Miles: about 3 round trip (From Foggy Lake)
Elevation Gain: 1413 ft
Permits: Northwest Forest Pass at trail head
My Hiking time: 3 hrs from Foggy Lake
Climbing Del Campo starts off with an easy climb up a gentle hill, but don't be fooled for the last half of the climb turns into a steep scramble, The payoff however, is well worth the effort if you can stick it out.
To begin the climb up Del Campo, head north around the edge of Foggy Lake which can be reached via the Weden Creek Trail. After crossing an easy boulder field and rounding a small pond on a climbers path, the path begins to climb up the side of Del Campo Peak. For the first 1/2 to 3/4 miles the trail follows easy paths through a vegetation filled hill side.
At the end of the first hill, climb through the boulder field to a permanent snow field. From here either follow others foot steps across the snowfield or cross where you choose. Once across, head towards the small gully just above the snow field. Go 2/3 of the way up and go left.
From here either the route will be cairned or not. On this occasion I had to find my own route to the summit and got into a couple of scary situations. Then again a little adrenaline is never a bad thing. There is a lot of loose rock up on the mountain so a helmet is strongly advised. My only complaint is that the summit was swarming with bugs and I had forgotten my bug spray. Still, the view made me not care for at least a few minutes while I signed the register and took some pictures.
At the end of the scramble you will be on the summit enjoying some fairly spectacular views (see below). If you would like to leave your permanent mark on the mountain there is an ammo box in between some rocks near the highest point on the summit. There are a few pens in there but some of them are no longer working. After a short time of resting on the summit, I was excited to get back to my camp so I could watch the sunset while I enjoyed my dinner.
-- Summit Views --
Miles: 9 Round trip
Elevation Gain: 2361 ft. (2900 ft. to Foggy Lake)
Permits: Northwest Forest Pass at trail head
My Hiking time: 2 Days (2 hrs 49 min to basin / 2 hrs 20 min back to car)
The trail to Gothic Basin is rugged, steep and scenic. Best of all its proximity to the nearby Monte-Cristo town site limits the number of people that hike up to the basin, ensuring at least some reprieve from Washington's very busy hiking trails. Each time I have come here it has solidified its place as one of my favourite destinations in Washington. With ample places to camp and side trips to two peaks available, it makes for a great 1 night escape from life. Just 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, gently at first, alongside Weden creek. After about a half mile or so the trail starts to climb with urgency as it switchbacks upward for what seems like an eternity. This portion is probably the most difficult part of the entire hike as it gains around 1300 ft in 1 mile. For some it may be no problem but for others it may be relatively difficult.
Upon exiting the woods you are first rewarded with an up close and personal view of Silvertip Peak. You will also encounter the first of three creek crossings. Depending on the time of year you hike the trail, and yearly weather patterns, the creek crossings will vary from completely snow covered to an easy step over a few stones. For the last 4 years I have visited the basin each year and can say that the easiest time to get into the basin without a lot of snow crossings, including the creeks, is late August or early September. However, generally around mid July the hike is doable without any extra gear.
Once you have navigated the creek crossings the trail continues to wind along the side of a hill below Del Campo as it slowly gains elevation toward the basin. After about 3 miles you will reach a magnificent waterfall formation, apparently named Kong's Tower. I am not sure how it got its name, but never the less it makes an excellent spot to stop, take some pictures and just take in the view before continuing on. From here it is around 1 mile of moderately steep climbing into the basin below Gothic Peak.
The lower basin itself is an excellent place to stop and take in the views of The Crested Buttes, Sheep Gap Mtn and a small glimpse of Gothic Peak. This is also where many day hikers eat their lunch turn around and head home. Some make the mistake of thinking the small pond at the bottom of the basin is Foggy Lake, but Foggy Lake is located uphill to the west from the entrance to the basin. If you want to see it your legs will have to do just a little more work.
Foggy Lake is a fairly large alpine lake settled in between Gothic Peak and Del Campo mountain. It usually has ice floating in it all year but I have witnessed people jumping into it nearly every time I have been there. It also has ample camping spots and several side trips for those with legs left In them after the climb to the basin.
For one side trip you can follow a faint climbers trail up to the ridge of Gothic Peak for a good view south (some days as far as Mt Rainier). This trail can also be followed to the top of Gothic Peak, but this involves some scrambling that may not be for some people. For this trip I decided to head the opposite way to scramble up Del Campo. You can read about the scramble by following the link.
