GOATreks- Hiking with Pack Goats in Southeastern Utah

Hiking with pack goats with GOATreks- San Juan County, UT

About a month ago I had the opportunity to go hiking with GOATreks, a new guiding company in San Juan County. I have to admit, I had never given much thought to goats in the past, and my experience with them had been limited to feeding Pygmy goats at petting zoos. (Which was about 50/50 for good/bad experiences!) But it turns out that hiking with goats is a thing! If you search Airbnb Experiences, you will find goat hiking experiences everywhere from New York, California, Texas, and now, thanks to GOATreks, San Juan County, Utah!

Safety talk before our hike with GOATreks- San Juan County, UT

GOATreks is listed on Airbnb Experiences, so we signed up for our hike there, which makes it very easy if you’re already an Airbnb user. We received instructions for where to meet up, and everything went very smoothly meeting up with Kathleen, and caravanning a few miles to the location we’d be hiking that day.

Kathleen started by introducing us to two of her pack goats, Echo and Hamish, and going over some safety information, which I really appreciated since I have spent very little time around goats, and had never been around goats of this size before. Pretty much as soon as we met Echo & Hamish, we could tell that they were very similar to dogs- they seem to like to interact with people, they’re curious and playful, and they each have their own unique personality. Within minutes of meeting the goats, I knew we were in for a fun experience!

Hiking with pack goats with GOATreks

I think one of the most important pieces of information Kathleen went over, was that you should never touch the goats’ horns. These goats will be between 185-215 lbs when they’re full grown, and the last thing you’d want from a goat that size is for them to use their horns on people. Goats use their horns on each other for both play and for establishing dominance within their herd, so touching their horns could make a goat think that you’re either challenging them, or playing with them. Either way you don’t want a 200+ lb goat to push back on a human with their horns, whether they’re just trying to play or establish dominance.

Hiking with pack goats with GOATreks- San Juan County, UT

We had signed up for a 3 mile hike through a beautiful area right on the edge of the Manti- La Sal National Forest about halfway between Monticello and Blanding. It’s a unique area that I have always loved located where the forest meets the desert, with tall Ponderosa Pine trees, but also cactus and yucca. We were actually walking on an unpaved road, rather than a designated hiking trail, which is something that my family does a lot around here.

If there’s one thing that San Juan County does an amazing job on, it’s the roads! There are thousands of miles of unpaved roads in San Juan County, and for the most part, pretty much any road you drive on seems to have been grated pretty recently. And since there are thousands of miles of roads, it’s pretty easy to find a road to walk on where you can be away from other people.

Hiking with pack goats with GOATreks- San Juan County, UT
Hiking with pack goats with GOATreks- San Juan County, UT

As we headed down the road, I definitely felt like part of the ‘herd’. Kathleen led the way, and Echo and Hamish would sometimes walk in front of the rest of the human herd, but they’d often stop to take a bite from the scrub oak or anything else that caught their eye along the road. Sometimes they’d even stand on their hind legs to reach the higher leaves, which we all enjoyed watching!

Hiking with pack goats with GOATreks- San Juan County, UT

I quickly realized that goats make awesome hiking companions! I’m sure the dog-owners out there will find this hard to believe, but I think pack goats might actually make slightly better hiking companions than dogs. (Yes, I said it!) Pack goats not only carry your stuff, but also since they will snack on the foliage you pass while you’re hiking, you don’t need to worry about bringing anything for them! And most important- they stay with you! My dog is awesome about staying with us when we take her for walks in areas where leashes aren’t required, but she does occasionally stray a little farther than we’d like, and we have to call her back. But as herd animals, goats instinctively stay together for protection. I don’t think Echo and Hamish were more than a few feet away from a human at any point during our hike.

Hiking with pack goats with GOATreks- San Juan County, UT

As we hiked, Kathleen talked about the area, and pointed out plants and different things along the trail. Since we were all from the area, I think most of our questions were more about the goats than anything else. Like I mentioned earlier, I had really never given much thought to goats before. To me they were just another farm animal at the petting zoo, but I began to realize that they also make awesome companions. Echo and Hamish were curious, playful, and intelligent. I raised pigs in FFA in high school, and I’ve always compared them to dogs- they are so smart, but also silly and playful, and goats seem very similar to them.

We got to a point in the road where there was a rock outcropping off to the side, and Kathleen gave us the option of taking our break at the base of it, or hiking a little ways up to a flat spot, which is what we opted for. Echo and Hamish had no trouble climbing up the slope, of course, and they took the opportunity to impress all of us with their balance and sure-footedness, by walking up a log that was on the slope.

Hiking with pack goats with GOATreks- San Juan County, UT

Although Echo and Hamish aren’t full grown yet, and are not yet able to carry the full amount of weight that they’ll eventually be able to carry, Hamish was able to carry snacks and drinks for us! When we got to the flat spot up the slope, Kathleen distributed the goodies, and also snacks for the goats, which we were able to feed to them out of our hands. They loved the snacks, and in fact when I ran out, Echo started nibbling on my earrings, which had round blue stones, which I’m sure looked like blueberries or something else delicious to a goat!

Hiking with pack goats with GOATreks- San Juan County, UT

When it was time to start heading back, we branched off the path we took on the way out, and connected to another road which had a nice view of a cliff dwelling high up in the rock wall above us. That’s how it is in San Juan County… you can pretty much be in any canyon, in most any part of the county and you will see some kind of trace of the previous inhabitants of this area, whether it’s pottery sherds, arrowheads or other lithics, corn cobs, petroglyphs or pictographs, or archaeological structures.

The excitement of seeing these remnants of the past never wears off, but it’s important to note that all artifacts should be left where you find them. Look at them, enjoy them, take a photo of them if you’d like, but leave them where you find them so that others can ‘discover’ and enjoy them too.

Here’s a helpful and informative video from Friends of Cedar Mesa that discusses some of the many reasons why you should leave artifacts where you find them. (Besides the fact that it’s illegal to take them!)

VWR Tip: Leave All Artifacts from Friends of Cedar Mesa on Vimeo.

Hiking with pack goats with GOATreks- San Juan County, UT

My son thoroughly enjoyed hiking with Echo & Hamish and has asked me several times since if we can go for another hike with Kathleen and her goats! Who knew that all it took was a couple of pack goats to get a kid to happily hike without complaining or whining?! Plus, Kathleen is amazing with kids, and has a knack for talking to them like she’s talking to another adult, but yet explaining things in a way that they can understand. (Please note that children must be 12 or older to participate in this tour.)

Kathleen is a wonderful ambassador for Southeastern Utah and Bears Ears National Monument and the surrounding area. In just the few short hours we spent with her, her passion and excitement for what she does and where she lives is obvious. You can’t help but get exited when you’re with someone who is so passionate and knowledgeable!

GOATreks offers everything from a short 1 hour goat experience, all the way up to a 6 hour hike, so there’s sure to be something that will fit any schedule and activity level. Hiking with Kathleen and her goats was such a fun and unique experience, I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who is visiting the area and looking for a way to get a little more in depth and learn about the area from a local.

For more information or to request a San Juan County travel guide, please visit our website or call:

800-574-4386

Or e-mail us at: info@utahscanyoncountry.com

This entry was posted in Bears Ears National Monument, Hiking, Off the Beaten Path, Social Distancing-friendly, Tours, Tours/Guided Trips, Travel, Utah and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to GOATreks- Hiking with Pack Goats in Southeastern Utah

  1. girlonahike says:

    This looks SO fun!

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