Hike Gothic Basin
Washington › Gothic Basin, Central Cascades, WA
Added by Derek Cook
Gothic Basin highlights stunning landscape in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. This hike is an excellent day hike closer to Seattle (~75 miles).
Looking for a hike that will make you feel like you're in a foreign landscape, but don't have to deal with that far of a drive? Then consider hiking Gothic Basin. This hike is located only 30 miles down the Mountain Loop Highway, which is nearly a hour shorter for people that live in the greater Seattle area than driving up to the popular hiking destinations of Mount Baker.
Looming above the old mining town of Monte Crisco lies Gothic Basin. This hike can be very strenuous at times due to the steep rocky landscape, and the rough trail constructed originally by miners, making the views that much more rewarding.
Start the hike by parking at the Barlow Pass trailhead. To access the trail you will have to walk 1 mile down a closed road that runs along the Sauk River. From here, the dirt road will end and the trail begins off the the right. The next half mile will be a cake walk. After you cross over Weden Creek, the grind of the hike begins.
Ascending nearly 3000 feet in elevation in just under 3 miles, you'll call for a break or two. Luckily, the views you have during the hike will make this almost essential. Once you reach the top, you'll be thrown in a scene of granite and small lakes, which will make you think you were in a scene of Lord Of The Rings. Climb up one of the Granite bluffs and enjoy the views while you eat your lunch. From here, you can continue on the trail for a short but steep distance to foggy lake, or stay in the basin with views of the unique landscape and North Cascades.
- Northwest Forest Pass
- Hiking boots (Fair amount of wet rocks you will have to travel over)
- Food and water that meets the needs for you and your party
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Gothic Basin, Monte Cristo Ghost Town & Glacier Basin
Arrived at the Barlow Pass parking lot at 6:55 on a Thursday morning, ready for a grueling adventure and personal challenge: to complete Gothic Basin, explore Monte Cristo Ghost Town and tackle Glacier Basin – all in one day. To do this, I know I needed to start early and bring a mountain bicycle in order to conserve some energy. PART 1: GOTHIC BASIN I took to my bicycle and peddled down the hill (go left) on the gravel road until you see the big metal gate (to the right). This is the road that will take you to Monte Cristo. My first stop, though, was to hike to Gothic Basin (9.2 miles RT). The new trail is being worked on - go straight at 'Proceed at Your Own Risk' sign. Follow the ribbons, which take you around the washout area. Had to walk my bicycle by my side occasionally, which wasn't a big deal considering the amount of waking it had already saved me (and would later on). Arrived at the Weden Creek Gothic Basin #724 trail ~1 mile in. Parked my bicycle next to the trailhead and started hiking at 7:15 am. The trail is flat at first, following the river and traveling across the occasional wooden boardwalk. It then cuts across a stream and starts pushing upward. Rocky terrain and tricky footing are given relief by periodic switchbacks. Break out of the trees once you reach DNR Managed Lands (there is a sign) and enjoy expansive views of neighboring peaks, the valley floor below and towering peaks above you. The trail becomes more rugged as it steepens, but remains easy to follow. Entered Gothic Basin at 8:55 am. Follow the trail to the right if you want to visit Foggy Lake. The lake more closely resembled a pond, but still offered nice reflections of the rocky terrain surrounding. Beyond the lake, I spent an hour doing a small loop around the basin. There are quite a few fairly distinct trails to follow so you "Leave No Trace." Quite a few picturesque camping spots, 2-3 of which were occupied at the time. There's also a beautiful multi-teared waterfall that leads to an impressive overlook above Weden Lake. Overall, a beautiful area with much to explore. Started my descent at 10:10 am. Passed 8 other day hikers and 2 groups of backpackers. Arrived back at the Weden Creek Gothic Basin #724 trail at 11:10 am. PART 2: MONTE CRISTO GHOST TOWN Grabbed my bicycle and easily crossed the shallow river by hopping across rocks. Might have to seek out a log of two other times of the year when the river might be higher. Crossed two wooden bridges along the way to a short but gnarly part of Monte Cristo Road where large gathering of rocks make it difficult to walk and impossible to ride a bicycle. Bounced my bicycle beside me. There were quite a few uphill sections that forced me to walk the bicycle beside me, but was still