Goat Mountains are about as common in Washington as those drive through coffee shops. The significance of this particular Goat Mountain is its location just 12 miles to the north of Mount Saint Helens during this time of volcanic restlessness. Don't confuse this one with the high point of Cowlitz County just southwest of Mount Saint Helens .
The view from the summit ridge, best from the slightly lower eastern peak, looks directly into the crater of the volcano. Whenever the Mount Margaret Backcountry is closed during volcanic activity, this peak offers about as good a ground based view as one can get of the growing lava dome.
During my recent visit I saw no one on this peak, while at the same time throngs of tourists clogged the lower western viewpoints near Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center.
The peak can be accessed by the Goat Mountain Trail (#217) from a trailhead near Ryan Lake. This trail climbs at a steep and steady grade for a little over two miles to the summit ridge and passes very close to the 5106 foot eastern summit. The trail then drops a bit and passes well below the main summit on the south side of the ridge. The main summit can be reached on game trails with a bit of scrambling up the east ridge. You have to push through a few trees or climb some rock outcrops near the summit. The western summit can be reached by scrambling from the trail where it crosses the ridge at a saddle west of the main summit.
There is an impressive tower to the north of the eastern summit. I wonder if its faces have ever seen a rope?
Call 360-449-7800 for the most up-to-date information on volcanic activity, as well as trail and road conditions.
The trailhead is off of Forest Road 99, the main road into the eastern side of Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument. Road 99 starts at a well marked turn off of Forest Road 25 between Randle and Cougar.
Heading towards Windy Ridge on 99, watch for the signed right turn onto FS 26 to Ryan Lake, at about mile 8, or two miles short of the visitor center. If you pass the Miner's Car and Meta Lake, you've gone too far. Follow road 26 for 5 miles to it's closure point (flood damage to the north) at Ryan Lake. Turn left there onto FS 2612, leaving the pavement, and proceed for a short distance to the trailhead on the right.
A driving time table for the Mount Saint Helens area is available here. Use the Windy Ridge column to determine times to the trailhead.
A Northwest Forest Pass or Golden Eagle Pass are needed to park at the trailhead. No permit is needed to camp in this area.
When To Climb
Check the Gifford Pinchot National Forest Web Site for current road condition information.
No permit is needed to camp off of this trail. Please use no trace practices on the summit ridge. Except for the cratering from thousands of elk tracks, it's quite pristine.
Green River Horse Camp, just west of the trailhead, is restricted to horse users only during the summer season. It was empty and appeared unused during my visit. The nearest campground is at Iron Creek, which is north on 25 from the 99 junction. It's closed and gated for the winter.
Look over the Gifford Pinchot National Forest's Special Conditions Page for current closure information. Trail #217 is open to horses and mountain bikes. From the looks of it, few of either venture there.
There is a trail table on the National Forest site.
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