Description - Home to the spectacular Northern Cascades, the Washington section of the PCT rivals that of Central California and the Sierra Nevada in terms of dramatic, mountainous scenery. The Washington PCT also boasts some of the trail's most fickle weather patterns, especially in September when most thru-hikers and riders enter the state. Some years, September in this northernmost PCT state is bright and sunny, others it's cold and rainy - be prepared.
- The 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 Washington PCT starts with a lengthy climb out of the Columbia River gorge and into the Indian Heaven Wilderness, a lake-blessed land abounding with huckleberries. Next, the trail rounds Mt. Adams (elev. 12,276') and heads into the rugged Goat Rocks Wilderness (where scenery is similar to that of the High Sierra) to traverse the Packwood Glacier.
The PCT crosses Highway 12 at White Pass encountering dozens of lakes in the William O. Douglas Wilderness. Between White Pass and Highway 410 at Chinook Pass, the trail skirts many more lakes as it approaches the towering monarch of the Cascades, Mt. Rainier (elev. 14,410').
From Chinook Pass the trail has an easy, rapid run to Interstate 90 at Snoqualmie Pass, which is fortunate, since this stretch traverses numerous clear-cuts that offer little cover from often-present rain.
Entering the North Cascades, 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 crossing the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, North Cascades National Park, and Pasayten Wilderness. The prime attraction here is Glacier Peak and the North Cascades' 750 perennial snowfields and small glaciers, which collectively account for about half the snowfield area in the lower 48 states.
Recreation - Hikers and equestrians use this extraordinary trail.
Visiting Washington in September, hikers and riders are treated to the bright yellow needles of western larch and the crimson hues of huckleberry bushes -- a colorful conclusion to any PCT journey.
Climate - Washington's climate varies greatly between regions and with changing elevation. The Cascade Range splits the state and alters weather patterns. Climate at lower elevations west of the Cascades is generally temperate due to the coastal influence, with extreme temperatures rare. The Pacific Crest Trail in Washington follows the Cascade Range. The Cascades and Western Washington receive high amounts of precipitation, consisting of mostly rain at the lower elevations but heavy winter snow at the higher elevations. The peaks of the Cascade Range and Olympic Mountains remain snow covered throughout the year.
Averaging only about 12 inches of precipitation annually, Eastern Washington is significantly drier than Western Washington. Eastern Washington also experiences much greater temperature extremes with summer temperatures often reaching 90 degrees F at the lower elevations and winter temperatures commonly dropping well below freezing.
The 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').