Like its neighbor, the nearby Monte Carlo trail, the 4.1 mile-long Monte Cristo trail ventures into the small Monte Cristo Range in the South Cascades between Willard and Trout Lake. From it, hikers see a myriad of wildflowers in the spring, and the occasional views of the South Cascade volcanoes.
Beginning from the north trailhead, the trail weaves east and then south, traversing deep forests and open balds stocked with a multitude of wildflowers, and eventually following lightly forested ridgeline to the former Monte Cristo Fire Lookout site. As you climb up and down along the ridge, you'll see lovely views of the Little White Salmon drainage, the Indian Heaven peaks on the western horizon with glimpses of the top of Mount St. Helens, Mount Hood to the south and Mount Adams to the north until you reach the summit where there is evidence of an old fire lookout that was built there in 1930. This is a good turnaround point for a 4-mile round trip hike.
The trail continues south, dropping steeply down to the south trailhead to meet the Monte Carlo Trail. There is an option to continue quite a ways further -- more than 7 more miles on the Monte Carlo trail. A variety of exits exist along the way but there are no loop options. Be sure to make time to come back the way you came up.