky beauty bring an extra level of interest to a hike that already traverses a gorgeous little point in the mountains.
Now that we know the trail a little bit, we will absolutely make a return trip and go all the way to Wellington and perhaps the Horseshoe tunnel as well. We enjoyed seeing it in late summer, but it would be great to check it out earlier in the season when the wildflowers are blooming and the waterfalls are fuller. At the very least, it would be a fun spot to return to for the ridiculous amount of photo opportunities alone…
Area Visited: Iron Goat Trail – Skykomish, WA | About 8 miles | 850 feet of elevation gain
Species observed: American Robin, Black-capped Chickadee, Common Raven, Red-tailed Hawk, Stellar’s Jay, American Pika, Bunch of Banana Slugs (heh).