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Gothic Basin

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Rugged and spectacular-yes. Gothic, perhaps, for this stark and mysterious basin harbors hidden tarns and disappearing waterways and is surrounded by spiraling peaks. A difficult hike on steep and rocky terrain, Gothic Basin with all its rich beauty can't keep hikers away; just as it couldn't keep miners away a century ago with its lure of riches. It was those hardy folk who built this path. It has been upgraded since-somewhat. The splendor of the basin, however, can't be improved one bit. Past glaciers and the agents of erosion have left it pretty darn near to perfect.

Start by hiking the Monte Cristo Road. This 4-mile connection to the now-defunct mining town of Monte Cristo has been permanently closed to vehicles (but for a few landowners and others) since December 1980, when the South Fork Sauk River severed it. Volunteers have since restored the road, making it at least passable to bicycles and pedestrians. But the river hasn't given up trying to put the road to rest.

After 1 mile of easy road rambling, reach the trailhead for Gothic Basin (Weden Creek Trail No. 724) just before the Twin Bridges (elev. 2350 ft). The trail takes off into old-growth timber paralleling the South Fork Sauk, coming to a tributary of Weden Creek (elev. 2450 ft) in about 0.6 mile. The crossing can be tricky in high water. From this point forward, the trail gets down to business, following much of the original miners route.

Climbing steeply up a slope shrouded in scrappy forest, you gain elevation rapidly. After 1 mile of serious ascending, the trail breaks out onto a spectacular ledge complete with waterfall crashing down a cleft (elev. 3900 ft). In early summer, lingering snow can make crossing this cleft dangerous.

With views opening up to the Monte Cristo melange of mountains, continue upward. Cross two more clefts complete with cataracts-two more potentially dangerous areas if snow-covered. Encountering rockier and brushier terrain, the way grows more difficult. Pause to admire some impressive yellow cedars including a "four-trunked"monster.

More creek crossings and a few ledges requiring help from your hands stagger your pace. Pass ruins of the Consolidated Mine. Ore was transported to the valley floor via a tramway. Contemplate the tenacity of the hardscrabble folk who looked to this rugged environment for their paychecks.

Make the final push to the basin over scoured rocks and ledges and through heathered meadows. Be sure to look back at the jagged skyline with prominent Mount Pugh and Sloan Peak standing out. At about 4 miles from Barlow Pass, the trail ends at a small tarn (elev. 4900 ft). Explorations, however, have only just begun.

Following sketchy tread northwest to ledges and polished rock, you can make your way another 0.5 mile to Foggy Lake (elev. 5200 ft). Flanked by Gothic and Del Campo peaks and denuded of any shoreline vegetation, Foggy is a starkly beautiful alpine lake. Scout the nooks and knolls surrounding it. However, while this area is indeed a harsh environment, it is also fragile. Meadows can't withstand a constant onslaught of boots. Stick to ledge and rock in your wanderings as you're enjoying this wild landscape.
Driving Directions:

From Granite Falls follow the Mountain Loop Highway east for 31 miles to Barlow Pass and park there (elev. 2360 ft). Privy available.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 197 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Gothic Basin — Oct 21, 2013 — corgihiker
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
Issues: Overgrown | Water on trail
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With the lowlands shrouded in fog on Monday, a friend and I took our dogs and headed for the hills. ...
With the lowlands shrouded in fog on Monday, a friend and I took our dogs and headed for the hills. Soon after passing Granite Falls, the sky cleared for the peaks beyond, a very good sight to see.

As others have said, the first couple of miles are easy; mushrooms everywhere, beautiful colors and a wide level path. Then the ascent begins. A real grind if hiking was not a priority this summer. But after 30 minutes of switchbacks, the trail deceptively levels for a little while, until the loose rocks begin. Slow and steady is the key here. That and hiking poles. The trail is very narrow in places, and slippery rock, so take extra care.

Once at the top, it is gorgeous and worth the effort, especially since we had it all to ourselves. There were still traces of snow off trail, very little on the trail. Caution is advised going down as the trail is very rocky and steep; going up was almost easier.

Bring at least 2 bottles of water and an extra hour to linger at the top. We started at 11 and were back at the car at 5:45, with 45 minutes at the top. Dogs in good shape will have no problem, even an 8 year old corgi!
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Gothic Basin — Oct 19, 2013 — SHR
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
Issues: Snow on trail
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A lovely, if somewhat difficult, hike. (For reference, I hiked Mt. Dickerman recently, and found thi...
A lovely, if somewhat difficult, hike. (For reference, I hiked Mt. Dickerman recently, and found this one harder--steeper, rougher, and a bit more mentally taxing). There was snow a bit below and above the tarn mentioned in the description, including a couple of slick-ish patches where I wouldn't have minded having the poles I didn't bring. The glacial features at the top, and looking out from it, were delightful.

