Monte Cristo Ghost Town

North Cascades, Washington

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Monte Cristo Ghost Town


  • County gate near the trailhead at Barlow Pass.- Monte Cristo Ghost Town
  • Standing water below the trail.- Monte Cristo Ghost Town
  • South Fork of the Sauk River log crossing.- Monte Cristo Ghost Town
  • Old railroad station site.- Monte Cristo Ghost Town
  • Following the old railroad grade.- Monte Cristo Ghost Town
  • South Fork of the Sauk River.- Monte Cristo Ghost Town
  • South Fork of the Sauk River.- Monte Cristo Ghost Town
  • Hemlock forest.- Monte Cristo Ghost Town
  • Bridge to the townsite.- Monte Cristo Ghost Town
  • Small creek crossing.- Monte Cristo Ghost Town
  • Private cabin on the riverbank.- Monte Cristo Ghost Town
  • Private cabins at a lower townsite.- Monte Cristo Ghost Town
  • Restored cabin at the upper townsite.- Monte Cristo Ghost Town
  • Private cabins at the upper townsite.- Monte Cristo Ghost Town
  • A cabin near the river.- Monte Cristo Ghost Town
  • Departing from the townsite.- Monte Cristo Ghost Town
  • - Monte Cristo Ghost Town
Overview + Weather
Historical mining townsite. Mountain vistas. Scenic river.
Dangerous log crossing. Short access period.
North Cascades, WA
Pets allowed: 
Net Elevation Gain: 
400.00 ft (121.92 m)
Parking Pass: 
NW Forest Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Total Distance: 
8.00 mi (12.87 km)
Trail type: 
Trailhead Elevation: 
2,360.00 ft (719.33 m)
Current Local Weather:
Adventure Description

Adventure Description


For those winter enthusiasts who enjoy a bit of Pacific Northwest history, a visit to the Monte Cristo Ghost Town of the North Cascades is a must. The town was built during the mining boom of the late 1800s and was the first on-site mining community in the western Cascades. During its peak, the town grew to a population of more than 1,000 people. Not much remains of the original infrastructure, but the trek through the wide river valley gives you the freedom to paint a primitive mental picture of the bustling hillside activity and the constant chugging of lead and silver-filled tram cars on the freshly built railroad.

Unfortunately, the snowshoe and ski route has a short window for access on either side of the season due to the Mountain Loop Highway winter closures. Keeping a close eye on the snow level is the only way to ensure access to the trailhead at Barlow Pass. After parking, maneuver around the gate and head south down the old Monte Cristo road, which now serves as the trail due to massive bridge washouts and flood damage in 2003 and 2006. At 1.5 miles, the trail enters the forest and climbs along the bank of the South Fork of the Sauk River to the Weden Creek/Gothic Basin Trailhead. Continue beyond the junction for a few hundred feet back down to the river's edge where a giant log stretches across to the opposite shore. Slowly and carefully scoot your way to safety on the other side for some awesome views of the river valley, with Monte Cristo and Cadet peaks to the east and Sheep Mountain rising to the north above a remaining section of destroyed bridge.

The trail resumes at an intact bridge over a small creek about 100 yards east of the log crossing. Here it enters shadowy hemlock corridors where it parallels the river for a final 3 miles of undemanding forest travel. A wooden sign and a sturdy bridge crossing back over the South Fork of the Sauk River mark your arrival at the townsite.  

Plans to clean up the hazardous mining materials that remain in the area are in place, though a timetable is not quite predictable. Check the Monte Cristo Preservation Association's site for more information.


Backcountry Safety

Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.

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Field Guide + Map

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Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(9 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(52 within a 30 mile radius)

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