We were staying at the Happy Trails cabin in Mazama with a group of friends for the weekend to celebrate Maura’s and my 5 year wedding anniversary. Maura, being 34 weeks pregnant, wasn’t up for much, so she invited a gaggle of our friends along who were, as an anniversary present for me! While she remained at the cabin with Latigo, enjoying a peaceful day of reading and relaxation Marie, Kelly, Cary and I headed up the 12 miles of dusty and washboarded forest roads to the Goat Peak Lookout trailhead. From the valley floor the peak looked entirely snow free and the 80 degree heat of the day had us hoping that a nice breeze up top would keep us cool.
Goat Peak Lookout sits atop the 7,001 foot Goat Peak. The first lookout on the mountain was constructed in 1923 and, if you look closely once you get to the location of the current lookout, you can see rusty nails and other metal bits from the original structure strewn across the rocky summit. The current lookout has been in service since 1950, a Forest Ranger used to call this lookout home during the summer, prime fire season in the valley. Most recently, “Lightning Bill” Austin manned the lookout for 19 years. But this year (2014) the Goat Peak Lookout won’t be in service and Bill has been moved to the Leecher Lookout in Twisp.
To hike to the lookout, follow the only trail from the 5,600ft elevation trailhead. Our impression that the peak was free of snow was misguided because this trail heads up the south face of the mountain which remains in the shadows for most of the day. We encountered continuous snow beginning at 6,200 ft. The sections of the trail that had melted out were covered in Glacier Lilies.
One of the best parts about this trail is the high elevation of the trailhead gives you panoramic views straight from the car. As we gazed up at the snow higher up I was a little nervous about how deep it would get but figured the scenery we were already blessed with would make turning around early not too big of a deal.
About a half mile in you enter a beautiful open meadow with 360 views into the North Cascades and the Pasayten Wilderness. From here the trail begins to steepen.
With the steeper trail we soon found ourselves post-holing through about 2 feet of snow. In the shadows you could manage a few steps on top of a supportable crust. We were all wearing low top hiking shoes or tennis shoes which meant a lot of snow found its way into our shoes and socks. The trail was difficult to follow but using the GaiaGPS app on my phone we were able to navigate straight up the snow and avoid the switchbacks.
After a strenuous climb up the steep, snow-covered south face of the mountain we arrived at an open knoll with beautiful views to the nearby mountains and a floral bouquet at our feet.
From this knoll at 6,850 feet you’re also able to feast your eyes on the final destination perched on the summit. After the steep climb it might appear to be quite far away but if you keep walking you’ll find yourself there in no time.
We followed the rocky ridge to the lookout and had to maneuver around a few more snow-covered patches. All the while we enjoyed the beautiful views all around us as we gently climbed higher up the slopes.
At 2.5 miles you reach the lookout. It was well stocked with firewood when we arrived but was all locked up. We also noticed a nearby circle of white rocks which we imagined was used to signal to a helicopter where to drop supplies.
Goat Peak Lookout is a really fun hike. It’s fairly steep, but short and the views you’re rewarded with are amazing. Next time you’re in Mazam or Winthrop I would definitely recommend doing this hike.
Note that due to snow we were able to go straight up the hillside. Once the snow is melted be sure to practice Leave No Trace ethics and keep to the trail to prevent erosion and unneeded impact on the fragile meadows.