able to ride about half the distance. Ditched the bicycle and did a quick walk through the Monte Cristo Townsite, trying to envision what it would be like to live in this small mining town in the 1890s. There are mostly wooden signs pointing out where certain buildings were once built, but there are some structures still standing and a few relics remain scattered around the area. Perhaps the most interesting was the Railway Turntable, which was used to turn the train the opposite direction... still rotates! Pamplets from the Monte Cristo Preservation Association are available along your tour - this include a map and some interesting historical facts. PART 3: GLACIER BASIN Follow the signs to Glacier Basin as you wander through Dumas Street and the rest of Monte Cristo. I departed from the official Glacier Basin No. 719 trailhead at 12:20 pm. The first part of the 2+ mile trail is a shaded old forest road. The trail then narrows and climbs steadily. In the distance, Glacier Falls cascades beautifully down massive rocks and craggy peaks spike the horizon. Once you reach Glacier Falls, the trail intensifies and the incline is significant. At one point there is an option to grab a rope to help propel you forward (and allow you to hold on as you descend as well). Lots of elevation gain, obstacles and scrambling from here to the top. Arrived at Glacier Basin at 1:10 pm. A pretty basin, smaller in comparison to Gothic Basin, but one that features more ominous peaks surrounding it. More vegetation, too. There are massive rocks sitting throughout the basin and a creek that calmly meanders around them. A few snowfields covering the rock slides above. Plenty of evidence of mining activity in the form of cables, pipes and the holes (now blasted shut) on the hillsides. Explored the basin for about 45 minutes and then made it back into "town" by 2:35 pm. THE ROAD HOME (BRING YOUR BIKE!) This is the part where the bicycle really pays off. Instead of walking the 4 miles back to Barlow Pass, I was able to ride (or rather, coast) the majority of the way back from Monte Carlo. And when there are already at least 20+ strenuous miles logged already, it is a complete joy to not walk anymore. Arrived back to my vehicle at 3:10 pm.
Go to Foggy Lake
Love this hike, and it is much harder than you would expect with the milage and elevation gain, as it becomes pretty exposed and shade is rare on a hot day (yeah I happened to do this one on the only 97 degree day of the year last year). I highly recommend continuing to the right of the basin towards Foggy Lake another half mile or so, this lake is crystal clear with glacier cold water that is SO refreshing. Consider the scramble up to Del Campo peak from here as well. Beautiful place and I can't wait to go back for an overnight trip!
Overnight is a must!
If you are into scrambles this basin makes a great base camp. I did this as a one night trip with some friends a few years ago and it was incredible. We camped at the lower end of the basin by a small lake and scrambled up Del Campo the next day. Make sure you find a good route description if you add Del Campo to your trip. We took the wrong route and ended up VERY exposed. It was one of the greatest one night trips I have ever been on and is out of this world beautiful. If you day trip it you will find yourself wishing you had your overnight gear because you won't want to leave and there is so much to explore. Several peaks surrounding the basin can be scrambled.
Tougher than expected, but worth it.
We decided to make it an overnight, on a beautiful October day. Quite a bit tougher than I expected, it started out very easy, with the walk on the gravel where cars used to be able to drive. Considering we had pretty heavy packs, trekking poles helped quite a bit on the ascent to the top. It took a good 4 hours to get to the top, but once we made it, it was very worth it. We set up camp on the base of Del Campo. There is plenty of areas to get water, in streams on the way up, and the lakes at the top. I would definitely recommend over nighting this hike, as it was stunning to wake up to at sunset, seeing an amazing panorama of mountains in all directions.
One of my favorite hikes in Washington and makes for a great day hike or overnight. It's pretty popular so try to arrive on the earlier end if you're looking to snag a campsite (they're also fairly spread out and not immediately obvious). Upon entering the lower basin look for sporadic cairns and a moderately-worn foot path to the right and then ascend up a steep and rocky section if you want to get up to Foggy Lake. There are multiple ways to ascend but ultimately head in a northwest route to reach Foggy Lake at the upper basin.
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