Home Pacific Crest Trail PCT: Section J

PCT: Section J

by Lisa

DAY 1: Snoqualmie Pass to Ridge Lake (6.9 miles)

What a fantastic start to this next section on trail. First of all I was very very ready to get back out on trail. I’d only been home a few nights from traveling to Ottawa and Newfoundland, however I was itching to get going. The last couple days were a bit of a blur of getting gear and resupplies packed and checking off all the little to-do list items for being away for weeks at a time.

I didn’t rush out of the door either, opting instead to enjoy a more relaxing morning. After driving down to the I-90 corridor, hubby and I enjoyed lunch in North Bend (at the Twin Peaks cafe, for any fans out there.) We were at the trailhead in Snoqualmie Pass by 1:30.

Ready to hit the trail!

Section J of the PCT is a pretty popular backpacking route for Washington hikers. The trail travels exclusively through the Alpine Lakes Wilderness from Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass. This means it doesn’t cross a single road for over 80 miles, nor would you come into contact with mountain bikers or ATVs. In fact, no machinery of any sort is allowed in Wilderness protected areas, including chain saws!

The first couple miles were a gradual switchbacking climb through the forest. Hubby joined me for the first hour until we reached the Alpine Lakes Wilderness sign. It was nice to have him along, but also surprisingly easy to say goodbye and move onward solo.

Crossing into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Red Mountain above Snoqualmie Pass

The next couple miles offered up more views. I could see nearby Guye Peak and Red Mountain, and I-90 below. Looking south it was a pretty smoky view. Sadly no view of Mount Rainier.

About 5 miles along the trail I gained a ridge line and followed it up and up. Next it veered out to open rocky trail, tracking just under Kendall Peak. The next open section of trail is known as Kendall Katwalk and is a popular destination for day hikers. Parts of the mountain side were blasted away to create a flat space for the trail.

Looking south to I-90 from along the Katwalk

Looking north from the Katwalk

After the Katwalk it was an enjoyable last mile of meadows and scree slopes before dropping down to the saddle where Gravel and Ridge Lakes are.

I had a brief look around and was lucky enough to score a quiet campsite on a shelf at the back of Ridge Lake. There was a nice breeze to break up the heat of the day and some lovely sunset light later in the evening.

Sunset reflections at Ridge Lake


Lauren August 29, 2017 - 5:25 pm

I’ve wanted to do the Kendall Katwalk for a long time, although I know it’s one of those super-popular hikes. Great pictures and stories from section J!

Ryan April 20, 2022 - 7:52 am

Hi, do you have the rest of your section J itinerary. I am doing section J in Fall of 2022 and was looking for camping suggestions.

Angela Hernandez August 8, 2022 - 12:59 pm

One of my bucket list’s. Maybe next year??


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