It says 9.2 miles roundtrip and 2840 feet elevation gain. Not bad, we can do it right?
My friend and I were trying to decide which hike to do during my time in Washington state and she mentioned one in particular that had been on her bucket list, Gothic Basic. I asked her what the hike is like and when she read it to me, I balked a little. The longest hike I’ve ever done was 8 miles round trip and 970 feet in elevation.
It wasn’t the distance that scared me, it was the elevation. I could already feel the soreness in my thighs and creakiness in my knees just listening to nearly 3000 foot gain elevation!
But it was on her bucket list and the photos looked gorgeous. As they say, the journey is half the fun and hiking in the North Cascades has been on my list for awhile as well. The view at the top is always worth it!
And it truly was. Worth every step, scramble, climb and fall.
Hiking Gothic Basin
We arrived at the trail head around 10 AM. By that time, the parking lot and Gothic basin trailhead were packed with cars but we managed to squeeze in a spot by the gate. After gathering our things and having a quick breakfast, we set off towards the real trail head since the hike doesn’t actually start at the parking lot, you have to walk 1 mile to the actual trail.
Walking parallel to Sauk River, we enjoyed the beautiful views and lamented about the forest smoke from Oregon, praying it wouldn’t hinder the views or cause any breathing problems. Under the forest canopy, the air was fresh and crisp, filling us up with excitement as we got closer to the trail head.
We read the trail report beforehand so we knew a bit of what to expect. Once we started walking on a fairly level path through the forest, we knew that the elevation gain would hit soon and suddenly and we weren’t wrong. After we strolled through a couple of fields with blooming flowers, the trail started ascending quickly.
Though it was nearly a straight climb up many stairs, views of the forest and mountains peaked through every once in awhile to our left, giving us more determination to keep on when we started to feel the climb in our legs. Continuing for another mile or so, we hit the first rest area, a small waterfall cascading down.
Here, the light scrambling began as some parts of the trail were covered by rocks. We climbed carefully past the river and over to the other side, continuing our trek upwards and onwards. Since we already exited the forest canopy, we had a clearer view of the surrounding mountains and peaks. Unfortunately, the smoke clouded the view, making the mountains seem further away than they really were.
The rocks didn’t let up and the trail required more scrambling, sometimes having to use both hands and feet since it was steep and a bit slippery.
We crossed a couple more rivers and the trail took a sudden, drastic turn. If we thought it was steep before, it was nothing compared to what laid before us. Looking up, it seemed like we would be climbing on rocks forever! The path narrowed, the sun beat down on us and everyone coming down kept telling us to take a rest, we’ll need it for the last stretch.
Knowing we were almost there, we pushed hard and continued climbing higher and higher. It was right at the moment we both thought we would never make it when the basic appeared before us. We paused a moment to catch our breathe and gaze upon the incredible sight in front of us. We made it!
We made our way down to the middle of the fields where we could see backpackers pitching their tent, laying out in the grass and filtering water. I could see why this is such a popular spot for backpacking, the views were breathtaking. I could only imagine how bright the stars shine at night!
Our hike didn’t stop here however, .5 miles away was Foggy Lake which some kind hikers pointed out to us. A clear path was not visible so we walked in the general direction, following others as we climbed over rocks and walked across snow.
I was ready to plop down and rest right there in the snow but after another hundred feet, we made it to Foggy Lake where we proceeded to take the most satisfying 30 minute nap.
Gothic Basin was the most challenging and longest hike I’ve ever done. I haven’t done too many hikes in Washington state but I was extremely proud that we made it. It’s not an easy hike with that elevation gain, scrambling and distance. Our reward was well worth it though with stunning views of the lake, mountains and basin.
Tips for Hiking Gothic Basin and Foggy Lake
This is actually about a 12-13 mile hike as the trip report didn’t include the 1 mile from the parking lot to trail head and extra .5 to Foggy Lake. In total, we walked around 12 miles and nearly 40,000 something steps.
Bring at least 2-3 liters of water. It was around 85 degrees the day we went and we both went through 2 liters of water easily as it got pretty hot. Many people had water filters so they refilled their bottles at the lake.
Go early if you’re camping. The best spots were filled out fast and though there seemed like plenty of places, there must have already been at least 6 or 7 tents up when we arrived.
Wear good hiking shoes. You need sturdy hiking shoes or hiking boots. I wore my Merrell hiking shoes but hiking boots would be way more comfortable for the rocks.
Bring hiking poles. You will definitely need this coming back down to help your knees since it is so steep.
Gothic Basin difficulty: this is not a suitable hike for seniors, anyone with problems going up and down hills or light scrambling and for really young kids. We did see quite a few dogs, mostly Golden Retrievors, Labs, Collies and German Shepherds. We didn’t bring our pups since they are too old (8) and wouldn’t have made it all the way.
The trail is closed during winter and opens in late summer. Check the Washington state trails website before you go.
We took about 3.5 hours going up (with a couple long breaks at the river and waterfall) and 3 hours coming down. If you’re going at a steady, faster pace and are relatively fit, you can make it in 2.5 hours up. We took our sweet time taking pictures and lots of water breaks. It got pretty hot on our way back down and we were dipping our hats into the cold river water to cool off.
Read about other Washington state outdoor hikes below!
There are Amazon affiliate links in this post.
Pin this post about hiking Gothic Basin to Pinterest!