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.
First views after leaving the woods (Silver Tip Peak)
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.
Del Campo and Foggy lake at sunset
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, 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, you will find it just as difficult. It is for this reason that I will continue to return for many years to come.