Celebrate fall and a bygone era by hiking the Monte Cristo Ghost Town Trail located on the Mountain Loop Highway in Snohomish County. Take in the fall foliage and enjoy the crisp autumn air on this 8.5-mile out-and-back trail. The real treat is visiting the abandoned mining town of Monte Cristo. With plenty of places to picnic, this is the perfect spot to recharge and imagine a time long past before your return hike. This hike is the ideal Snohomish County fall adventure, full of history and lore.
From Forest to Boom Town: The Founding of Monte Cristo
Tucked in the heavily forested land of the Cascade Mountains, the area of Monte Cristo began with the discovery of gold and silver ore in 1889. Joseph L Pearsall discovered these valuable resources in the south fork of the Sauk River, forever changing the course of this remote area of Snohomish County. This discovery was shared with Frank Peabody, who launched a search in the surrounding Monte Cristo area. Soon, wagon roads were built for those hoping to strike it rich in this mountainous landscape. Attracting interest from prospectors all over the United States, the area of Monte Cristo became a much sought-after destination.
In 1893, the Monte Cristo Mining Company, based out of Cleveland, Ohio, purchased this remote town that was attracting an increasing amount of attention. In order to easily move the ore to smelters in nearby Everett, a railway was built in 1893. With the new conveniences that railway travel allowed, thousands of miners and people in business began flocking to the area in hopes of becoming rich.
Life in the Mining Town
What was once a densely forested area at the base of the Cascade Mountains was now a thriving mining town. With the railway system’s arrival, supplies could be easily transported into the area. Soon, the town of Monte Cristo was a vibrant community, complete with a variety of businesses to support the local population. In the surrounding areas, homesteaders constructed homes, tramways brought ore down steep mountainsides, and miners searched endlessly for valuable ore. For a short time, the area pulsed with activity and hope.
The Downfall of Monte Cristo
Monte Cristo’s boom years extended from 1895-1912. Several factors played into the town’s rapid downfall. Lack of funding and miscalculation about the area’s potential deterred businesses from further investment in Monte Cristo. Flooding and avalanches also made work in Monte Cristo treacherous and difficult.
By 1920, the town was all but abandoned. Since the 1920s, entrepreneurs hoped to transform Monte Cristo into a resort destination, but none of these plans ever came to fruition. In 1983, the town of Monte Cristo was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Stories of the hardworking dreamers who ventured to this remote land will forever be preserved.
Hiking to the Past: Monte Cristo Ghost Town Trail
Hikers can experience the beautiful land and historical lore of the town of Monte Cristo by hiking the Monte Cristo Trail. This trail follows the route the miners took a century ago on their quest to strike it rich. Imagine what life might have been like during this time.
The wide trail makes it easy for families and friends to hike together. Approaching the town, artifacts and remnants of homestead life will heighten anticipation. Ample signage explains and offers interesting historical information. Upon reaching the town itself, stop and wander through the abandoned streets long overgrown with foliage. Crumbling cabins, rusty wagon and railway parts will add to the experience of your ghost town adventure. Unpack your picnic and take in this once-bustling boom town before hiking back to modern life.
Bring the whole family, including the four-legged members, but remember that dogs must be leashed. While the trail is mostly flat, some hikers may find it challenging to cross the logs that lie across the creek. Bring sturdy hiking boots, and take your time. Due to the length of this trail, remember to bring plenty of water and snacks for all group members. Even better, pack a picnic that can be enjoyed at one of the many picnic tables available in the town. If enjoying this hike in warmer weather, bug spray is essential.
A beautiful hike to a fascinating destination is a perfect way to spend an afternoon. While hiking, imagine what life may have been like for miners and homesteaders who traversed this very path and forged a life at Monte Cristo over a century ago. Walk back into the past on the Monte Cristo trail and enjoy the rich history of an era gone by but not yet forgotten.