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Field Report: Gothic Basin

Let's say it up front: this scenic hike is worth the hustle, but it's not for the faint of heart.

The route splits off from the trail to Monte Cristo (accessed from Barlow Pass). In the space of 4.5 miles, the trail gains 2,840 ft. in elevation. The path starts in forest and pastoral wetlands fed by mountain waterfalls. Then, the ascent begins: switchbacks carry you steeply up to the slopes of Silvertip Peak. 

Chipmunks skitter through the trees, ice bridges melt into waterfalls, the trail winds over rocks. Fair warning: part of the trip requires extensive rock scrambling.


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You'll cross waterfalls and see great vistas: valleys opening up into the blue haze of the North Cascades. 

The gain in elevation can be rough on the knees. Bring hiking poles and extra water. If hiking during wildfire season or the peak of summer heat, be sure to rest and take a breather. I'm a rather seasoned hiker but found myself stopping regularly to breathe deeply due to summer smoke.


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But the views in and from the basin? Incredible.

Gothic Basin itself is like a lunar landscape with waterfalls. Summer flowers and heather pop out of jagged rock formations, waterfalls and pools of glacial melt offer welcome respite to the footsore hiker. Stop and splash in these pools and rest awhile. 

Gothic Basin itself is often filled with snow until late in the season. You can camp there, which is recommended: the view of the water and rocks in the basin at sundown and sunrise are enough to fill the most city-hardened soul. 

So worth it!


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A few things to know before you go:

-You'll need a Forest Pass. These are readily available en route, as you drive up the Mountain Loop Highway to the Barlow Pass Trailhead.

-There's no cell reception on the Gothic Basin Trail. Notify someone of your whereabouts before setting out, and be sure to pack the 10 essentials.

-If you like hikes, be sure to check out the free PDF of our Seattle NorthCountry Hiking Guide

-Always check recent WTA reports before hitting the trail. 

Have fun out there, and be safe!


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