There are many great views to be had in the North Cascades, but Gothic Basin has got to be included in the upper echelon of these. You will have to earn it though, whether you decide to make a day hike out of the journey or bring extra provisions and spend the night.
The trail is steep and rugged, with several stream crossings where the high mountain runoff cascades down steep ravines. As you get closer to the basin itself, the pathway becomes more of a scramble over large boulders and tree roots. However, the strenuousness is well-rewarded by an incredible panoramic view of the surrounding peaks, combined with the beauty of Gothic Basin itself.
Me, Kim, and Arrow decided to spend the night above Foggy Lake, below the craggy and colorful Del Campo Peak. For the views alone, it ended up being one of the best campsites I’ve ever had the privilege of staying at. We were situated in a high-elevation granitic bowl filled with serene lakes, creeks, and seeps of crystal clear water.
If you decide to make the trip, the Washington Trails Association has put together an article with great information. Remember to leave no trace, as this area receives heavy visitation and requires extra care. We visited on a weekday in early October and there was hardly anybody else around. If you decide to go late in the year, make sure to prepare for a cold night. My 30 degree sleeping bag didn’t quite do the trick.
Also, we had some extra time and made the side trip to Big Four Ice Caves, off the Mountain Loop Highway. In my opinion, this is a worthwhile attraction to pay a visit and is a short and easy walk to get to.