The hike to Gothic Basin is a more a steep rugged climb. Its proximity to the nearby Monte-Cristo town site limits the number of people that hike up to the basin. So, many will use this as an alternative to the Town site. Each time I have come here it has solidified its place as one of my favorite destinations in Washington.
With ample places to camp and side trips to two peaks available, it makes for a great one night escape from life. Make sure to start early as the trail is largely exposed to the sun for the majority of the day.
To get to the basin, follow the Monte-Cristo road until just before the log crossing of Weden Creek. At this point follow the Weden Creek trail as it winds alongside Weden creek. After about a half-mile or so the trail starts to climb with urgency as it switchbacks upward. This part will feel like an eternity and is where many people give up. You will gain 1300 feet in a little over a mile.
Since the trail renovations during 2013 and 2014, there is now a path that leads directly away from Monte Cristo road. There is an obvious sign on your right about 1 mile in. No need to walk to the river anymore.
After the first steep climb, you exit the woods your reward is an up-close view of Skykomish peak. You will also encounter the first of three creek crossings. Depending on the time of year you hike Gothic Basin the creek crossings will vary. I have seen them be everything from snowfields to trickling creeks. WTA almost always has
For the last 4 years I have visited the basin each year. I have found the easiest time to get into the basin is usually after July 1st. It will limit severe creek crossings and snowfields. By mid-July the trail is almost always snow-free. Past the creek crossings the trail continues to wind along the side of Del Campo as it gains elevation.
After about 3 miles you will reach a magnificent waterfall formation named Kong’s Tower. I am not sure how it got its name, but never the less it makes an excellent spot to stop.
From here, it is around 1 mile of steep climbing into the basin below Gothic Peak. When you first enter the basin, there is a small tarn.
Follow the scramble route to the left; it will take you to Foggy Lake. It is another 300 feet of elevation gain, but this is where the best camping is for an overnight trip.
If you feel the courage and have the skill, try out the scramble route up Del Campo as an excellent side trip.
It is sad to see so little snow in this basin in mid-June. Normally you can’t get up the Gothic Basin hike until early August. Nonetheless, it was a perfect two days to make the trek. There was sun forecast and I thought I may actually take a dip in Foggy lake. I was also planning to attempt another scramble of Del Campo.
The cleanup underway at the Monte Cristo Townsite has pushed traffic toward this hike. There is always a lot of people along this trail but it was hard to walk sometimes on this trip. Hopefully next year it goes back to normal. Despite the increased traffic we still found an excellent campsite near the lake. I tried to scramble Del Campo again but tore my injured finger back open.
The hike up to Gothic Basin along the Weden Creek trail has long remained one of my perennial favorites. Most likely because it is the site was my first solo overnight destination and my first solo scramble on Del Campo. The first section of the trail along the Monte Cristo Road was in excellent shape. So was the new trail to Gothic Basin established in 2015. Despite rain falling, the first views of Silver Tip Peak were fantastic as always.
I thought after my recent hike up to Vesper Lake there was a good chance of encountering substantial snow cover. But until you reach the area past Kong’s tower, the hike to the Gothic basin is snow-free.
In some spots, there was around a foot of snow on the ground. The tricky part was that in several sections, the trail had frozen into a several-inch thick layer of ice. Microspikes were a tremendous help to get through these areas. Without them, it does not seem possible to get all the way into the basin this time of year.
Despite the heavy cloud cover and rain of the day, the views inside of the Gothic Basin were as astounding as ever. Del Campo and Gothic Peaks were both covered up but Foggy lake was, well, foggy.
Getting up to Foggy lake was the toughest part of the day. The Snow was of questionable quality everywhere and the rock was all icy. I managed to make it but for the less experienced you may want to enjoy the lower basin for the time being.
Elena was looking for a place to get some photography time in for the weekend. She had mentioned before that Gothic Basin was somewhere she wanted to go, but with our high snow year, it was inaccessible into early July. Recent reports indicated it had finally cleared up, so we headed for the trail late in the day. Elena has been practicing night photos and we didn’t want much downtime once we had camp set up.
The trail up to the basin has not changed much in all the years I have been hiking here. Outside the new cutoff trail from the Monte Cristo road, which was built around 2014, Weden Creek Trail remains a rough boot path.
I always seem to forget, maybe willfully, how difficult the first major hill is. Despite becoming a much more hardened hiker since the first time I ever hiked up to Gothic Basin that hill still kills me. It is long, steep, and plain boring. There is no view to enjoy and that always makes it seem never ending.
My favorite part of the hike up the Weden creek trail will forever be Kongs Tower. It was deathly hot the day we came up here. As soon as we reached the stair-stepped cascade, I ran up to it, tore my shoes off, and stood in the refreshing mist.
Since we left late in the day, most of the camping was gone by the time we arrived. But since I have explored the basin many times I know a few hidden spots, so we managed to still find a camp close to Foggy lake to rest for the night.
The most pleasant surprise of the night came after the sun went down. I fell asleep early since I wanted to climb Del Campo the next day. But around 1 am Elena woke me up to help her get some photos of the tent lit up in the night sky. She sounded overly excited so I helped the best I could in my half-asleep state. It wasn’t until morning that she showed me why she was excited. She managed to catch a flash of the Northern Lights. Later some people would tell her that it wasn’t the aurora. It was some mild version of it with another name. But either way, those photos felt stunning.