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Home Go Hiking Trip Reports Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) Section J - Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass

Trip Report By




Hiked Aug 24, 2018

Type of Hike

Multi-night backpack

Trail Conditions

Minor obstacles posing few problems


Road suitable for all vehicles


Bugs were an annoyance


Snow free
Hiked from August 18 to August 24, over 7 days and 6 nights.

Day 1: Steven’s Pass Trailhead to Mig Lake (8 miles)

This section is in decent shape! Only confusing part here is by the “Jupiter Express” ski lift (you want to start descending here, rather than going to the right across the ridge). Lots of berries for the eating around here, and Lake Susan Jane makes a good lunch/pit stop. There are two pit toilets at Mig Lake, you’ll want the northernmost one, as the one to the south has been fairly wrecked.

Day 2: Mig Lake to Talus Lake Outlet (12 miles)

Two passes in one day was rough, but doable. The way down Trap Pass and by Glacier Lake are a good indicator of the rock status you’re going to continue to encounter on Day 5/6. Glacier Lake is a good lunch detour/camp area with easy lake access, although the sites just below Piper Pass are good and flat camping. Don’t get thrown off by Piper Pass, because while it looks like a sketchy climb up a bunch of rocks, the pass is actually to your right with decently graded switchbacks. If you’re traveling at a more leisurely pace, Deception Lakes are beautiful and a good place to camp. We opted to add more miles on this evening and stopped at an unnamed grouping of tent sites at mile 2444.7. Good creek for water near here and a relatively private site across the creek is available here.

Day 3: Talus Lake Outlet to Deep Lake (10 miles)

There’s a fabled seasonal stream crossing here that can be pretty sketch in the early season or after heavy rainfall. If you’re approaching it when it’s high, I’d wait for a partner, but in late August it was fairly easy to navigate. The climb after the crossing is rough and this late there was a dearth of water sources. Take in the views near Cathedral Rock, because they’re insane and awesome, and don’t even bother with Peggy’s Pond unless you’re cool with a steep descent. At Deep Lake there’s plenty of camp spots, and you might be tempted to pick the open one to the north that seems so perfect next to the water, but the wind and dust was a total nuisance here (we stayed anyway, but y'know). Head over to the more southern ones to be closer to a pit toilet (if you prioritize those) and more shielded sites.

Day 4: Deep Lake to Alpine Pond (15 miles)

The best thing I can say about Waptus Lake is that at least the trail next to it is good and flat because this stretch is not super exciting. There’s plenty of camping once you get near Spade Creek (and I’d say Spade Creek would be excellent camping), and Waptus River has some of the best water ever. The climb after the river truly sucks, and since we were in smoke still, the views were more frustrating that inspiring. Plus, there’s very limited water from Waptus River onward for miles, so camel up. The trail also travels through 2 miles of fragile zone, so don’t camp there. There’s a good amount of sites just outside of it by an alpine pond that offers amazing sunset views (some of the best in the entire section), which is where we stayed this night.

Day 5: Alpine Pond to Spectacle Lake (10.5 miles)

Be prepared to hike through creepy burns, and hike fast. The views across the valley as you descend into forest are really quite awesome, even through the smoke haze. You’ll cross over some streams and Lemah Creek; get water here, seriously. The entire climb up to Spectacle Lake is an exposed burn that is not fun to climb midday. If you plan on heading down to Spectacle Lake, know that it’s a half mile down and there’s loads of erosion and spur trails. You’ll want to keep to the left once you see the spur trails if you’re aiming to camp on the peninsula (we didn’t, and ended up doing unplanned bouldering with full packs). Apparently there’s a pit toilet here, but since it’s such a pain to find and far away from sites, not worth it. And obviously, the lake is friggin' gorg.

Day 6: Spectacle Lake to Ridge Lake (10.5 miles)

Do yourself a favor and get up early to see sunrise illuminate Three Queens and other notable Cascade peaks in pale pink light. It’s a great mood booster for all the elevation you’re about to gain on your way to some really wonderful alpine meadows. You’ll pass some small lakes and I highly recommend you get water because you’re in for possibly the most terrifying few miles of hiking I’ve experienced and there’s no water there, friend. You’ll come upon a sign alerting stock/equestrians that there are no turnaround points ahead—the sign isn’t joking around. From the meadows we joked about a far off, much higher trail and were sure we wouldn’t be on it. We were. For four miles and some change, you climb up, across, and more up scree on scree on scree, passing under the Four Brothers and getting glimpses of Rainier, Lake Kachess, and more. Keep good amounts of space between hikers here, because it’s stupid easy to start small rock falls here (can you guess we started one?) and take your time. Once you arrive back in meadows, there’s a couple icky ponds if you’re desperate for water. The rocks don’t end and keep going (with some small dirt trail breaks) until you come upon Ridge Lake. We hit some weather, but there’s plenty of sites and it’s really pretty even in gray dark clouds.

Day 7: Ridge Lake to Snoqualmie Pass Trailhead (7 miles)

We. Hate. Rocks. Now. We hiked out in thick fog/clouds this morning and didn’t even know we were near Kendall Katwalk until it was in front of our faces. It was still very cool, but without views we pressed on. Again, keep an eye on your steps because there’s some short exposed trail sections with steep drops that’d be pretty unfun. Enjoy getting service again about ~4 miles from the trailhead and be sure to turn off to the left when you see picnic tables, or else you can just keep hiking and miss the parking lot.

TLDR: Water is life, elevation is hard, rocks suck, but this hike kicks ass! Do it!


Posted by:

ngie on Jun 06, 2019 06:36 PM