|North Cascades view from Goat Peak Lookout|
Access: Rough gravel road to trailhead, not recommended for low clearance vehicles; Northwest Forest Pass required
Goat Peak's high perch at the eastern front of Washington State's North Cascades delivers outstanding views of a sea of wild and rugged peaks. Towering almost a mile above the community of Mazama in the Methow Valley, the summit is crowned with a fire lookout that is one of the few active fire lookouts remaining in the country. Despite the long drive, steep trail, and rough road to this hike, plenty of day hikers make their way up to the lookout in the summer. However, stay on the mountain overnight and you'll likely have these sweeping views and some very dark night skies all to yourself.
I hiked to Goat Peak Lookout as an overnight on a beautiful early July weekend with two friends. Leaving from Seattle, we took I-5 north and then Highway 20 east across Washington Pass to Mazama. At Mazama, we turned left to follow Lost River Road across the Methow River, then turned right and followed Goat Creek Road east briefly. After crossing a bridge over Goat Creek, we turned onto Forest Service Road 52, a gravel road marked with minimal signage, which we followed uphill for three miles to a signed junction where NF 5225 headed to the left towards Goat Peak Lookout. We followed NF 5225 past a viewpoint of Mount Gardner and Silver Star atop the Goat Wall to a junction with NF 200, where we took the right fork and followed NF 200 the remaining couple of miles to the trailhead. The last 12 miles of the drive were on very rough gravel roads with large rocks in the road, rutting, potholes, washboarding, and vegetation encroaching on the road. While I made it up to the trailhead in a sedan, this is about as rough a road as I'd be willing to put a low clearance vehicle through; high clearance would definitely be helpful. The trailhead parking lot can hold about 10 cars.
The trail followed the north ridge of the mountain from the trailhead to the summit. It started with a steady but gentle ascent along the ridge with occasional open views to the west of jagged Silver Star and pointed Black Peak. Wildflowers decorated the open areas near the trail.
Soon, the trail began to climb in earnest up the mountain's forested slopes. At just under a mile from the trailhead, we entered a large, sloped open meadow with views to the east of Tiffany Mountain and the Okanogan Range. The forested summit of Goat Peak rose ahead of us and the meadows around us were dotted with paintbrush, lupine, and other summer wildflowers.
|Wildflowers on the hike up|
After crossing a small section of steep snow, we came out on top of a knoll along the summit ridgeline of Goat Peak. In front of us was a breathtaking view of the serrated and snowy spires of the North Cascades that included many of Washington's highest peaks. Gardner, North Gardner, Gilbert, Silver Star, Corteo, Goode, Black, Fisher, Logan, the Needles, Azurite, Ballard, Crater, Jack, Robinson, and the peaks of the Pasayten crowded the skyline.
|The North Cascades|
|Goat Peak Lookout and Mount Gardner|
|Dawn over the Okanogan Range|
|Monument on Goat Peak|
|Azurite, Ballard, Crater, Tatie, and Jack Mountains; Methow River flows below|
|Goat Peak Lookout|
We made multiple trips to the summit from our camp that night to see the sunset, the sunrise, and the night sky. After the moon set and before the start of astronomical twilight of the coming dawn, we could see the Milky Way spilled across the dark night sky, stretching from Mount Gardner in the south to the Pasayten peaks. However, we discovered that light pollution can affect even such a remote location: Silver Star was backlit by the glow of the Puget Sound metropolis and we spotted light on the horizon in the directions of Wenatchee and Vancouver as well.
|Milky Way above Mount Gardner|
|The shadow of Goat Peak retreats down Silver Star|