The Best Weekend on the PCT: Old Snowy to White Pass, Washington

Only have a few days? Sample the best of the Pacific Crest Trail on this bite-size trip.
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Only have a few days? Sample the best of the Pacific Crest Trail on this bite-size trip.
Mt. Rainier is 30 miles north of the Knife Edge approach on Old Snowy. Photo by Michael Deyoung

Mt. Rainier is 30 miles north of the Knife Edge approach on Old Snowy. Photo by Michael Deyoung

Our long trails are littered with stop-in-your-tracks scenery. They’re also really long. But that doesn’t mean you have to take a six-month sabbatical to see the best they have to offer. This chunk in Washington packs a thousand miles of vistas into an overnight. Between the mountain passes, the alpine meadows brimming with flowers, the creeks coursing off glaciers, and the knife-edge ridge to Old Snowy, you may even forget to look up at a Who’s Who of Pacific Northwest peaks.

First, knock out the 6-mile approach to Old Snowy from the Snowgrass Flats trailhead. Then the fun begins. Merge with the PCT and continue north off 7,880-foot Old Snowy on the mile-long ridge called the Knife Edge. You’ll be sandwiched between 14,410-foot Mt. Rainier to the north and 12,277-foot Mt. Adams and 8,363-foot Mt. St. Helens to the south. “This section makes every ache, pain, and mental struggle worth it,” says photographer Michael DeYoung.

Continue along the crest of the Cascades past glaciers and alpine lakes to spend the night by Hidden Springs. Next day, gain the ridge again and coast 6 miles past near-constant mountain views to White Pass.

Season July to November PermitNorthwest Forest Pass ($30 annually) required to park