We’d been back in the United States for five days after our whirlwind adventure in Ireland and it was time for another outing in the beautiful Cascade Mountains. Saturday, June 8th was National Get Outdoors Day. Many agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service were allowing access without passes. According to the National Get Outdoors Day website it is a day that occurs annually to encourage healthy, active outdoor fun. Our bodies were still recovering from the 108 miles, primarily my sore ankles, so we decided to look for a low impact and fun hike. Bobby has had his eye on the Monte Cristo Ghost Town Hike for a while now and at only 8 miles and 700 feet of elevation gain it seemed like the perfect way to spend our Saturday.
The hike is along an old road that used to be an old railroad line.
The road was washed out by the river several years ago, so you will see a washed away bridge along the route.
You cross the river via a large fallen tree that has a rope strung up as a makeshift handrail. Online trip reports as well as the ranger we spoke to briefly before we set out for the hike all warn of this “treacherous log”. I must say the warnings were greatly over exaggerated. The crossing was easy, the log large and not slippery, and the addition of the rope made it even easier. Compared to many other crossings we have encountered on the Washington trail system this crossing was easy.
The road was also blocked at many points by downed trees and there were still patches of the trail covered in a slushy snow.
The snow wasn’t deep and gaiters weren’t necessary. I wore hiking shoes and didn’t get water/snow in them at any point along the trail.
The railroad grade makes for an easy hike, but a somewhat boring hike, especially on the way out. The way in we were filled with excitement and anticipation at the Ghost Town of Monte Cristo that would be our lunch spot and turn around point. We arrived and were greeted by old west themed signs propped up against a large tree and boulder.
The large open field in the center of town (a spot for Search and Rescue helicopters to land) was lit with the glorious sunshine that had been our companion throughout the day.
We were grateful for the sun as the temperature was only in the high 50s. A large Boy Scout troop was occupying most of the town center but we were able to find a picnic table a little ways away from the large group and we stopped for lunch.
Lead used to be mined in the area and much of the land around the town is still owned by private companies. No trespassing signs were the theme to this ghost town. The buildings were in great disrepair and even the signage marking the sites of old homes/businesses were falling over.
Due to the mining process the land and water in the area has been poisoned with lead and arsenic. The water isn’t safe for human consumption (we opted to leave Latigo at home because of this) and there is a plan to shut the recreation area down for several years of needed cleanup to make the land safe. No date has been set for the shutdown but that added to our desire to see this hike before it was too late.
The views along this hike and within the ghost town were incredibly picturesque.
There is a campground just before the ghost town with a pit toilet. I would think that you would have to carry in all your own water though, which would make camping four miles in a little bit more difficult. The road just before the town is lined with private property and no trespassing signs and many cabins still stand along the banks of the river. We found ourselves wondering if people still use the cabins because, again, how would they get supplies in easily? There was an older pit toilet just before the river crossing that was a little dodgy but nice all the same along this busy trail.
This is an easy hike with a fun ending that would be great to do with kids. Biking in is a possibility and there are bike racks within the ghost town. With all the blowdown and the little bit of snow still on the ground it may be a little more difficult. There are several other hikes that spur off of the road and away from the town. Had we had the time and/or energy we would have liked to have done the Glacier Basin trail that leaves from the town. Supposedly it is the most scenic hike you can do in the Cascades. Many chose to bike through the boring railroad grade to the town, leave their bikes at the racks, and head up the steep trail. We encountered lots of people along this trail, it was great to see so many people getting outside for National Get Outdoors Day!