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Goat Lake on a Lark?

Very Difficult
 5.0 (1)

A local favorite with views of Stanley and a very blue lake that pictures can't do justice.

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8,203' 2,500 m


6,732' 2,052 m


1,566' 477 m


1,566' 477 m



Avg Grade (4°)


Max Grade (33°)

Dogs Off-leash

Features Birding · Fall Colors · Fishing · Geological Significance · Lake · River/Creek · Spring · Swimming · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Be ready to use all fours. Year-round avalanche danger. Be alert both above and below.


This is the easiest way to get to Goat Lake. That said, it is not easy. There are numerous dead ends that lead to cliffs. Other reviews tend to make light of the trip. If it is easy for you, great, but let us not pretend it is a cakewalk or without serious peril. Numerous locations could take you to your death with a wrong move or rushed decision. There is no shame in going slow or even turning back if you get to live tomorrow.

Need to Know

There are many places that can be slick when wet or due to sand. Bring lots of water as the step section can take a while for some to navigate safely.

Runner Notes

Don't slip, you're done.


This run 4.3 miles on the flat map. A bit more if you know your geometry. Start at Iron Creek Trailhead. Be sure to get your wilderness pass and fill it out. If you are lucky you can bypass the government trail troll and skip the "how to poop" lecture (they seriously wanted me to dig a 6'x3'x3' hole to poop in! That is coffin size! In my opinion a waste of our tax dollars and your time. A standard "cathole" is fine, regardless of what crazy things she says or may have eaten to need a hole that size.)

Run west-southwest up Iron Creek - Stanley Lake Trail #7640 for a mile and find a sign marking the Wilderness Boundary. Watch for huckleberries that are tiny but thick along the trails, the later in the year the higher they are. Another 0.25 miles gets you to Alpine Way Trail #7528. This part of the trail is wide and almost flat with a few small rises.

From Iron Creek - Stanley Lake Trail #7640, make a left and cross Iron Creek using the downed tree. (If this crossing on a tree is too technical for you, by all means, turn back now). Run about 1.75 miles of Alpine Way Trail #7528. You'll drop a bit as you head back out of the Iron Creek drainage and then start up the next valley. You'll cross a creek on a small but well-built bridge and catch your first switchbacks. This valley has had obvious major mudslide action in the last 50 years and is interesting to look at as you traverse its edge. The trail gets narrow and has a soft shoulder but a slip here is mostly with minor consequences.

As you near the creek and a switchback, ask yourself if you need more water. This is the last water until you are almost to the lake. Keep climbing the switchback and if your eye is keen you can find a long-ago restricted road crossing your path from the days when people were allowed to drive a car up in here. Soon you come to a summit of sorts and start dropping as you round the mountain. After a bit, you find that trail climbs a bit and pops over a ridge just in time to make a switchback. There is a sign pointing left to keep others on Alpine Way Trail #7528 but for you it is the glorious secret Goat Lake Trailhead marker. Go straight on by that sign to conquer Goat Lake Trail.

Time to get serious. Run a full 0.5 miles on a deceptively nice and inviting stretch that is every bit as nice as a maintained trail. Enjoy views of a waterfall on the other side of the canyon, (not Goat Falls) and a very small lake down below (not Goat Lake).

At this point, you'll find a fork in the trail. The lower trail is very loose and leads down to the small lake and a view of Goat Falls top to bottom for the most part. The lower trail is better traveled because all who drop in have to climb back out so unless you simply must have the picture, stay right and keep gaining elevation. Very soon you'll see solid granite cliffs with obvious areas of travel by people that have less to lose than you do. Skirt the bottom of these large biscuit-shaped rocks to the last one where there is a generous but steep ledge with foot and hand holds up into a gap to get you above the first obstacle.

From here, it gets steep and loose! If and when you dislodge a rock, try to settle it rather than sending it rolling down on others. If and when a rock gets away from you, turn and shout "ROCK" as loud as you can several times until you hear the rock come to a stop below. A very important note: Involuntary Manslaughter via rolling rocks has haunted many others over the years. No one wants to live under that shadow.

On to a better place, with a view of some of the waterfall. You'll find yourself headed out onto a large bulbous rock next to the falls and you can get great pictures there but be aware of the edge as it falls away. Climb some more loose scrabble and eventually find yourself at the base of a large bolder field. Instinct will urge you to climb it but know that it is not so steep, follow the creek to a little pond. Round the pond, cross the creek and there!

Flora & Fauna

Loads of spring flowers and huckleberries in late fall.

History & Background

The Forest Service has long known about this trail but without a viable "trail enhancement plan", they have opted to ignore this trail. It is not forbidden or closed, just not supported or acknowledged in any way that would make them liable in any way for its use or maintenance.


Shared By:

Joseph States

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