The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is the jewel in the crown of Americas scenic trails, spanning 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada through three western states. It reveals the beauty of the desert, unfolds the glaciated expanses of the Sierra Nevada, and provides commanding vistas of volcanic peaks and glaciers in the Cascade Range. The trail also passes through historic mining sites and evidence of man's endless quest for natural resources.
The Washington section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) runs about 500 miles from Oregon up to the Canadian border. This section begins at the Bridge of the Gods (elev. 180 feet), on the Columbia River, and ends at Monument 78 on the Canadian border (elev. 4,240 feet). An additional seven miles was added beyond the border by the Canadian government to provide access to Highway 3 in British Columbias Manning Provincial Park (elev. 3,800 feet). The trail begins this section with a lengthy climb out of the Columbia River gorge and eventually reaches the crest near the Indian Heaven Wilderness, a lake-blessed land abounding with huckleberries.
Next it rounds the base of mammoth Mt. Adams (elev. 12,276 feet). Just north is the rugged dramatic Goat Rocks Wilderness, similar to the deep glaciated canyons and towering peaks of the High Sierra, and a traverse of the Packwood Glacier. The trail crosses Highway 12 at White Pass before encountering dozens of lakes in the William O. Douglas Wilderness. Between White Pass and Highway 410 at Chinook Pass, the trail skirts many lakes as it approaches the towering monarch of the Cascades, Mt. Rainier (elev. 14,410 feet).
From the Chinook Pass the trail has an easy, rapid run to Interstate 90 at Snoqualmie Pass, which is fortunate, since this stretch presents many private land clear-cuts that offer little cover from the often present rain. The North Cascades offer challenges similar to the High Sierra of California. Here again, the PCT climbs up a deep canyon to a pass, only to descend another deep canyon and then repeat the cycle again. It traverses popular Alpine Lakes, Henry M. Jackson, and Glacier Peak Wildernesses before entering the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, North Cascades National Park, and Pasayten Wilderness. The prime attraction here is Glacier Peak, and the rugged, roller coaster, switch-backing route around it offers a memorable experience to trail users.
Just as you are approaching the Canadian border and can almost taste the cold Molson Canadian awaiting you, about 8 miles from the border is one last obstacle: Lakeview Ridge (elev. 7,126 feet). But after Lakeview, it's smooth hiking trekking to the border.
The best time of year to experience this section of the Pacific Crest Trail is from August through September when the route is usually snow free.
Overall, Pacific Crest Trail is the 5th most popular hiking trail of all 56 hikes in Washington.