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Pacific Crest Trail: Best Scenery – Pasayten Wilderness, WA

There’s really no such thing as crowds on the PCT, but if you want to ditch every last bit of traffic, hike the northernmost 35 miles.

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On this leg from Harts Pass to Canada’s Manning Provincial Park (where thru-hikers exit the trail), you’ll enjoy a vista-to-backpacker ratio that borders on the ludicrous. What’s more, the half-million-acre Pasayten is big and wild enough to harbor grizzlies and gray wolves that wander across the border from British Columbia, plus the largest concentration of lynx in the contiguous United States. And unlike sections farther south, where extreme vertical topography pushes the path off the crest, the PCT stays high here, riding the Pasayten’s broader ridges and open meadows. Go light on raingear: This area sits in the Cascades rain shadow, which means you’ll get views of Mt. Baker, North Cascades National Park, and the needlelike Picket Range—without their sloppy weather.
LOCAL WISDOM Best month: September. Summer’s bugs are gone, nights are cool, and the larch and scrub maple turn a vibrant gold and red, respectively, contrasting photogenically with the deep green of the spruce.

To Trailhead

Southern endpoint is Harts Pass on FR 5400. Turn north off WA 20 near milepost 179, then left onto Lost River Rd. (becomes FR 5400) and leads 18.7 miles to trailhead parking. Northern endpoint is at BC 3 in Manning Provincial Park. (See for info.)

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