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Backpacker Magazine – August 2013

One Night Wonders: Mileage Monsters, Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie Pass

Gobble the PCT's tastiest morsel.

by: Kelly Bastone

Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie Pass, Pacific Crest Trail, WA (Justin Reznick)
Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie Pass, Pacific Crest Trail, WA (Justin Reznick)

Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie Pass
Pacific Crest Trail, WA

Thru-hikers rank the roadless 56.7-mile* span of the PCT between Snoqualmie and Stevens Passes as the wildest, prettiest stretch of the entire trail. Most do it in a week, but fastpackers can earn the views in two (giant) days. From US 2, climb to meadows and ridgelines offering air-balloon views over three lakes. Nibble huckleberries (ripe in late summer) near Hope Lake, ford the streams feeding the Cle Elum River (diciest on July afternoons; check USFS reports), and scale 5,610-foot Cathedral Pass before plunging 2,000 feet to Waptus Lake. Camp near the junction with Spade Lake Trail, 28.5 miles in. Day two’s views help dispel any soreness: A big climb to the Escondido Tarns and an extended ridgewalk reveal the snow-dotted Snoqualmie Crest. After more views over Alaska and Ridge Lakes, shimmy across the Kendall Catwalk before coasting down through old-growth to Snoqualmie Pass. Shorter version: At Waptus Lake, bail south to Cooper Lake. Trailhead 84 miles east of Seattle, 47.746616, -121.088348 Shuttle car 47.422670, -121.411999 Best season Trails are snow-free by mid-August. Permit Required (free at trailheads), plus NW Forest Pass ($5/day/vehicle; 800-270-7504) Contact (360) 677-2414; Trip data

*That's according to our trail scouts. The PCTA lists it as 75 miles.

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