500 Miles

a white mountain goat perches on a rockThis section begins at the Bridge of the Gods (elev. 180'), on the Columbia River, and ends at Monument 78 on the Canadian border (elev. 4,240'). An additional seven miles was added beyond the border by the Canadian government to provide access to Highway 3 in British Columbia's Manning Provincial Park (elev. 3,800').

The trail begins this section with a lengthy climb out of the Columbia River gorge and eventually reaches the crest near the Indian Heaven Wilderness, a lake-blessed land abounding with huckleberries. Next it rounds the base of mammoth Mt. Adams (elev.12,276’).

Just north is the rugged dramatic Goat Rocks Wilderness, similar to the deep glaciated canyons and towering peaks of the High Sierra, and a traverse of the Packwood Glacier. The trail crosses Highway 12 at White Pass before encountering dozens of lakes in the William O. Douglas Wilderness.

Between White Pass and Highway 410 at Chinook Pass, the trail skirts many lakes as it approaches the towering monarch of the Cascades, Mt. Rainier (elev.14,410’). From the Chinook Pass the trail has an easy, rapid run to Interstate 90 at Snoqualmie Pass, which is fortunate, since this stretch presents many private land clear-cuts that offer little cover from the often present rain.

The North Cascades offer challenges similar to the High Sierra of California. Here again, the PCT climbs up a deep canyon to a pass, only to descend another deep canyon and then repeat the cycle again. It traverses popular Alpine Lakes, Henry M. Jackson, and Glacier Peak Wildernesses before entering the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, North Cascades National Park, and Pasayten Wilderness.

hiker walking along path with colorful flowersThe prime attraction here is Glacier Peak, and the rugged, roller coaster, switch-backing route around it offers a memorable experience to trail users.

Not only is the North Cascades Range rugged, it is the wettest along the route, lying in a storm track most of the year.

All this wetness has produced about 750 perennial snowfields and small glaciers, which collectively account for about half the snowfield area in the lower 48 states.

Characteristics of this region

The Washington section has several high passes and ridges. The one just edging out others is Lakeview Ridge (elev.7,126’), encountered only 8 miles before the Canadian border.

A number of Alaskan and Canadian plants, including Alaska cedar and grand fir, appear in Washington.

By visiting this section in September, visitors will be treated to brightly colored patches of western larch, whose deciduous needles turn bright yellow at this time—a colorful conclusion to the end of a thru-hike or any visit to this magnificent trail.

Many animals from the northern latitudes have also migrated south, including mountain goat, grizzly bear, and Canadian lynx.