The mountains of Washington were very different in the 1890’s.
Thousands of miners lived rough and tumble lives, searching for riches in the rocks. Towns came and went as the search for gold led folks from one place to the next, building schools and saloons wherever the ground contained precious materials.
One of the bustling mining towns that sprouted up during this time period was Monte Cristo, a robust town of 2,000 people that had a newspaper, a school, hotels, and plenty of saloons. Residents and investors believed it would become the greatest lead and silver district in the country. They built elaborate aerial tramways to carry ore and a five-level concentrator was finished in 1894.
Named after the book, “The Count of Monte Cristo,” the town, unfortunately, ended up being mostly a bust. The terrain is rough, the winters are awful, flooding plagued the area, and the mining operation simply cost too much. The last residents picked up and left in the 1920’s.
Right now, the remains of Monte Cristo exist about 35 miles east of Everett. You can still see remnants of the town by taking a fantastic day-hike through some beautiful wilderness.
You can get there by taking the Mountain Loop Highway and parking at Barlow Pass, where the pavement ends. The trail is well-marked, with milepost signs along the way. You’ll walk for about four miles to reach the campground and the old town site.
Once you reach Monte Cristo, pieces of the past are everywhere.
Rusted signs mark the spot where the old lodge used to stand. Mining artifacts litter the open fields. You’ll see wheels, buckets, and lots of scrap metal. Old cabins still stand, slowing falling more and more each year. The old concentrator is just a partial remnant of its old glory. The once-bustling main street, Dumas Street, is now barely more than a dusty trail.
Bring a lunch and your imagination to Monte Cristo for a full day of history, scenery, and exercise.