My 9 year-old son and I ventured to Goat Lake off of the Mountain Loop Highway near Darrington in August for a 10 1/2 mile hike. He was up for it and did an amazing job!
I would rate this hike as medium in difficulty as far as the trail conditions and elevation with a gain of only 1300 feet. However, I would rate it hard as far as the distance traveled. So, I wouldn't recommend this hike for anyone under 9 years old.
The trail starts out in a new growth forest and you can hear Elliot Creek flowing after about a half mile. You will have to make a decision at the fork whether to take the upper or lower trail to Goat Lake. We took the lower trail to the lake and the upper on the way back. That way we didn't miss anything.
There were many blowdowns on the lower trail most of which didn't affect the trail.
Most of the way my son and I could walk together, there are some areas where you will need to walk single file.
You will see some great waterfalls along the lower path.
At about 3.5 miles you will merge with the upper path and enter the old growth part of the forest. I love these ancient trees that have been standing so long. They are amazing!
At about 4.5 miles you will see a dry creekbed and you will cross it to the right to enter the forest again.
You will then take a sharp left at a large fallen stump and head up the rocky hill.
A short while after the turn you will hear roaring McIntosh Falls and you can take a slight detour to view the falls. They are majestic.
You are almost there. Just about 1/2 mile left. Right before you reach the lake you will see a sign pointing to the lake and you will go straight.
After walking through a trail of greenery, you will finally reach the lake. It was definitely worth it.
We stayed here about 1/2 hour and had lunch before we had to head back down. It was so peaceful. We only saw 4 other people while we were there.