We have a lot of great hiking routes here in Washington, but none are quite like the
Iron Goat Trail. This unique path follows along the upper and lower sections of the old, abandoned Great Northern Railway, just off Highway 2 near Stevens Pass.
The railway was first built over the Cascades in 1893, and was thought to be the best engineered of the transcontinental railroads. But on a cold, winter day in February 1910, thunder caused an avalanche on Windy Mountain, and snow came crashing down, pushing a train off the tracks in Wellington - resulting in one of the worst railroad disasters in United States history.
By 1929, a new Cascade Tunnel was completed, and it still remains in use today. After the new tunnel was open, the old stretch became abandoned, and it was later converted into this rail-to-trail.
You can find trailheads to start near Wellington, Scenic, and Martin Creek (as seen on this
). The first few miles of the lower section are easygoing and ADA-accessible, leading through forest and across wooden foot bridges over small creeks.
The route passes by several old tunnels and huge snow sheds. Many of them were actually built after the avalanche to help protect the the trains from snow, as you can see from the dates stamped into the concrete near the entrances. But, be cautious, as the tunnels are not considered to be safe to enter, and have the potential to collapse at any time.
Along the trail, you'll also come across many railroad artifacts, like collapsed timbers, bits of sheet metal and cables (though, to preserve the history, you'll want to leave them as they are).
After a few miles, there's a small junction where you can stop and rest. A big, kid-friendly red caboose can be found in this area, along with interpretative displays and small toilets. From here, you can continue on to the upper loop to Windy Point, if you're up for more of a challenge.
The trail stretches for about six miles round-trip, making for a perfect day hike. And because it is located within the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, you will want to bring a Northwest Forest Pass for parking at the Wellington and Martin Creek Trailheads (which you can find online
Have you been on the Iron Goat Trail? Or would you like to check it out this summer?