Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail
Crossing California, Oregon, and culminating in Washington, the iconic Pacific Crest Trail is one of the most popular trails in America. Each year, many hikers (known as thru-hikers) embark on a journey up the entire length of the PCT, while many more utilize the trail all summer for day hikes or overnight backpacking trips.
Washington's five sections of the PCT cover some truly spectacular scenery. Each has its own feel, and many hikers elect to section-hike it over a number of years, to enjoy each section in as much time as they like. Whether you're interested in thru-hiking or just exploring the trail for a day, you've come to the right place to kick off your search.
When thru-hiking, people routinely do 20-mile days in order to complete the full length of the trail before the snows come. This makes for impressive physical feats, but often means you have to rush through the landscape. By tackling the trail in sections, you can linger a little longer in these remarkable areas.
This map shows the trailheads for each section in Washington. Read more about them below, or in our Hiking Guide.
- Section H: Bridge of the Gods to White Pass: Beginning at the Washington/Oregon border, this section of the trail crosses through three wilderness areas: Indian Heaven, famous for berries and lakes; Mount Adams, with views of its namesake mountain, and ending with a traverse through the magnificent Goat Rock wilderness.
- Section I: White Pass to Snoqualmie Pass: From quiet White Pass, hikers ramble past lakes in the William O. Douglas wilderness before traversing east of Mount Rainier through the Norse Peak wilderness, then continuing north to busy Snoqualmie Pass.
- Section J: Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass
: Here's a popular one for day hikers and overnighters as well as thru-hikers. It boasts 75 miles of trail uncrossed by motorized road, all through the gorgeous Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
- Section K: Stevens Pass to Rainy Pass: Packed with deep forest, high mountain passes, glittering lakes, this section offers a more remote feeling than perhaps any of the other Washington sections. End this section on the stunning North Cascades Highway
- Section L: Rainy Pass to Manning Park: This, your final section of the PCT passes through some of the most rugged, remote country. It's 117 miles to Manning Park from the trailhead off Highway 20, and it's all stunning along the way.
Day Hikes and Overnights
If section-hiking isn't in the cards for you, there are many other options on the PCT. Below are links to day hikes and overnight options in each section, organized south to north, using WTA's regions to help get your bearings.
Want to try creating your own? Grab a map and piece together a loop or a traverse using the trail -- let us know where you go by filing a trip report.
Living car-free? The Pacific Crest Trail Association also has a guide for mass transit options to access the trail all the way up and down the west coast.
Thru-hiking is a little different than a typical backpacking trip. There's a lot of basic knowledge that applies to any long trail, along with plenty that is specific to the Pacific Crest Trail.
Get a sense of what goes into any thru-hike below, then head to the Pacific Crest Trail Association's site, which will help you plan your outing on this iconic trail.
Tips for Long Hikes
- Long Distance Hiking 101: Start here for a successful thru-hike.
- Conditioning Tips: Get strong.
- Passes and Permits: You Need Them: It's true. Learn why.
- Gear: Stuff WTA has tested over the years so you don't have to.
Bonus: Read this piece by Joan "Hemlock" West, about thru-hiking the PCT and how to do it right.