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: 4 Miles Round Trip to Picnic Area
6.6 Miles Round Trip to Viewpoint
Permits: No permits required (park on side of highway near yellow gate)
Elevation Gain: 100 - 300 ft
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
My Hiking Time: 3 hours 15 minutes (to viewpoint)
With winter fading in the mountains I decided to take one more chance for some snowshoeing. So I headed up to Mountain Loop Highway for an easy track to follow. To my surprise they had recently plowed the highway, and yet the gate still remained locked. Undeterred, I headed out walking along the highway. While I was disappointed that the highway had been plowed I was excited to sit below Big Four and eat some lunch. Unfortunately I had to share the road with dump trucks, snow plows and other county vehicles throughout the day. So if the road looks plowed, I wold not recommend continuing on foot.
Luckily I made it to the picnic area unscathed, and was excited to see a fair amount of snow. After putting on my shoes and walking over to a picnic table, I was lucky enough to witness a small avalanche cascading down the face of Big Four mountain while eating some g.o.r.p. It was an awesome sight, but hearing the crackle of other avalanches throughout the day was a little unnerving as I approached the ice caves.
It should be noted that visiting the actual ice caves during the winter is dangerous and should only be attempted by those with training in travel through avalanche terrain and avalanche rescue. However, if you are able to follow the trail towards the ice caves, then you can stop where it warns that you are entering avalanche terrain. Just remember that you continue past the picnic area at your own risk.
Just above the avalanche area signs, there lies a small hill marked on green trail map No. 110 as “viewpoint”, this is where I stopped. It provided a decent view of where the caves will be in a few months, and a nice glimpse of some waterfalls starting to build on the mountain's face. But the journey through the woods also provided a much more interesting walk than Mountain Loop Highway.
Overall this trail was easy, and provided there is still snow on the highway, would be a great first snowshoe trip with kids or people new to the sport. The road is relatively level beyond the gate, and if you go on a weekday than you might just find some nice solitude (I saw no other hikers all day). How far you go beyond the picnic area depends on your skill and comfort level. Certainly I will be returning here next year while the highway is still blanketed in white.
*note that these directions are approximate. During winter the gate is closed approximately 12 miles past the Verlot ranger station, near deer creek road.
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.