Trip Report: Tour de Monte Cristo (Glacier Basin and Silver Lake)

I decided to get in one last hurrah on the trails around Monte Cristo before it closes for the summer as of tomorrow. (Of course, they might delay the closure again, but it was as good an excuse as any to head out there today.)

I’ve traveled the old wagon road to Monte Cristo by foot many times. Too many. So today I rode my mountain bike into Monte Cristo, which would leave me with enough time/legs to check out both Glacier Basin and Silver Lake.

Tour de Monte Cristo1
Biked the longest arm of the Y (old wagon road to Monte Cristo) and hiked/ran the two shorter arms of the Y (Silver Lake on the left, Glacier Basin on the right). Approximately 17 miles total, 8+ by bike.

The ride itself was pretty uneventful. I was curious how the log crossing would go, and although it was a bit awkward to haul the bike over the rootwad, there was plenty of room for me and the bike.

Log crossing
Plenty of room for me and the bike.
Monte Cristo ghost town – soon to be closed for environmental remediation.

I decided to head up to Glacier Basin first. The first part of the trail is a moderate uphill, and then the last 1/2 mile gets technical and steep. There’s a rope to help you up one of the steepest sections, but I never actually needed it. There was a bit of snow just before the basin and in the basin, but it was soft and not very deep and probably covered a total of 500 meters of trail. I was wearing trail runners and was fine the whole way (no need for traction devices or snowshoes).

Views down the Glacier Creek valley.
More Glacier Creek valley views. You can just barely make out the trail on the left side of the creek.
Rope assist on the Glacier Basin trail

After approximately 2 miles you round the corner and see Glacier Basin for the first time. Wow. Can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get up there. I took way too many pictures and finally had to force myself to leave so that I would still have time to get to Silver Lake. The descent from Glacier Basin went quickly and before I knew it I was back at Monte Cristo, and headed up the Silver Lake/Poodle Dog Pass trail.

Glacier Basin – Monte Cristo peak on the left, Columbia Peak on the right. Blanca Lake and Columbia Glacier are just over the pass in the middle of the frame.
Monte Cristo peak from Glacier Basin
Flanks of Columbia Peak from Glacier Basin
Wilmon Peaks (?) from Glacier Basin trail

The trail to Silver Lake is similar to Glacier Basin in that it starts out mellow and then gets steep at the very end, right before Poodle Dog Pass.  There’s still some snow covering the trail at the Pass and at Silver Lake, but as with Glacier Basin I didn’t need any traction or snowshoes. For the most part the snow was soft and not very deep. I postholed a couple times, but only up to my knees.

Silver Lake is also very pretty, although I didn’t find it quite as stunning as Glacier Basin. I’m sure this was partly due to the lighting – overcast and flat light at Silver Lake vs. sunshine and wispy clouds at Glacier Basin.

Silver Lake with Silvertip Peak in the background

From Silver Lake, it was a quick downhill by foot and bike, back to the car in less than 90 minutes!

2 Replies to “Trip Report: Tour de Monte Cristo (Glacier Basin and Silver Lake)”

  1. Great report. I was up there last wknd and had to turn back @ 3900′ on the Silver Lake trail because of the clock. Were there many tracks up past mine?

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