North Cascades | Okanogan Range
Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
Location: 48.6321769, -120.4048947
Summit Elevation: 7,001′
Lookout Type: 15′ timber L-4
Site Established: 1923
Current Structure Built: 1950
Dates Visited: Too many to count! First in 2011, last in 2021
The most prominent landmark in the beautiful Methow Valley, Goat Peak is famous for two things: it’s dazzling fall larch show and “Lightning Bill” Austin, who staffed the lookout for 19 seasons before moving to Leecher. I was beyond thrilled to open up Goat for the first time in six years as a volunteer fire lookout for the 2021 season.
Photos above are from numerous visits between 2011 and 2017 and while on duty in 2021.
The original D-6 cupola cabin at Goat Peak was constructed in 1923 by the Chelan National Forest and then replaced in 1950 with the current L-4 cab on a 15′ timber tower. Goat Peak is one of the most prominent landmarks in the Methow Valley and has been staffed every year until 2014, it’s most famous resident being “Lightning Bill” Austin.
“Lightning Bill” is one of the Forest Service’s few seasonal full-time fire lookouts and spent 19 years at Goat Peak before moving to Leecher Mountain in 2015. People from all around came to see Bill and nearly all Valley residents have stories about visiting him.
In 2017, the Goat Peak lookout became a strategic location for relaying information to firefighters battling the 128,000 acre Diamond Creek Fire. The lookout was wrapped for protection when the fire continued to advance but Mother Nature finally stepped in with rain to control the fire and Goat Peak was unwrapped a short time later.
Goat was again wrapped in the summer of 2021 as a precaution against both the Cub Creek 2 and Cedar Creek fires.
Staffing Goat Peak in summer 2021.
Since I live in Twisp, I’ve been working with the Methow Valley Ranger District to aid in outreach and restoration efforts for many of the Methow’s lookouts. Through that relationship I was offered a volunteer fire lookout position at Goat for the 2021 fire season, an offer I certainly couldn’t refuse!
I got to train with my friend and hero, the famous “Lightning” Bill Austin, and I was so thankful for his expert leadership. I opened Goat Peak on July 1st and had no idea that in only days I’d end up reporting four nearby lightning-caused fire starts along the Highway 20 corridor. It was a fantastic experience learning how to radio relay and provide critical information for fire and forest crews.
I will never forget the feeling seeing the start of the Varden fire overnight and then trying to go to sleep my first night with the Cedar Creek fire burning only a few miles away. It was quite a mix of awe, sadness, fear, and adrenaline. I felt quite powerless being only able to watch the fire and relay information. On July 8, the Cub Creek 2 fire started and pretty soon I found myself surrounded by large fires to both the east and west.
On July 19th, due to critical fire weather and continued growth of the Cub Creek 2 and Cedar Creek fires, the Ranger District closed Goat Peak and I cut my duty short. The lookout was wrapped days later as a precaution and both fires would eventually grow to over 50,000 acres and threaten many of our local lookouts. We were incredibly that all were spared.
I wrote a story about my experience for Filson, who has been a huge supporter of fire lookouts and their restoration.
Here is just a snapshot of some of the moments I had at Goat. It was quite an experience of awe, excitement, fear, and adrenaline.
My visits to Goat over the years.
Goat Peak has always been one of my favorite lookouts and even before I staffed it in 2021, I had visited the summit probably over a dozen times. In 2011 I hiked up to the lookout with my folks and we met “Lightning” Bill and his two dogs Shilo and Blaze. We sat with him for over an hour, listening to stories and talking about history. Who knew then that 10 years later I’d be staffing this incredible lookout!? Certainly not me!
I lived in the Methow Valley between 2010-2015 and visited Goat Peak several times over the years, every time with my adventure dog Jake, who I lost in January of 2019.
We hiked up the mountain in sun, in rain, and even in snow. I was always fascinated by the seasonal changes at Goat. It was a completely different mountain every time I visited.
After my last visit in October 2017 with Jake, I returned to Goat Peak in the fall of 2019 to introduce my new adventure dog Hudson. Little did he know he’d end up being a lookout dog with me this season!
Although nearly every websites shows Goat Peak as a 5 mile roundtrip hike, it’s really much closer to 3.5 miles round trip. Though the trail starts relatively easy in open forest, after a half mile it turns upward and gains most of its elevation in a series of tight switchbacks to the summit.
About a half mile short of the summit, the views open up to Silver Star and Gardner with the lookout visible in the distance. A large cairn block dedicated to all of the Goat Peak lookouts is just below the summit near a helipad.
In the fall, this trail turns into a dazzling show with colorful golden larches and beautiful views of the Pasayten, North Cascades, and Tiffany Highlands.
From Mazama, drive east on Goat Greek Road 1.8 miles and turn left onto Forest Road 52. Continue for 2.8 miles, turning left onto Forest Road 5225. In 5.6 miles, turn right onto Forest Road spur 200 and continue 3 miles to the trailhead.