Iron Goat Trail


Iron Goat Trail Facts

States: Washington
Counties: King
Length: 8 miles
Trail end points: Martin Creek and Wellington
Trail surfaces: Ballast, Crushed Stone
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6055768
Trail activites: Wheelchair Accessible, Walking

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Iron Goat Trail Description

From Iron Goat Trail

Sixty miles northeast of Seattle, the trail goes along the upper and lower sections of an abandoned Great Northern Railway grade. Travel nine miles through a lovely forests of ferns, alders and evergreens from the Iron Goat Interpretive Site at Scenic to the Wellington townsite and trailhead. The trail is barrier-free from the interpretive site to Martin Creek and from Wellington to Windy Point, a total of nearly six miles.You can walk the trail today thanks to the vision of Volunteers for Outdoor Washington (VOW) and the USDA Forest Service.

The Cascade Tunnel recently failed near a portal entrance, so please view the tunnels from a safe distance and obey all posted signs for your safety.

The story of the Iron Goat began over 100 years ago when the last spike of the Great Northern Railway was driven, completing one of the most remarkable engineering feats of the nineteenth century. It marked the crossing of the Cascades at Stevens Pass which helped open the Pacific Northwest to settlement and trade with the rest of the world. This feat was recognized by establishment of the Stevens Pass Historic District in 1976. The Great Northern route was the best engineered of the transcontinental railways. The original route over the pass consisted of an intricate set of switchbacks cut into the mountainside. While the switchbacks were an engineering triumph, they had serious disadvantages. The Cascade Tunnel, completed in 1900, bypassed the switchbacks. Several snowsheds were also added for safety, but winter conditions still presented serious hazards. Trains were often stopped for days in winter storms.
In 1910, snowslides delayed two trains at the town of Wellington. A vast section of snow on Windy Mountain broke loose and crashed down, sweeping both trains off the tracks into Tye Creek below. Rescue efforts were quickly organized, but nearly one hundred lives were lost. This single event made Wellington the site of one of the worst railroad disasters in the nation's history and also the most tragic snow avalanche. This prompted more improvements to avoid such tragedy striking again. As rail traffic increased, a "new" Cascade Tunnel was completed in 1929. This eight-mile tunnel is still in use today by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. The opening of the new tunnel made the old grade obsolete and it was abandoned completely. It is this abandoned stretch that comprises the Iron Goat Trail today.

This trail is a day-use site for hikers only. The trail is closed to bicycles, stock animals and motor vehicles. The nearly 3-mile long lower grade between Scenic and Martin Creek is barrier-free and wheelchair-accessible. There is also a 3-mile barrier-free section of moderate difficulty from Wellington to the Windy Point Tunnel. Please help us ensure that your visit is a safe one and that the area is preserved for generations to come.

Note the tunnels and trestles can be viewed from the trail, but do not attempt to enter any tunnels or to walk on rotten timbers. Please stay on the trail to protect the wildflowers.

The US Forest Service requires a Northwest Forest Pass for each vehicle parked at either the Martin Creek or Wellington trailhead. Purchase day or annual permit from Skykomish Ranger Station, many recreational outlets, or online. You can also obtain a free annual pass for working on two volunteer work parties. No pass is needed to park at the Interpretive Site/Scenic Trailhead.

Parking and Trail Access

A Northwest Forest Pass is required for parking at the Martain Creek and Wellington trailheads. Purchase day ($5) or annual ($30) permit from the Internet, the Skykomish Ranger station or other outlet. Refer to the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie Forest Service web page for more information. Free passes are available in return for volunteering on trails. No pass is needed to park at the Scenic Trailhead. Universally accessible toilets are available at all three trailheads.

Getting to the Iron Goat Trail via the Martin Creek Trailhead:

Take the Stevens Pass Highway, U.S. 2, to Milepost 55, 6 miles east of the town of Skykomish or to Milepost 58.3 at Scenic (5.6 miles west of the summit). Turn north on to the Old Cascade Highway, U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Road #67. Proceed to the junction with USFS Road #6710 (2.3 miles from Milepost 55 or 1.4 miles from Milepost 58.3). Turn onto USFS Road #6710 and proceed 1.4 miles to the Martin Creek trailhead parking lot.

