Low snow years are never that great for the environment, but they do open up the doors for high-elevation backpacking early in the season. My husband and I and friend Evan got really lucky over 4th of July this year and were treated to a completely snow-free backpacking trip in the North Cascades. Our objective? Gothic Basin. This trail does not mess around. 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. Knowing that this is also a popular place to camp, we really hauled ass up those steep sections and my legs were aching with the occasional scrambles involved. The reward was unmatched though, and this will forever remain to be one of my favorite backpacking trips.
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. We swam in the (shockingly warm) lake, enjoyed views of the surrounding volcanoes, and of course a tasty meal at camp to reward ourselves for the day’s work. We enjoyed a candy-colored sunset, followed by an insanely beautiful sunrise after scrambling up a hill near our campsite. The next day we attempted a scramble of Del Campo Peak, but were not equipped with helmets so decided to turn back. That will definitely be one to head back to someday!
On our way out we decided to search for some of the old mines located throughout the area. To our delight we found one one, tucked in a canyon with a tiny little sidewalk cliff as an entrance. The mine was filled with standing water so we didn’t get too far with rock hopping. It was eerie and interesting to see such a thing tucked deep in the wilderness. A couple hours later and a knee-pounding experience down, we returned to our car and began the trek back to Seattle. This was a Fourth of July I will remember forever, free of crowds and surrounded by the peace of the mountains. View more details about this trail on Washington Trails Association.