The Iron Goat Trail is a popular spot for hikers in Washington. It appears to be a pristine trail surrounded by trees and lush foliage, but if you take a closer look at the ground around you, you’ll notice something more. Pieces of rusted metal are scattered throughout the woods and they’re not old mining equipment. Rather, they’re the remnants of the deadliest avalanche in the country’s history.
According to HistoryLink, in February of 1910 an intense blizzard trapped the small rail station of Wellington for nine days. The snow was so high that the area was impassible leaving both a passenger train and mail train stuck. Station workers tried their best to free the trains but it was impossible.
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This left both trains stuck in place for 6 days at the base of Windy Mountain.
On February 28th, the snow stopped and a warm wind and rain covered the area. However, this proved to be deadly as the change in weather prompted a massive avalanche that was ten-feet-high, half a mile long and a quarter of a mile wide. The avalanche killed 96 people as the stuck trains were thrown 150 feet downhill into the Tye River Valley.
What remains today are remnants of the trains, old track, collapsed tunnels and snow sheds. Now if you’re unfamiliar with trains, snow sheds are somewhat like tunnels in that they provide a safe covering for trains to drive by mountains during times of heavy snow. Their job is to make sure avalanches go over trains and avoid what occurred on the Iron Goat Trail. What’s left behind today is a reminder of this beautiful trail’s tragic past.
If you’d like to check it out for yourself you can hike the trail usually until the first snowfall or until Martin Creek road becomes impassable. During fall you’ll get to enjoy a beautifully coloured drive out to Stevens Pass and also get to watch as the trees change colours on the trail. At 6 miles roundtrip, it’s a medium length hike that will appeal to both history and nature lovers.
Where: Stevens Pass
Information on the Iron Goat Trail is from Washington Trails Association and is accurate as of publication date.