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Gothic Basin

North Cascades > Mountain Loop Highway
48.0261, -121.4425 Map & Directions
9.2 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain
2,840 feet
Highest Point
5,200 feet
Calculated Difficulty About Calculated Difficulty

Mountain Loop Highway is closed from Deer Creek (milepost 24) to Bedal Creek (milepost 36) for the winter.

Photo by trip reporter kidz won't hike. Full-size image
  • Wildflowers/Meadows
  • Mountain views
  • Rivers
  • Lakes
  • Waterfalls

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass
Saved to My Backpack

Rough and tumble is the trail, just like the miners that constructed this path. Though not always easy, the ascent to Gothic Basin, has tremendous rewards. Early on, one simply meanders along side the relentless South Fork of the Sauk. Quickly though this trail will turn to a no-nonsense bee-line to the basin with waterfalls, flowers, and views of the surrounding mountains to keep one distracted. The ultimate rewards come to those who have enough strength to explore the basin after the ascent. Continue reading

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Hiking Gothic Basin

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.

WTA worked here in 2018, 2017 and 2016!

Hike Description Written by
Austin Smith, WTA Correspondent

Gothic Basin

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 48.0261, -121.4425 Open in Google Maps

Before You Go

Mountain Loop Highway is closed from Deer Creek (milepost 24) to Bedal Creek (milepost 36) for the winter.

See weather forecast

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Northwest Forest Pass

WTA Pro Tip: Save a copy of our directions before you leave! App-based driving directions aren't always accurate and data connections may be unreliable as you drive to the trailhead.

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.

More Hike Details


North Cascades > Mountain Loop Highway

Weeden Creek Trail (#724)

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

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Gothic Basin

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