Let’s say it up front: this scenic hike is worth the hustle, but it’s not for the faint of heart.
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.
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. While the 9.2 miles round trip seems innocent at first, know that this trail was built by miners many years ago who didn’t have time for switchbacks.
When you reach Gothic Basin, Foggy lake sits in the basin with Del Campo Peak towering above. There are endless day-trip options and sweet little peak scrambles all over the place. 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.
Gothic Peak is the close neighbor of slightly higher Del Campo Peak. Together they share Gothic Basin, Foggy Lake and are separated by 5500 foot Foggy Pass. The triple summit crags and exposed glacier cut slabs of granite above Foggy Lake give Gothic Peak it’s unique appearance and peakbagger appeal. The three summits are oriented from north to south with the southern crag being the highest. Only the east face above the Lake offers a gentle slope. The west and south faces are composed of serious cliffs. On a clear day the scramble up Gothic Peak yields an inspiring panorama of the mountainous terrain in this stretch of the North Cascades. From the summit, Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan stand out to the north; Del Campo, Sloan, and Glacier are arrayed to the east; Stuart and Mount Daniel are visible on the southeast horizon; Rainier looms to the south; and Pilchuck and the Olympics are off to the west.
The trail up Del Campo Peak heads north around the edge of Foggy Lake at the top of Gothic Basin. To get into the basin you need to follow the Weden Creek Trail. After crossing an easy boulder field and rounding a small pond on a climbers path, you will begin to climb up the side of Del Campo. For the first 1/2 or 3/4 of a mile the trail follows easy paths through a vegetation filled hillside.
At the end of the first hill, climb leads through the boulder field to a small notch and from here you can locate a few cairns as a general guideline. These may not be reliable, but the notch will be easy to spot once onto the boulder field. From here the route has up Del Campo Peak has abundant cairns most years.
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.