dogs on leash
Very steep!!! Next day my whole is sore. I guess I'm still a rookie at hiking. But when me and my buddy finally made it to the top and down to Margaret Lake, it was worth it. Beautiful crystal clear waters with fish jumping every minute. kinda cool! Would not do it again. It's rated Moderate. I rate it Difficult and intense. It's a little tricky finding the right trails to the lake so pay close attention. Good luck!
First of all, ignore the listed length of this hike. 6.5 miles is an inaccurate extrapolation of the present realities of this trail. The road to the trail head is washed out. There is some considerable length added to this hike. (My pedometer gauged 11.7 miles round trip.)
Once you actually make it to the trail head, be prepared for a switchback challenge for the better part of your day. This was a grueling hike, and worth every drop of sweat! The lake is impossibly beautiful.
Don't be daunted by the reality of this challenging hike, but be prepared to commit yourself for the better part of a day. I started at 7:30 AM, and made it back to my car at 4:30 PM. On the hike down, about 1/2 mile into the trail, I met a group of eager people, with smiles on their faces, asking me cheerfully if they were almost there. I just smiled sympathetically, and told them, "Good luck!" Make sure to be ready for a committed hike, with a view at the end which will definitely make it worth the trip!
Arrived at the Barlow Pass parking lot at 6:55 on a Thursday (9/15) morning, ready for a grueling adventure and personal challenge: to complete Gothic Basin, explore Monte Cristo Ghost Town and tackle Glacier Basin – all in one day. To do this, I know I needed to start early and bring a mountain bicycle in order to conserve some energy.
PART 1: GOTHIC BASIN
I took to my bicycle and peddled down the hill (go left) on the gravel road until you see the big metal gate (to the right). This is the road that will take you to Monte Cristo. My first stop, though, was to hike to Gothic Basin (9.2 miles RT). The new trail is being worked on - go straight at 'Proceed at Your Own Risk' sign. Follow the ribbons, which take you around the washout area. Had to walk my bicycle by my side occasionally, which wasn't a big deal considering the amount of waking it had already saved me (and would later on).
Arrived at the Weden Creek Gothic Basin #724 trail ~1 mile in. Parked my bicycle next to the trailhead and started hiking at 7:15 am. The trail is flat at first, following the river and traveling across the occasional wooden boardwalk. It then cuts across a stream and starts pushing upward. Rocky terrain and tricky footing are given relief by periodic switchbacks. Break out of the trees once you reach DNR Managed Lands (there is a sign) and enjoy expansive views of neighboring peaks, the valley floor below and towering peaks above you. The trail becomes more rugged as it steepens, but remains easy to follow. Entered Gothic Basin at 8:55 am. Follow the trail to the right if you want to visit Foggy Lake. The lake more closely resembled a pond, but still offered nice reflections of the rocky terrain surrounding. Beyond the lake, I spent an hour doing a small loop around the basin. There are quite a few fairly distinct trails to follow so you "Leave No Trace." Quite a few picturesque camping spots, 2-3 of which were occupied at the time. There's also a beautiful multi-teared waterfall that leads to an impressive overlook above Weden Lake. Overall, a beautiful area with much to explore. Started my descent at 10:10 am. Passed 8 other day hikers and 2 groups of backpackers. Arrived back at the Weden Creek Gothic Basin #724 trail at 11:10 am.
PART 2: MONTE CRISTO GHOST TOWN
Grabbed my bicycle and easily crossed the shallow river by hopping across rocks. Might have to seek out a log of two other times of the year when the river might be higher. Crossed two wooden bridges along the way to a short but gnarly part of Monte Cristo Road where large gathering of rocks make it difficult to walk and impossible to ride a bicycle. Bounced my bicycle beside me. There were quite a few uphill sections that forced me to walk the bicycle beside me, but was still able to ride about half the distance.
Ditched the bicycle and did a quick walk through the Monte Cristo Townsite, trying to envision what it would be like to live in this small mining town in the 1890s. There are mostly wooden signs pointing out where certain buildings were once built, but there are some structures still standing and a few relics remain scattered around the area. Perhaps the most interesting was the Railway Turntable, which was used to turn the train the opposite direction... still rotates! Pamplets from the Monte Cristo Preservation Association are available along your tour - this include a map and some interesting historical facts.
PART 3: GLACIER BASIN
Follow the signs to Glacier Basin as you wander through Dumas Street and the rest of Monte Cristo. I departed from the official Glacier Basin No. 719 trailhead at 12:20 pm. The first part of the 2+ mile trail is a shaded old forest road. The trail then narrows and climbs steadily. In the distance, Glacier Falls cascades beautifully down massive rocks and craggy peaks spike the horizon. Once you reach Glacier Falls, the trail intensifies and the incline is significant. At one point there is an option to grab a rope to help propel you forward (and allow you to hold on as you descend as well). Lots of elevation gain, obstacles and scrambling from here to the top. Arrived at Glacier Basin at 1:10 pm. A pretty basin, smaller in comparison to Gothic Basin, but one that features more ominous peaks surrounding it. More vegetation, too. There are massive rocks sitting throughout the basin and a creek that calmly meanders around them. A few snowfields covering the rock slides above. Plenty of evidence of mining activity in the form of cables, pipes and the holes (now blasted shut) on the hillsides. Explored the basin for about 45 minutes and then made it back into "town" by 2:35 pm.
THE ROAD HOME (BRING YOUR BIKE!)
This is the part where the bicycle really pays off. Instead of walking the 4 miles back to Barlow Pass, I was able to ride (or rather, coast) the majority of the way back from Monte Carlo. And when there are already at least 20+ strenuous miles logged already, it is a complete joy to not walk anymore.
Note: The map application calculates the total to 6.6 Miles. But that is incorrect. The tails is ~8 Miles out and back.
The first 2.8 Miles are relatively easy. The last ~1 Mile is an incline and moderate to difficult depending on your experience and stamina.
beautiful lake!! wished it had a sign anoucing virgin lake, n just an extra sign to let u that u are almost at blanca.. sometimes i thougth i could have been going tje wrong way.. but over all beautiful hike, hard since its all uphill going towards blanca lots of rocks.
Got to the trailhead by 8am on a Wed and went straight up no breaks. It was worth the effort, 'cause my dog and I had the lake to ourselves for a good 30-45 min. It was truly serene. Popped up to Bridal Veil Falls on the way down and that was impressive too. This was a solid hike and I thoroughly enjoyed it.