Goat Mountain is described in some older hiking guides as the “steepest trail in Idaho.” We won’t argue with such a claim; in less than 3 miles, the trail gains 4,000 feet. Loose sand and gravel, found in many places on the lower trail, compounds the challenge. The trail is a knee buster for sure – it’s no wonder that it’s called “Goat Mountain.” Open slopes filled with grass and brush often obscure the trail. The lack of tree canopy means you will sweat heavily in the summer sun. And this is another trail with no source of water. All this means that few hikers travel this route, so near the top, in the trees, the trail often just disappears and the intrepid traveler will need to know something about cross country route finding. This is a difficult trail, only recommend for strong and experienced hikers who are able to maintain a good attitude. If you are still reading, then you are not easily discouraged, so we will tell you more…..
Goat Mountain’s rewards are many – the views are constantly unfolding, even from the very beginning. Lake Pend Oreille slowly reveals its size and shape. Several rock out-croppings provide unique opportunities to look up and down the length of Lightning Creek. On top of Goat Peak you will be rewarded with a “Goat’s Eye” view of Scotchman Peak and the ridgeline north all the way to Scotchman II. Lake Pend Oreille lays magnificently out before your feet.
But as the joy of the scenery sinks in you realize your troubles have only just begun – now you have to go back down the mountain – what to do? As hard as Goat Mountain is going up, the hike down is even more grueling, especially on aging knees. So you consider bushwhacking over to Scotchman Peak or down the ridgeline north into Morris Creek. Neither are easy, nor are they impossible. Both are physically demanding and require advanced backcountry navigation skills. It would also help if you have been on Scotchman Peak Or Morris Creek Trail so that you would recognize them when you arrived (they are easy to cross over and miss completely). Of course, if you plan ahead, stashing a car, or arranging a shuttle would be prudent too……ah, these are the trips that are made only by big dreamers and even bigger plan makers……….
If you go: Bring good boots or trail shoes and plenty of water, as the route is “dry” with no on trail water source. You will need to have a topographic map, compass and the skills to use them. (Hint: Goat Mountain trail closely follows a ridgeline all the way to the top.) Snacks or lunch, layers of extra clothing and rain gear are always advisable in the mountains. For this hike we would not go without the “10 essentials”. (If you aren’t sure what they are, you aren’t ready to go on your own.) You will appreciate good binoculars and a camera. Bring a good, positive attitude and consider a knee brace or wrap.
Driving Directions to the Trail head: Take Highway 200 (east from Sandpoint) to Clark Fork. Turn north at the Chevron Station and follow Lightning Creek Road 419. The trail head is about 3 miles in (right after the “grizzly bear” sign) and marked only with a small sign with number 135 and a logo of two hikers. Park, carefully, on the roadside.