Location: Mountain Loop Highway near Granite Falls
Land Agency: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Service and Washington Department of Natural Resources
Roundtrip: 9.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,900 feet
Green Trails Maps: Sloan Peak, WA-No. 111; Monte Cristo, WA- No. 143
Access: From Granite Falls follow the Mountain Loop Highway east for 31 miles to Barlow Pass. Hike begins by walking up gated Monte Cristo Road.
Contact: Darrington Ranger District: Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest
Notes: Northwest Forest or Interagency Pass required; trail is a rough scramble in spots and should not be attempted by young children; campfires prohibited; when exploring the basin, travel only on rock and snow to protect fragile rare alpine plants
Good to Know: backpacking option; historic, basin in WA DNR Morning Star Natural Resources Conservation Area
The name alone of this rugged and spectacular basin should lure you in for a hike. Located high above the Sauk River valley near the old mining district of Monte Cristo, Gothic Basin is one of the most stunning destinations off of the Mountain Loop Highway.
Is it Gothic? Perhaps, for this stark and mysterious basin harbors hidden tarns and disappearing waterways, and is surrounded by spiraling peaks. Once the domain of hardscrabble miners, it was these fortune seekers who built the path to it over a century ago. It hasn’t been upgraded much, so count on an adventure. It’s a challenging hike on steep and rocky terrain.
Start by hiking the gated Monte Cristo Road for one easy mile coming to the Weden Creek Trail just before the Twin Bridges. Take this trail right into old-growth forest. After paralleling the South Fork Sauk River, reach a tributary (which can be tricky to cross during high water), and begin to steeply climb.
Toil up slopes shrouded in scrappy forest. Then after a mile of serious ascending break out onto a spectacular ledge complete with a waterfall crashing down a cleft. In early summer lingering snow can make crossing this cleft dangerous. It should be smooth sailing by late summer, however.
With views opening up to the Monte Cristo mélange of mountains, continue upward. Cross two more clefts complete with cataracts (both potentially dangerous if snow covered). Encounter more creek crossings and a few ledges requiring use of hands. Pass ruins of the Consolidated Mine. Here ore was transported to the valley floor via a tramway.
Now continue hiking over scoured rock and ledge and through heather meadows to the basin. At about 4.0 miles from Barlow Pass, the trail ends at a small tarn. Explorations however, have only just begun Follow sketchy tread northwest to ledges and polished rock for another half mile to gorgeous Foggy Lake (el. 5,200 feet). Flanked by Gothic and Del Campo Peaks and denude of any shoreline vegetation, Foggy is a starkly beautiful alpine lake. But only when not shrouded in murky mist—then it’s just stark!
Newly Released! Get your FREE Copy of the 2015-2016 Hiking in Snohomish County full color booklet featuring detailed information on 32 Snohomish County hikes.