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Gothic Basin: 2 Epic Days in One of Washingtons Finest

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Gothic Basin. 

View of Gothic Basin from above

Not many a brave soul attempt to go here and the few who do don’t always survive. A thrilling adventure awaits those who dare to wander here.

Kidding. I just like a slightly dramatic entrance to a blog post, don’t you? Gothic Basin is not actually some kind of death threat, but it definitely isn’t a hike for beginners or the faint-hearted. Truth be told, there are people who don’t even survive the easiest of hikes, due to unforeseen circumstances, but we aren’t here to be debbie-downers. We are here to learn about this breathtakingly gorgeous Pacific Northwest Hike.

Inside Gothic Basin, Washington State, View of Mountains

One of Many Views Inside Gothic Basin

Settled in the north-eastern quarter of Washington State, as part of the Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Gothic Basin is a hike you don’t want to miss.

Table of contents for a quick read of this Gothic Basin post.

It is best viewed between July and October, according to several websites. We went at the end of August and I would have to say, we couldn’t have picked a better time to go. The weather was absolutely perfect. And we are so glad to have chosen this hike. 

I couldn’t be more grateful for all the hard work I’ve been putting in to up my hiking and backpacking capabilities. Ask me to do this a few years ago, I wouldn’t believe that I could carry 35 lbs on my back for 13 miles, let alone considering the elevation gain.

Depending on which website and GPS tracker you use, Gothic Basin’s round trip hike boasts a hefty 10-13 miles round trip, the hike in being maybe ½ mile of flat before it begins going up the rest of the way. According to WTA.org, 2840 elevation gain. According to All Trails, 3284, and according to another website, 3090. One of these days, GPS’s will agree.

Regardless, it’s a challenging hike. With the way in being basically all up hill, you can bet you’ll be taking a few breaks to catch your breath, but you will want to stop along the way anyways to soak up all the beautiful views. (Back to top)

panoramic view of gothic basin trail in verlot, washington, wildflowers and mountain views

Panoramic view of the trail

My camera memory card had a glitch on the way in, so the beginning of my hike’s photos are lost, but count on fat trees and mossy forests. You’ll pass a couple of trickling brooks and foot bridges and then begin to ascend. A little over halfway through, the view begins to open up and wow, if you are not out of breath from the hike, these views will take your breath away. I must have stopped to take photos every 10 feet of basically the same thing; it just never stopped being GORGEOUS.

A waterfall along Gothic Basin Trail in Verlot Washington, Girl facing waterfall wearing backpack

One of several waterfalls on the way up

We passed several waterfalls that would make a good hike just on their own and had we not begun our hike at 2 pm, I would have taken a very long lunch break here. One of them almost created a chasm and it was an exciting experience figuring out how to navigate with our packs on. In a couple of places, the natural stairs on the trail were a bit too high to just put a leg up, so I had to put up my trekking pole and use my hands to hoist myself up. (Back to top)

Girl climbing by the side of a drop along Gothic Basin Trail

Girl climbing along a tree-covered trail, cascade mountains in the distance, gothic basin trail

Where’s Waldo?

I know towards the end, we were racing against the sunset, wondering if we would get there before it went behind the tall mountains. I don’t recommend starting at 2 PM if you want a leisurely hike, but we enjoyed ourselves even though we were pressed for time. We did have a few stretch breaks and snack breaks along the way. It’s only necessary to keep your body well-fueled!  

There was a tempting campsite about a mile from the top who’s view would suffice anyone who is not determined to know what lies at the final destination, but we wanted to make it all the way.

Girl with Backpack looking at Alpine Lake, Gothic Basin Trail

When we huffed and puffed our way into the basin, I wanted to kiss the ground. The sparkling lake. The colorful rocks and patches of grass. It was like walking on another planet. There was so many delights to explore. There was a trail to an outhouse (I always love seeing the “thrones” in the woods. Every one is different and all of them have character haha). There was patches of snow. Loose rock. I could have stayed at least a week and not been bored.

