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Gothic Basin

North Cascades

Location

North Cascades -- Mountain Loop Highway
View map below

Length

9.2 miles, roundtrip

Elevation

Gain: 2840 ft.
Highest Point: 5200 ft.

Rating

4.54 out of 5

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WTA worked here: 2018
 

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass
 
 

Gothic Basin sits within the Morning Star Natural Resources Conservation Area, managed by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. This is a special designation to protect ecologically significant areas. Gothic Basin supports a fragile ecosystem that provides habitat to endangered and threatened species of plants and animals. Please respect this area by following Leave No Trace principles such as camping and walking on durable surfaces and packing out all waste. 

Gothic Basin will thrill and enthrall those who pay the admission. Day hikers will wish they’d brought their tents and bags and the backpackers will ache from shouldering the load. But neither will be disappointed. Be wary of this trail's apparently lowish elevation gain and mileage. The miners who constructed it had little time for switchback or nicely graded trails.

It is quite steep at times and even includes a scramble or two. Steep sections remain snow-covered late into the season, and once it begins to melt out, snow bridges appear. Note also that depending on how far you wander once you arrive in the basin, your total mileage may vary from what is posted here.

Your hike begins at the parking area in Barlow Pass with a one-mile road walk down a closed road that parallels the Sauk River. From the large parking lot, walk east along the highway for about 200 feet to a large gate with two signs requesting you to keep the area clear. Pass the sign and hike the closed road for one mile, looking for a trail heading off to the right and an outhouse, your last best bet for relief before the trail hits exposed talus fields that characterize the upper section of the trail.and into the woods.

After turning off the road, it's an easy half-mile of forest rambling before Weeden Creek must be crossed. Take a moment to appreciate a scenic waterfall here--the trail begins climbing steadily as soon as you make the crossing. The business of ascending begins in earnest after Weeden Creek, with intermittent views and creek crossings. Several spots along this trail require light scrambling over frequently wet rocks.

Take your time and enjoy the views, both micro and macro. The peaks of the Monte Cristo area loom off to your left. Some mining remnants remain, and crazy abundances of wildflowers choke the trail well into the end of July. Snow crossings also last until late in the season. As always, caution should be exercised as the trail can be blocked or made difficult to navigate by avalanche run-outs late into the season. Scrambling is necessary year-round in this section, so be sure you're comfortable with doing so before embarking on this adventure.

Once in Gothic Basin, you'll be greeted first by Gothic Lake, gateway to this special place and deserving of much respect. Melting ponds, gurgling brooks, chirping marmots, and towering rock faces greet you in every direction. The temptation is to wander aimlessly. Instead, remember the Leave No Trace principles and confine your travels to durable surfaces such as rock and snow. If you’re looking for further wandering, head to Foggy Lake, off to the right as you follow periodic cairns and the most prominent footpath. Allow yourself extra time to find the path and to appreciate the natural beauty surrounding you.

WTA Pro Tip: This is a popular area for camping. On a sunny weekend, start early to allow plenty of time to find a site. Designated as a Natural Resources Conservation Area, Gothic Basin is an extremely fragile ecosystem. Be sure that you're camping on an established site or sturdy surface, like rock or dirt, and avoid camping in meadows or grasses, as this can damage the landscape. Leave no trace by packing out all trash. You’ll also want a bear can, as there are no trees in Gothic Basin suitable for a bear line.

 

Gothic Basin

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 48.0261, -121.4425 Open map in new window

Trailhead

North Cascades -- Mountain Loop Highway

Weeden Creek Trail (#724)

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Darrington Ranger District and Washington State Department of Natural Resources - Morning Star Natural Resources Conservation Area

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Getting There

Take Highway 92 to its end in Granite Falls. At the T intersection near the east end of town, turn left onto the Mountain Loop Highway. Follow this road 11 miles to the Verlot Ranger Station for maps, permits, and latest trail information. 19.3 miles past the ranger station is Barlow Pass and the end of paved road. Here you will find a parking lot on the left (north) side of the road.

Parking is available both on the road and at a Forest Service trailhead parking lot near the end of the paved road. Restrooms are available here as well.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass
 

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Gothic Basin

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