Try This Trail: Goat Mountain
Mountain goats are stubborn and sure-footed—it helps to act like one.
Trail Name: Goat Mountain
Distance: 11 miles round trip
Goats are an icon of the Cascades, so more than a few peaks in this rugged range are named for the hardy alpine animal. Goat Mountain in the Mount Baker Wilderness is one of the loftier and more dramatic of the goaty peaks. While you won’t need the cliff-hugging agility of its namesake to hike this trail, you will need the determination of a tenacious old goat to tackle its 4,100 vertical feet of climbing. When (or if) you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with some of the finest mountain scenery this side of the Himalayas: Snow- and ice-clad Mounts Baker and Shuksan, the jagged Pickett Range, and a serrated skyline of British Columbia peaks are all in the lineup.
Start in thick forest and quickly gain elevation. Just past the two-mile mark, keep an eye out for an unmarked side trail to an old lookout site. Skip it—it’s grown over—because the good views lie straight ahead and upward. The forest soon thins, then yields to low lying blueberry bushes and open meadows granting expanding views. Reach a knoll with a knockout view of Shuksan cradling Price Lake in a high cirque.
The trail continues along the spine of a ridge, officially terminating at 5,600 feet in expansive meadows. From here you can proceed on a rough but well-defined route up steep slopes. After a long traverse and insanely steep climb, reach a lofty shoulder with horizon-spanning views into British Columbia.
You're not done yet. Turn right, follow the ridgeline, and after a half mile of some of the range's most incredible alpine viewing, reach a 6,650-foot high point. Goat’s actual summit requires crossing a dangerous snowfield and scrambling exposed rock; leave it for the peak’s namesake and instead admire the small glacier directly below you.
Watch For: Views into the Nooksack Cirque, an impressive fortress of cliff and ice.
Getting there: Head north on I-5 to Bellingham. Take Exit 255 and follow SR 542 (Mount Baker Highway) east for 47 miles before turning left onto Forest Service Road 32. Continue for 2.4 miles to the trailhead.
Craig Romano is the author of eight hiking books, including Day Hiking North Cascades.