Getting to the Iron Goat Trail via the Wellington Trailhead:

Drive U.S. 2 to Milepost 64.3 just west of Stevens Pass and turn north on the Old Cascade Highway. (If you are coming from the Puget Sound area, because of limited sight distance you should proceed east to Stevens Pass, turn around at the crest of the hill where visibility is optimum, and return to Milepost 64.3) Proceed 2.8 miles on the Old Cascade Highway to its junction with the USFS Road 050. Turn right and proceed to the trailhead parking lot.

Getting to the Iron Goat Trail via the Scenic Trailhead:

Take US 2 to MP 58.3. Turn north onto the Old Cascade Highway, then turn immediately right into the Iron Goat Interpretive Site.

Iron Goat Trail Reviews

The Iron Goat Trail is the abandon roadbed of the original Great Northern Railway over the Cascade mountains.
The line opened in 1893 with switchbacks over the top. In 1900 the original Cascade Tunnel opened. It was 2.663 miles long.
This line was abandon in 1929 when the present Cascade Tunnel replaced the line.
The trail is nine miles long but is not steep or difficult. It is nine miles long so be prepared with anything you might need. There are no ammenities on the trail.
At Wellington there is no trace of the town. There is the west portal of the original Cascade Tunnel. The foundation of a water tank and a coaling tower. The concrete snowsheds built in 1911 are there too.
DO NOT ENTER any of the tunnels on the trail. All are caving in or have caved in. BE SAFE and STAY OUT OF THEM.
At the trail heads of Wellington, Martin Creek and Scenic there are pit toilets and a parking area.
Take only photos and leave only footprints. STAY ON THE TRAIL too.

The Iron Goat Trail is a excellent hike. Especially after reading the history of the trail.
The IGT is the abandon roadbed of the Great Northern Railway and was built in 1893.
The line was abandon when the present Cascade Tunnel opened in 1929
The BIG cement walls along the trail are the anchor walls that held a snowshed into the mountainside. The wooden parts have rotted and collapsed.
The tunnels are dangerous. DO NOT ENTER any of them. All are in stages of collapse
The trail is not difficult but is nine miles long.
At Wellington there is the west portal of the original Cascade Tunnel built in 1900. The tunnel is 2.63 miles long.
The present Cascade tunnel is worth a stop too. It's 7.8 miles long. The east portal is where the action is

The draw to this trail is that the Great Northern RR (now known as BNSF) pumped in a ton of money to build and maintain this trail before abandoning it in 1929. Tye or Wellington is noted for a slide that killed aprox 96 people in 1910. The history is rich in this area and was heavily photographed by locals who worked for the railroad. Lee Picket took aprox. 5000 photos in the 30s, most are archived at Central Washington Museum.

Then around in the early 90s the Forest Service in cooperation with the Mountaineers and Volunteers for Outdoor Washington painstakingly and carefully constructed the trail to help preserve the history. In addition interpretive signs with copys of historical pictures are placed at key points of interest. The lower part of the trail is wheelchair accessible. One of the founders of the trail, Sam Fry, was injured and I had the honor of pushing his wheelchair on the trail. The 2.2% grade makes it easy to push uphill.

I have hiked many rail trails but the history makes this trail much different and well worth the journey. I make it a point to visit it each year. Its only real bad point is that it is 9 miles long. Bikes and horses are prohibited and is well enforced. Hiking the trail in its entirety is difficult, even though there are 2 return loop trails.


"This trail is only for hiking, and you will need a NW National Forest permit fee. The trail is short, only about five miles. Although it's only for hiking, I did see some tire tracks on the trail. I didn't ride, I hiked it.

There is a snowshed that's neat and has a view stand at the tunnel portal. There is no barrier to walking the tunnel, but you will need lights, and there is a sign warning about possible falling concrete hazards, so walking the tunnel is at your own risk!"

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