Amid steadily improving views, the PCT traverses relatively flat, lake-dotted terrain in hemlock forest with a colorful ground cover of azalea, lupine, and huckleberry. North of Crag Lake (mile 17), the trail climbs back to the crest, and the show begins. You’ll cross meadows of aster, spirea, and blueberries; in late summer, pick a pint as you linger over views of Mts. Adams, St. Helens, and—only 12 miles distant—a gargantuan Rainier. Insider tip: Camp at quiet Anderson Lake; it’s just inside Mt. Rainier National Park, yet no permit is required.