Backpack the Pacific Crest Trail's Section J: Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie Pass

Rate this Adventure Tunnel Creek Trailhead, Skykomish, Washington, United States

  • Activities:

    Camping, Backpacking, Hiking

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  • Season:


  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    70 Miles


Enjoy amazing scenery along this 70-mile, 5-day portion of the PCT. Keep in mind that you will need a shuttle car. 

This is the Section J hike of the Pacific Crest Trail between Stevens and Snoqualmie Pass. It is about a 70 mile hike, and I started near Stevens Pass heading South. The PCT starts at the Stevens Pass Ski Resort off of Highway 2. The trail starts out under chairlifts and through ski runs – I chose to skip this section of the hike and started 4 miles west of the ski area at the Tunnel Creek Trailhead.

Day 1
From the Tunnel Creek Trailhead it is about a 2 mile hike uphill to Hope Lake. Once you reach the lake, you will come to an intersection with the PCT. To go South towards Snoqualmie Pass you will need to take a right at this intersection. The trail starts out pretty mellow with not too much elevation gain, and after about 3 miles heading South you will come to the Trap Lake trailhead. There are many campsites near Trap Lake so I chose to camp here for my first night.

Day 2
I planned a full day for day 2 hoping to hike about 20 miles to Deep Lake. This section of the hike starts by going over Trap Pass, and then passing by Surprise and Glacier Lakes. After passing over Pieper Pass you will come to Deception Lakes, which is a beautiful area with lots of campsites. From here the trail goes through Deception Pass, and then another uphill climb towards Cathedral Pass. Make sure to have plenty of water before heading up Cathedral Pass as there is not a good source once you get to the top. Once you reach the end of Cathedral Pass you will see Deep Lake below you – the trail then begins the 3 mile descent to Deep Lake.

Day 3
Leaving Deep Lake the trail starts out flat going through a meadow. You will then go through quite a few series of downhill switchbacks heading Towards Waptus River. After crossing the river, the trail begins a 2200 ft climb uphill towards Escondido Ridge. This part of the trail offers great views of Waptus Lake and Mt. Stuart. At the top of the ridge there are 2 small lakes that the trail passes by, and once on the other side you will have views of Lemah Mountain, Chikamin Ridge, and Three Queens. You will then begin on a series of switchbacks downhill towards Lemah Creek. From Deep Lake it is about 22 miles to Lemah Creek so I chose to camp here. There are campsites near the Lemah Creek Meadow Trailhead and the south fork of the Creek.

Day 4
My plan for day 4 was to take a short side trip to Spectacle Lake for lunch, and end the day at Ridge Lake. From Lemah Creek the trail goes through forests passing the Pete Lake Trailhead. After this you begin climbing uphill towards Spectacle Lake. You will pass over Delate Creek, and shortly after come to the Spectacle Lake Trailhead. The lake is about .5 miles off the PCT – it is a great spot to cool off and have lunch. After leaving the lake the trail continues uphill till you come to the top of a ridge that has great views of Spectacle Lake and Lemah Mountain. The trail then goes through the Park Lakes basin, over Chikamin Pass, and traverses along the rocky section of Chikamin Ridge. Much of this area is exposed so make sure to have lots of water and sunscreen for this part of the hike. After hiking over Chikamin Ridge the trail passes over Hucklberry Mountain and you will have great views of a few alpine lakes. In about 3 miles you will then reach Ridge Lake, a very popular area for camping.

Day 5
From Ridge Lake the trail goes uphill for a short distance, quickly coming to Kendall’s Katwalk. After the Katwalk you will begin the 6 mile descent to Snoqualmie Pass. The trail ends at the Summit West exit off of I-90 near Alpental Ski Area.

I would highly recommend bringing along PCT Trail Notes when doing this hike. They provide info on water sources, campsites, and other important points along the trail. Here is a link to the trail notes that I used:

Pack List

  • Tent
  • Backpack
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Stove
  • Fuel
  • Enough food for trip
  • Water filter
  • Hiking boots
  • Trekking poles
  • Hiking clothes and extra layers for evening
  • First aid kit
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