Blog post and photos by Michael J. Shymanski
In recent years, the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) has exploded with popularity, seeing hikers from all over the nation to trek the trail that runs from Canada to Mexico on our west coast. While the trail goes through various mountain ranges and all types of land, one of the best stretches is from Snoqualmie Range to Stevens Pass, a seventy-five mile stretch without crossing a single street.
I had always wanted to do the Pacific Crest Trail. But it’s over 2,500 miles, and I’ve never had the time away from work to do it. I had intersected with a section once in California’s Desolation Wilderness, leaving me hungry for more. So, when a friend asked me to hike a section in the Cascades in Washington, I jumped at the chance. I bought a plane ticket and packed for the trail.
The first day we hiked for a long time at a lower elevation, but suddenly coming up to the mountains, we took many switchbacks to reach the top. We stopped at waterfalls to cool off and after coming up through thick brushes of beautiful fireweed, we came to our first stop. In a basin rested Spectacle Lake, below of sheer mountains and lush forests. I knew immediately this week would be worth it, and I was very glad to have brought a camera. We swam to cool off and ate. I had bought whiskey as a reward for hiking, keeping our insides warm. After the first day, we were exhausted.
The rest of the week went at this rhythm. We rose the next day for breakfast and coffee and hit the trail. I always ended up at the back of the pack, snagging photos and picking huckleberries for extra nutrition. After each day, we dove into the alpine lakes to relax but to also substitute showering.
We always got off the trail. The PCT is very, very popular. The main trail is so well traversed that it is completely flattened and wide. We often saw a lot of people, which for us was the opposite of what we wanted to do. Each day we got a mile or two off the PCT to get some solace, going to destinations like Peggy’s Pond and Tuck Lake. These were my favorite parts of the day, having no one around, swimming in a new lake every day and watching the sunrise by ourselves.
Bring a swimsuit, a camera (ditch your phone in the car), a book to mosey through, and some whiskey. We brought habanero salsa for the food, but also chased whiskey shots with it to keep warm (we call it a “Hobo Jacket”).
The PCT hype is real. If you’re picking a section, do Snoqualmie to Stevens Pass (Washington section J) to see incredible mountain ranges and gorgeous alpine lakes. The Cascades house some of the best wilderness in the U.S. and you will never forget your trip here. After the trek, head to Leavenworth, the Bavarian style town in the mountains for a few pints at Icicle Brewing Company or a liter stein of German beer.
Distance and duration:
75 miles and about 5-7 days, depending on your pace. Here’s a link to all PCT section maps: https://www.pctmap.net/maps/
How to get there:
To get to the Snoqualmie PCT trailhead, take I-90 from Seattle to exit 52. There are clear marks and a dirt road that lead to the trailhead there.
To get to the Stevens Pass PCT trailhead, drive east on Highway 2 to Stevens Pass.
While hiking is free, remember to check parking permit information: https://www.wta.org/go-outside/passes/passes-and-permit-info
What to bring:
Bring a tent (unless you want to sleep outside), a sleeping bag for the proper season, 5-7 days’ worth of food and something to cook with (like a travel camping stove), trail snacks, and a water filter. Bring sunscreen for long days and bug spray to beat the mosquitoes around the lakes! Optional: a swimsuit to bathe and a camera to remember your trip. And if you’d like, bring some whiskey to reward yourself after the day’s work.
Hope you like the post! Let me know what your thoughts are in the comments. ♥