On August 17th, 2019, Skip, Bandit, and I packed up the jeep and headed to Stanley, Idaho, to hike the most challenging trail we have ever been on to this day, and I was 35 weeks pregnant at the time. Goat Lake, an 8.5-mile round trip with a 1615 elevation gain.
There is only one explanation of why the lake is called "Goat Lake," Only mountain Goats can get there. I actually looked it up, and I couldn't find any history on the trail or lake. Please, if you know any record of this area, please email me!!!
The area of Stanley has excellent Boon Dock camping "Camping in non-designated areas" and backpacking sites near lakes and within the trails, but always camp 200 feet away from any body of water. We always try to camp for free when possible.
If you Google Campgrounds in Stanley, Idaho, a ton of campgrounds will pop up. Unfortunately, I could not find a link to all campgrounds. Click HEREfor all up to-date information you need to know for your visit.
There are tons of activities you can enjoy in Stanley. Hiking hundreds of trails, and most of them have backpacking sites within. You can horseback ride or mountain bike on pretty much any trails. Kayaking, paddle-boarding, and fishing are very popular in the area due to the beautiful lake that oversees the Sawtooth Mountains that are snow-covered year-round due to the high elevation.
Remember to enjoy the scenery while exploring the area. There are so many vivid views with a variety of colors and textures with every footstep. There are Red Columbines, Salmonberry, western Trillium, Green Alder, and all the wildflowers.
You may also encounter a Beaver on the river, Elk, deer, a red fox on a trail, and of course, squirrels in every tree. Remember, you are in the wilderness. Always be alert and check your surroundings for black bears, mountain lions, snakes, and other dangerous animals.
As Stanley, Idaho becomes more popular because of its beauty and all the activities accessible in the area. The beautiful town, lakes, trails, and rivers are becoming overly crowded with tourists, and people are starting to not take care of their trash and human waste. Please click HERE to read about the Leave no Trace Project.
Goat Lake is one of the most memorizing lakes we have ever hiked to, and we have a hike to A LOT of lakes in Idaho over the last two summers. Lakes are my go-to destinations when looking for a good hike. Because why wouldn't they be? After hiking all day and sweating in the sun, the best way to eat lunch and cool off is to jump into a freezing cold lake that still has snow on the peeks. Plus, we have a dog who loves water, and it ensures us that he won't get overheated.
At the end of August, Goat Lake still had snow in the corners of the mountain where the sun doesn't reach. The water was so crystal clear, you could see the rocks beaming far and deep into the lake. The colors of the rocks around the lake reflected off the snowmaking the water a beautiful blue/ teal color that glassines. It was so peaceful listening to birds chirping, the serenity of the water, and soaking my 35-week pregnant feet in before heading back down the tortuous trail that we had to climb the way up.
Getting to Goat Lake isn't the easiest and should be hiked with closed-toed shoes and a lot of water. Follow these directions exactly, or you may get lost on the last mile where the trail is nonexistent.
You will start by parking at the Iron Creek Trailhead just outside of Stanley, Idaho.
You may not have cell service in Stanley. We recommend dropping a pin at the trailhead on maps before leaving your house. Maps will take you to the trailhead if you do have service, though.
Fill out the Overnight (Free) Permit at the trailhead to ensure if you go missing or do not make it back, Search and rescue will be able to find you or know whose vehicles are left in the parking lot for an extended period and can go looking for you if need be.
Follow the Alpine Way Trail. It is an easy flat 1.1 miles long and can be relatively busy.
The trail goes along the stream, but soon after you see a sign, take a left. Your first creek crossing comes just after this sign. To cross the stream, you will need to balance along with the logs. This is the last time you will be near the water before the lake. So, make sure you filter your water and make sure your animals get a drink.
After you cross the stream, continue over a small bridge, around 1.5 miles, and the first climb begins. There are some steep switchbacks. You will come across the most beautiful and scent views on the trail that overlook the forest.
After ascending the switchbacks, continue through the dense forest to another junction at 2.9 miles.
At the fork, make sure you take a RIGHT. Walkthrough the wildflower-covered hillside until the trail disappears around 3.3 miles, directly north of Goat Lake.
To continue to Goat Lake, look to the south for an angled slab of granite rock covered with slick scree (loose pebbles or gravel on a slope). This part of the trail is the most complex and dangerous. Use causation and watch your footing on the large and loose gravel.
Once you reach the top of the screen, you will see a giant boulder field. DO NOT CROSS this boulder field. This is where most people go, and they get lost. Even though you can get to Goat Lake crossing the boulder field, it is much longer and a much more dangerous hike.
At the top of the scree field, you will be above the falls. Look to your left for a beaver dam. This beaver dam is where you will cross on the left side of the creek.
Make your way through the wooded area (not easily marked) to cross the beaver dam and creek, at which point you will see the trail that leads you directly to Goat Lake.
This trail is decently busy, and you may come across other hikers trying to figure their way to the lake. We did, and it was the only reason we made it without getting completely lost.
Overall, this is a once-in-a-lifetime hike that is worth it.