Glacier Basin

AUGUST 24, 2008   It was cool and partly sunny as we started out on this CHS hike to Glacier Basin.  The weather forecast called for rain, so we got an early start and made good time on the 4-mile road walk to Monte Cristo.  This road has been severely damaged by years of storms, and we walked through avalanche debris, crossed the Sauk River on a log, and hiked over the remnants of rock slides.  Otherwise, the hike to the townsite of Monte Cristo was a slog, albeit a slog through a pretty forest.   We were on a mission to reach our destination before rain could make our travel up the steep slopes that lead in to Glacier Basin slippery and hazardous, so we did not stop for sightseeing in the old town.  Historical details about this abandoned mining town can be found at  

After leaving Monte Cristo, the trail begins to narrow, grows rocks and roots, and climbs steeply up the hillside.  Wildflowers were thick, and we had spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and waterfalls as we hiked up.  Eventually the trail becomes a near-vertical gully that feels like hiking up a dry waterfall.  Ropes have been placed along the trail in the steepest sections where travel is straight up huge rock slabs.   I didnít find the ropes as useful as the natural handholds in the rock, so I used those instead of the ropes on the ascent.  After about Ĺ mile, the grade  leveled out to become a sane trail again and curved into the basin, where one last obstacle awaited.  Snowmelt still covered the trail and forced us up and over a boulder field, where indignant picas scolded us as we traveled across. 

A few steps later we were in Glacier Basin proper, surrounded by stunning peaks and wildflowers.  A large, flat rock made an excellent lunch spot with amazing views.  We spent a pleasant half hour eating lunch, enjoying the views and the company of good friends, and sharing decadent chocolate truffles.  All too soon, however, it started sprinkling and we made a hasty retreat down the mountain.  I found the ropes to be much more useful on the descent, and we reached the Monte Cristo townsite before the rain began in earnest.  

Although the authors of Donít Waste Your Time in the North Cascades have little good to say about this hike, it ranks high on my list of favorites.  Admittedly I find something to love about almost any hike I go on, and just about every hike is my favorite while I'm hiking it, but I was delighted with this trail.  The meadows were lush, the views were stunning and the terrain was challenging.  It's easy to feel satisfied with my lot in life while I'm having lunch in such a spot as this. 

12+ miles

2200' gain