Hike to Goat Lake, Idaho

6.8 miles  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Madison Sankovitz

This hike is off the beaten path and leads to the largest waterfall in the Sawtooth Mountains and a beautiful alpine lake.

This moderate hike begins at Iron Creek Trailhead in the Sawtooth Mountains. Follow the trail through the forest and alongside Iron Creek. At 1.1 miles you will officially enter the Sawtooth Wilderness and soon after come to a marked junction. Turn left to follow Alpine Way Trail across Iron Creek. At 1.5 miles cross a bridge and then begin a steep 600-foot ascent. Although somewhat taxing, the widespread vistas and wildflowers will keep you captivated. The trail levels off at an elevation of 7,600 feet. Continue on through the forest to another junction at 2.9 miles. Take the right path and walk along a hillside until the path nearly disappears north of Goat Falls (3.3 miles). Be sure to take a short detour down a 100-foot path to get the best view of the spectacular falls. 

To continue on to Goat Lake, look south for an angled, scree-covered granite slab. Scramble up the slab to an unmaintained path leading to the lake, directly west of the falls. It is about 600 feet elevation gain to Goat Lake, but the view is definitely worth it! A hidden gem of the Sawtooths.

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Double great

Trump 2020

Difficult climb as path has been washed out

September 2019. Quick day hike with a pre-sunrise start allowed for some amazing blue and grey photos of the White Clouds. Saw a black bear cub on the trail. Heavily trafficked trail. Path gets difficult as you get closer to the waterfall. Saw a couple parties turn back because they were not prepared for that section. Switchbacks were washed out and made for hands and feet climbing in sections on loose footing. We lost the path at one point and ended up going into the rock slide, where the path stays closer to the water. Talked to a couple with a GPS and they said it was about 4 miles to the lake, which makes for about 8 mile round-trip. Fantastic views, no bugs this time of year, and water was refreshing. Lake Rules are you must jump in! :)

Best hike ever

The hike went through switchbacks and plateaus through forests as you ascend the mountain with great views most of the time. When you get to the last stretch you had to walk up a steep loose gravel and rock face, which was challenging but doable and not dangerous. The worst that could have happened was slipping and skinning your knee. And it’s so worth it. At the top of this climb you see Goat Falls and follow the river up to the outlet of Goat Lake. The stretch of river between the falls and the lake is gorgeous and features many mini waterfalls. And the water is crystal clear. But when we saw Goat Lake it was a total jawdropper. It was honestly the most beautiful thing I’ve ever hiked to. So worth it. The water was freezing cold and crystal clear, and there were even some ice mburgs floating on it in mid July. We jumped in because it was hot out but you wouldn’t want to spend much time in that water. We could see schools of trout smwimming last us periodically which was super cool. The tough hike was so worth it and if you’re woquestuoning if you want to go or not,the answer is yes.

Gotta backpack it and spend the night...

We read a lot of reviews and guides for this hike before leaving because everything was so conflicting. (IT IS DEFINITELY MORE THAN 6.8 MILES!! Probably more around 8-10 round trip) The last mile of the hike is definitely the most difficult part. There's a good section of steep gravel leading up to the first waterfall overlook. When you get to the rock wall on your right if you continue walking the base of the wall you will find the more staircase type section that is easier to go up, and that will be the start of the steepest part of the hike. Once you get to the waterfall overlook it is easy to miss the easier trail leading through the woods, so on the way up we went through the rock field. You can definitely avoid this by trying to stay as far to the left following up the waterfall and then you will find a beaver dam to cross above the falls. In that section there are a few times that it will look like the trail has ended but it hasn't, just keep pushing along and there are multiple different ways through the trees. Once you get to the falls you are pretty close so if you've made it that far, keep pushing on because it's definitely worth making that last little climb. We went on a weekend and backpacked in, there were definitely a good amount of people camping up there so it was a bit "crowded" but mainly because there are only about 5-7 different spots along the lake to set up camp. We tried following the path along the lake to get our own private area but encountered others along the way that said they didn't see anywhere to set up down on the SE corner of the lake. By that time our packs were heavy so we headed back to the main area and grabbed a spot on higher ground which was still really great. A few people were fishing and we saw some small trout in the lake. We got in for a swim and some guys were jumping off one of the higher rock areas but the water was quite cold as to be expected. Great get away, my little corgi like dog made the hike and loved it, but he is like a little mountain goat. There were a couple areas on the trail up at the top, following the lake where we had to pass him because his short little legs couldn't make the jump, but the rest of the way up he made it up on his own. I was a little wary of bringing him because of some things that I read, but he is spry and good at climbing so he did well. Bigger dogs that love hiking should do just fine, and little dogs that love hiking might need a hand here and there but can make it as long as they are tough.

Strenuous but worth it

When you turn left just after entering Sawtooth Wilderness, you'll head the direction that says to go to Marshall Lake. It doesn't say Alpine Way, so we were a bit confused at first. The scramble up to the lake is tough; I would say that part alone took us 45 minutes to an hour. We visited in June and only encountered three other groups of people! Overall I recommend the hike but I would have mentally prepared myself better had I known how difficult the last part would be.

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