As we explored, we heard a voice from up above (GOD, IS THAT YOU?!), a kind gentlemen letting us in on all the best camp spots. He was situated quite a ways higher up than us so he had a view of all the available flat areas and led us to an awesome one! Being National Forest, you can camp basically anywhere your heart desires at the top of Gothic Basin, though per Leave No Trace principles, it’s always best to reuse a spot that has already been camped in.  (Back to top)

You can identify these usually by a little circular fire pit and relatively flat empty land. Our campsite was divine. We had an almost 360 degree view. The lake down below, the mountains on all the sides. We set up our tents, cooked some dinner, and checked into our 5-billion star hotel.

If you did this as a day hike, you’ll be wishing you could stay, so I highly recommend this as an overnight hike (and stay multiple nights if you’re like me!). We had a beautiful moonrise and unrivaled views of the stars.

stars taken on a samsung galaxy s20 at Gothic Basin in Washington

Silhouette of a girl looking at stars at Gothic Basin, taken on a samsung galaxy s20

Can you believe a phone camera can pick up that many stars? I mean, I know the night shot isn’t perfect (I see some blurry stars and the arch of light is a phone glitch, but cool!), but holy crap! Technology is blowing my mind these days. 

I could hardly convince myself to go to bed. The weather was clear, but chilly. I definitely had to break out my Nanopuff and some of my cold-weather gear. Definitely always have layers when hiking, ESPECIALLY when staying overnight and check your weather before you go! (Back to top)

For a full list of the gear I used on this trip, read all the way to the bottom!

The next day, we had half a day to explore before we had to get off the mountain to keep with our rough trip itinerary. We were tempted to stay another night, especially when we discovered Foggy Lake (keep reading!), but with only 9 days to explore in Washington, we wanted to see some other places as well.

During our half-day exploration, we first decided to check out the “bathroom.” I’m always curious to see these in the mountains because they’re usually a great inducer of laughter. This one did not disappoint. This is the first time I had seen a privy like this- a giant wooden structure that housed a big white sack and another area with a toilet. 

a weird looking outdoor toilet located at Gothic Basin

Yet, nothing was attached to the ground. Where was all the poop and toilet paper going? Well, my friends. That is what the basket was there for. Confused how you could “flush three times” when I couldn’t see where any piping was coming up to the toilet, I dared to give it a shot. It was then that I realized, it empties itself into the white basket, conveyor-belt style. YUCK! To the person who has to clean or empty that out, I’m so sorry. (Back to top)

a girl with her arms out, back facing the camera looking at a mountain range around Gothic Basin

The view from behind the weird toilet

After the bathroom and a quick photo opportunity behind it (Nothing like taking a dump with a view!), we wandered around the multiple rock structures and watering holes, eventually noticing that there were several people going up and down some of the loose-looking rock. 

My friend decided to explore, but I started off as wanting to conserve energy, until she had been gone a while and I remembered that there was supposed to be another feature to see at the top, for those who wanted to go the extra distance- Foggy Lake. I passed a couple who reminded me of this and decided to screw conserving energy- I must see this lake!

a panoramic view of Foggy lake just outside Gothic Basin

Foggy Lake

And I’m so glad I did. The air was frigid, even though we were maybe only another 250 feet up, there was a breeze that was unforgiving. I otherwise was ready to jump in when I arrived. The water was borderline turquoise and jaw-droppingly clean. Is this what alpine lakes are all about? I’m in love. Foggy lake is a must-see. For those who are extra-adventurous, you can make the climb to Del Campo Peak, the jagged fellow that sits behind Foggy Lake, but it is advised that you bring a helmet for this particular area.

Swim at your own risk! I found myself dreaming of hiking in an inflatable paddle board, but questioning my capabilities of carrying a board in and not staying over night (because obviously, I’d have to give up my backpacking gear in exchanged for the weight of the paddleboard!). (Back to top)

girl standing in front of Foggy Lake turquoise water

Our experience was phenomenal and I found it hard to leave. If you absolutely cannot backpack, make sure you make this a VERY long day hike. If you can backpack though, I highly recommend it. You’ll be glad you did.

List of gear I took with me on this overnight hike: 

Please note that the gear I took for this overnight hike will be different than what I suggest for a day hike. If you want to know what to bring for a day hike, go here. The gear you need for this specific hike will also vary depending on the time of year that you go. (Back to top)

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