Bend, OR: Mount Washington via Pacific Crest Trail

This 10.6-mile out-and-back in the Cascade Range negotiates a variety of climbing routes to a crumbling volcanic summit (and a dizzying view).

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

The challenging 5.3-mile climb to the top of 7,794-foot Mount Washington starts out gently with a flat and easy stretch along the Pacific Crest Trail. Warm up on an easy 3-mile stretch before turning left onto a climber’s trail that veers to the southeast en route to the North Ridge. Although the path travels through the forest, keep an eye out for intermittent glimpses of Mount Washington’s distinct summit through the gaps in the trees. Four miles into the hike, the first true views of Mount Washington appear to the southeast. Less than half a mile later, the trail crests the North Ridge and travels up the spine of the ridge to the summit block. Tackle a 1- to 3-pitch climb to reach the summit, and reward yourself with 360-degree views of the surrounding Cascades before starting the return trip to the trailhead.

Note: A climbing rope and a hard hat are recommended on this route.
-Mapped by Trung Q. Le


Trail Facts

  • Distance: 8.6



Location: 44.3801308, -121.8558655

The route starts where the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) intersects the dirt road (this junction is marked with a large PCT sign). Head south through thin growth on a very flat stretch of trail. Enjoy it while it lasts; you’ll start gaining elevation near mile 2.5.


Location: 44.3588982, -121.8717422

As you pass this point, Mount Washington can be seen to the southeast through the trees. Ahead, the flat, dusty trail curves to the southeast.


Location: 44.3506851, -121.8652954

Turn left @ 3-way intersection onto a climber’s trail marked with cairns. In roughly 100 feet, bear left @ Y-intersection to access Washington’s North Ridge. (The trail to the right gradually ascends a meadow, then aggressively climbs a scree field to the base of the summit block. This trail is very difficult to ascend and is generally used to descend the summit.) The trail continues to travel under the covering of the trees that offer intermittent glimpses of Washington’s summit. Watch your footing as the path becomes looser and steeper.


Location: 44.3450089, -121.8499527

You’ll get your first true views of Mount Washington’s summit block and the North Ridge 4 miles into the hike. From here, the trail continues to aggressively climb to the ridge under the covering of trees. The trail transitions from loose soil to large rocks, and will gradually become loose scree and dirt intermixed with large rocks.


Location: 44.3420821, -121.8434858

Crest the North Ridge of Mount Washington. For more views, scramble up and over a nearby rock outcropping to see Black Butte to the east and Three Fingered Jack and Mount Jefferson to the north. Next, the trail travels up the spine of the ridge on very loose soil, scree, rock, and shale. From this vantage point, you can start to notice detailed features of the summit block.


Location: 44.3327255, -121.8381577

The summit block of Mount Washington: At this point, you’ll have to climb 1-3 pitches to reach the summit. There’s a low 5th class crux at the beginning and a 3rd-4th class scramble for the remaining stretch to the summit. Multiple slings, carabiners, and rappel rings are attached to the surrounding rocks.


Location: 44.3321457, -121.8385162

Mount Washington (7,794 ft.): Views of the Cascades surround you on the summit of this shield volcano. Three Fingered Jack and Mount Jefferson rise to the north; the Three Sisters break up the horizon to the south; Big Lake stretches out below. Follow the same route back to the trailhead.

Big Lake

Location: 44.3480821, -121.8534207

©Trung Q. Le

Mountain Shadow

Location: 44.3437394, -121.8456745

©Trung Q. Le

The Summit Block

Location: 44.342036, -121.8432498

©Trung Q. Le

Black Butte from the North Ridge

Location: 44.3409157, -121.8423057

©Trung Q. Le

Cascade Peaks

Location: 44.3397801, -121.8406963

Views of Big Lake, Three Fingered Jack, and Mount Jefferson. ©Trung Q. Le

North Ridge

Location: 44.3383989, -121.8394947

©Trung Q. Le

North and Middle Sister

Location: 44.3324286, -121.8381858

©Trung Q. Le

Summit view of the North Ridge

Location: 44.3321216, -121.8384004

View of the North Ridge approach. ©Trung Q. Le