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Mountain Goat Ecology

  Mountain Goat

With a number of partners, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) conducted a research project on mountain goats from 2002-2008.  The many aspects of this project included improving our aerial surveys of mountain goats, assessing the status of mountain goats in Washington, understanding why some populations have declined, habitat preferences, seasonal movements, visitation to mineral licks, and population genetics.  Some places that are good for viewing mountain goats are also described in this article.

As previously reported, in 2002 the Department initiated a research project on mountain goats.  This has been a collaborative project which involved many WDFW District Biologists and partnered with:

In addition to funding from WDFW and partners, this project received support from Seattle City Light (Wildlife Research Program), the Stillaguamish Tribe, the Seattle Sportsman Conservation Foundation, and the Wenatchee Sportsmen’s Association.

Our research project was carried out all over the Cascade Range, and some of the surveys were conducted in the Olympics as well.  During the project we captured 80 mountain goats and fitted them with GPS tracking collars.  With the GPS units in the collars attempting to acquire a location every 3 or 4 hours (and succeeding about 80% of the time), we have learned a lot about their movements throughout the year in many parts of the state.  We also used the collars to identify individual mountain goats during aerial survey evaluations.



Mountain goat viewing in Washington

Map of Mountain Goat viewing locations in Washington State - click to enlargeMountain goats are widely distributed in the Cascade and Olympic Ranges and can be encountered almost anywhere in alpine terrain.  However there are several locations where viewing mountain goats is particularly rewarding because of high population levels or because they are tolerant of humans approaching them.

Ptarmigan Ridge

Description:  Located between Mt. Shuksan and Mt. Baker, this hike offers spectacular views.  It starts at a high elevation, so relatively little uphill hiking is required.  There are about 200 mountain goats in this area and they may be spotted anywhere along this 4 mile hike.  Expect to encounter snowfields year-round.

Directions:  From Bellingham, take Hwy 542 to its end at Artist Point.  Take the Ptarmigan Ridge Trail #682.1.

The Enchantments

Description:  Visiting the Enchantments is usually a multi-day trip and involves a strenuous climb of 4,000-5,000 feet.  Mountain goats in the Enchantment Basin are very tolerant of humans and may be pests. 

Directions:  The Enchantments can be accessed from the east or west, off the Icicle Canyon Road, near Leavenworth.  For either approach, a Wilderness Permit must be obtained in advance.


Description:  On the north side of Mt. Rainier, mountain goats are often seen on  Burroughs Mountain or from the trail to the Mt. Fremont Lookout with Mt. Rainier looming as a backdrop.  The Mt. Fremont Lookout trail is relatively level over about 3 miles.  The Burroughs Mountain trail climbs a bit more (about 2,000 feet) over about 4 miles.

Directions:  From Enumclaw, take Hwy 410 to the White River Road and enter Mt. Rainier National Park at the White River Ranger Station.  Proceed to the Sunrise Visitor Center and take the trail to Frozen Lake where the trails branch to the Mt. Fremont Lookout or Burroughs Mountain.

Mt. Ellinor

Description:  A band of mountain goats is often encountered near the summit of Mt. Ellinor and they are very tolerant of humans.  This is a short, steep hike which gains about 3,000 feet over 2½ miles.

Directions:  From Hoodsport, take State Route 119 9.0 miles to the junction with FS Road #24. Turn right and go 1.6 miles to FS Road #2419 (Big Creek Road). Travel 6.4 miles to turn left on FS Road #2419- 014, follow it to the end of road.  The trail ascends from there.

Jumbo Peak

Description:  This moderate hike has about 1,500 feet of elevation gain and the mountain goats here are somewhat tolerant of humans.  There are great views of Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier.  You may encounter motorbikes.

Directions:  From Randle, take Forest Service Road 23 south about 22 miles and turn right on Road 2334.  After about 5 miles, turn right on the short spur Road 2324.063 to the trailhead.  Follow the Sunrise Trail #262 for about 1.2 miles to Juniper Ridge Trail #261 and follow this trail south for another 1½ miles.

Goat Rocks

Description:  To visit mountain goat country in the Goat Rocks is usually a multi-day trip.  Nearly 300 mountain goats inhabit the Goat Rocks and can be encountered over much of it.  Chimney Rocks, from Goat Lake to Johnson Peak, the McCall Basin, and the headwaters of the Cispus River are all locations where one can expect to find mountain goats.

Directions:  There are numerous ways to access the Goat Rocks.  Popular trailheads are at Chambers Lake and Walupt Lake.

Remember:  Travel in mountain terrain can be hazardous—be prepared.  Bring binoculars.  Do not offer food to mountain goats (or other wildlife).  Go without your pets.  A Northwest Forest Pass may be required for parking at trailheads.