After reaching the top of Del Campo and returning to camp it seemed time to cook dinner, relax and enjoy the view. One of the reasons this place has become special to me is the brilliant display of Alpine glow that occurs on a clear summers evening. Seemingly the whole basin lights up with splashes of yellow, red, orange and pink making for a spectacular way to eat your dinner, or at least an unforgettable one. After watching the sun fall and the moon rise, I felt it was time to retire to my tent for the evening.
No matter how many times I come here or how difficult it has been for me to get there the hardest thing for me to do is leave. My feeling is that for anyone else who appreciates the rugged beauty of this place will find it just as difficult. It is for this reason that I will continue to return for many years to come.
Miles: 11 (19 with High Divide trail)
Permits: Northwest Forest Pass (trail head) / Back country permits (camping)
Elevation Gain: 4000 ft. (TH elevation 1850 ft)
My Hiking time: 6 hours
Much like its next door neighbour, Church Mountain, Excelsior Pass / Peak trail will make your knees shake with exhaustion. From the parking lot on the side of Mt. Baker Highway the trail begins to climb through thick forest, and for much of the hike this is what you will face as you trudge up hill. After about a mile and a half you will reach a bend in the trail with a nearby waterfall. This is the first campsite, but it is small and nearly on the trail making it seem less than ideal.
After what seems like an eternity the trail finally leaves the woods and steps into a spectacular meadow. From here you can rest assured that after suffering through the first portion of the trail, you will begin to be well rewarded. In the open now, the trail gives way to views of waterfalls and, at the time of this writing, fields of blooming wild flowers. After passing through the meadow it is just a couple of switch backs up the hill to arrive at Excelsior Pass. For some this will be a great place to stop and take in views of Shuksan and Baker before heading back to the car. For others the trail has much more to offer.
By continuing to follow the trail around the south face of Excelsior Peak, you will be given two options. Eventually you can go to the left (Excelsior Peak) or you can go right (High Divide). On this day I decided to go right first (High Divide) hoping to enjoy more views of surrounding peaks and to lengthen such an incredible day. The High Divide trail continues past Excelsior Peak trail and along a ridge that connects the Welcome Pass trail to the Excelsior Pass trail. The views along this trail are hard to beat and should be a lasting memory for anyone who feels the energy to walk a few extra miles (up to 8 round trip)
After returning from a stroll down High Divide, I decided it was time to head up Excelsior Peak. from the trail junction it is only about 500 ft of elevation gain and 0.1 miles to the top of Excelsior Peak. From here you will have a nearly 360 degree view of the North Cascades making it a perfect spot to take in the view for awhile before heading home.
Somehow I managed to walk all of the High Divide trail, climb Excelsior Peak, and return to the car without seeing another individual. That is truly an accomplishment in the North Cascades and made for and incredible outing.
Miles: 8.5 round trip
Permits: Northwest Forest Pass required at trail head
Elevation Gain: 3600 ft (TH elev. 2400 ft)
Difficulty: Difficult to Strenuous (very steep, may make it more difficult for some people)
My Hiking Time: 5 hours
When you reach the end of the trail, you can choose to stop and take in the exceptional views, or if you choose you can continue on a little ways and then scramble to the actual summit (6100 ft). From here you can see well into Canada and will have a 360 degree view that is hard to beat.
The trail up Church Mountain is long, steep and at times, discouraging. It starts of from the parking lot on an old road and after a quarter mile it turns and begins the climb. Through thick tree cover the trail climbs up 17 switch backs and provides no views as a distraction. In all honesty this portion of the trail is unappealing and mind numbing. However, for those who can push through the monotony of the first portion will certainly reap their reward.
Now out of the trees, the view improves with nearly every step. It is something that must be experienced to understand. All I can say is that the mountain is aptly named and anyone who chooses to climb its steep slopes will be rewarded with some of the most astonishing views the North Cascades have to offer.
If you want to camp on Church Mountain then there are several options listed below*:
*note - After snow melt there is very little to no water near any of the camps. Make sure to carry a sufficient supply of water.
My name is Abrahm and I am a college student, and outdoor enthusiast . I spend much of my free time wandering through and photographing the great Pacific Northwest state of Washington.