There was one blemish on the day. On a knoll above the tarn, my dog nudged aside a small rock to reveal, just sitting on the ground, a pile of human poop, which she proceeded to roll around in and get all over her face and neck. Needless to say, this put a dent in my enjoyment of the hike. I typically like to keep anonymous poop and my pregnant wife as far apart as possible, but this was not helping.

No doubt many who might read this don't need any sort of reminder, but just in case: bury your poop! If you don't deal with it, someone else might have to.
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Gothic Basin — Oct 04, 2013 — SloPoke
Day hike
Issues: Water on trail | Snow on trail
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Go to this link for pictures:
Go to this link for pictures:[…]/GothicBasinFoggyLake10042013#

Started after 7:30am with clear skies, cool (but not cold) temps and light fog. Enjoyed the early part of the trail more than usual, liking the cool temps and the sun rays making the forest switchbacks glow.

Trail had a little more water running on it than July or August, but was not bad for the first 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. All the water and little falls crossings had a little more water than usual, but were not bad at all and easily passable.

Toward the last third of the trail, snow is encountered and it covers (and hides) the trail and gets decently heavy by Gothic Basin. Followed the steps of one hiker(climber,...he was on his way up Gothic Peak), which took us about where I remember the trail being, ...and up a lot of stream beds (because was the least snow and could pick steps to stay dry).

Many steps in the snow would sink half way up the shin. Sometimes I'd sink to the knee in the snow. Sank more as the snow softened with the warming day.

The first little water pond encountered at Gothic Basin had a solid slush top and was on the way to freezing over. Marched over to Foggy lake and it was not frozen at all, though the taulus/ boulders around the lake were covered in snow, as was the way up to Del Campo peak (went around the lake a little and stopped short of the trail going up to Del Campo,...would like to do the scramble up there, but will wait until most of the snow is gone next year :)
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Gothic Basin — Sep 14, 2013 — mcbryde84
Features: Fall foliage
Issues: Blowdowns | Mudholes | Water on trail | Bugs
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Super hard trail for my first backpacking trip. Once you get up there you wont want to leave though....
Super hard trail for my first backpacking trip. Once you get up there you wont want to leave though. worth the 4 hours it took to get there for sure. It was about 80 degrees on the hike and went through 4 liters of water on the way up, but still got a headache before I got to the top.
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Gothic Basin — Sep 14, 2013 — seabeav
Day hike
Features: Ripe berries
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I had hiked to Gothic Basin years ago. It is still as grueling and beautiful a hike as I remember. ...
I had hiked to Gothic Basin years ago. It is still as grueling and beautiful a hike as I remember. Hiked with two friends from Victoria, BC and a local friend, leaving the trailhead around 7:15

Once in Gothic Basin, we climbed over the rock promontory that looks south down onto the small pond near the basin entrance and looks north up to Gothic and Del Campo Peaks. On the other side of the promontory was Foggy Lake, completely thawed, with the sun shining on clear water. Enticing enough for several swimmers to take a plunge.

Had lunch, rested and headed back down after exploring the basin a bit. Quite a few hikers on the trail but, it was Saturday and beautiful weather, so not surprising.

This is a great hike…takes a lot of effort but the reward is high. Amazing views of peaks and multi-colored ridges looking south from the basin and a huge expanse of cracked and jointed rock outcrops and plateaus in the basin. Foggy Lake is a gem, shining below Del Campo and emptying into a stream that follows a near-straight line fault or joint plane down and out of the basin. Small waterfalls, lush green moss and plants with a scattering of flowers make it a dream-like place.

The upper part of the trail is rocky, slippery, laden with roots and requires some minor scrambling or scrabbling up and down boulders and outcrops. The lower part is mostly a long, fairly steep trudge up many switchbacks. It takes effort, certainly for me, but when you climb over the last incline and step into Gothic Basin, it is worth it.

Blueberries are ripe and scattered along the upper trail but few wildflowers were blooming at this time of the year. The bugs were noticeable, especially while working on and in my ears, but really not bad. The trail is muddy in places and there a few blow downs that caused no real problems. The trail is completely snow-free now.

Were back at the trailhead around 4:45 and found most parking spots, at least on the main road, taken.

FYI: There is a toilet in the upper parking lot across the road from the lot along the highway. There is also a primitive toilet just up the trail once you leave the old Monte Cristo road.

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Gothic Basin.jpg
Foggy Lake. Photo by Braincloud.
Gothic Basin (#724)
North Cascades -- Mountain Loop Highway
Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest
Roundtrip 9.0 miles
Elevation Gain 2840 ft
Highest Point 5200 ft
Mountain views
Established campsites
Guidebooks & Maps
Day Hiking: North Cascades (Romano - Mountaineers Books)
Green Trails Sloan Peak No. 111
Monte Cristo No. 143

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

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