PCT: WA Section H - Cascade Locks to Highway 12 (White Pass) is a 139.7 mile moderately trafficked point-to-point trail located near Stevenson, Washington that features a great forest setting and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, camping, horses, and backpacking and is accessible from June until October. Dogs and horses are also able to use this trail.
This was a 27 mile southbound hike of the PCT from White Pass, to the Snowgrass Trailhead in the Goat Rocks. It was 2.5 days and over the Labor Day weekend from 9-3-16 to 9-5-16. I was shuttled to and from both locations which made the point-to-point hike possible.
Day 1: White Pass to Lutz Lake
Day 2: Lutz Lake to Snowgrass Flats
Day 3. Snowgrass Flats to Snowgrass Trailhead #96.
I started hiking at 9:15am and stopped for a snack at Shoe Lake at around 1:30pm. I had 3 camping options, Shoe Lake, Hidden Springs and Tieton Pass. I found camping is restricted at Shoe Lake. I guess I didn’t do my research completely. However, it was too early in the day for that anyway. I tried hiking to Shoe Lake a couple years before but was stopped by snow and was glad to see the trail to Shoe Lake was clear.
I arrived at Hidden Springs, my second camping option shortly after leaving Shoe Lake, too early for camping so I skipped the .3 miles to check it out. Tieton Pass, was touted by hikers heading northbound as being open with camping but I found just the opposite. While being somewhat open, there is kind of a suitable flatter spot that could be used in a pinch if arriving at dusk or later. Since this wasn’t what I expected, I headed further south toward Lutz Lake hoping to find a spot.
I arrived at Lutz Lake, not one of my camping options, knowing from northbound hikers it was already crowded. I got there at 4:30pm to find a group of 4 with 3 tents setup and flat spots for two more tents. They offered me a spot next to them and I took it without hesitation. A section-hiker took the spot next to me. It was interesting and fun to share tent sites with 5 other people. I was fortunate to have this space. Lutz Lake is small and shallow and as near as I can tell a stagnant pool of water. It was hard to tell if it was flowing or not.
I left Lutz Lake at 8:35am the next morning but needed to get water at the lake. I clogged my Sawyer Mini and blew out the provided bladder at the neck trying to filter that water. I was able to get some water before the blowout and saw there were possible water options before The Knife which was my main concern, so I pressed on. There are more tent sites along the PCT after Lutz Lake within a mile of the lake. Good to know for next time
The accent from Lutz Lake to Elk Pass is a beautiful one indeed, especially hiking above timberline. I have never seen that side of the Goat Rock Wilderness and took many pictures. I found a water source halfway to Elk Pass and taped up my bladder well enough to fill my water reservoir. The meadows above that were breathtaking as were the views. You can’t go wrong.
Elk Pass was what I expected. Barren of tall vegetation, slightly windy and beautiful. It was clear there but you could tell the clouds were coming in and I was hoping The Knife would be clear. And it was for the most part. Wisps of clouds (fog really) were coming from west to east over The Knife but things were still visible. Around the 7000 ft. level the clouds came in thick and we were hiking The Knife in clouds (fog), white on both sides with nothing to see. The last 400 ft up to the junction of Old Snowy was one of the steepest sections I’ve hike in a while. Slow going but well worth it. As I was nearing the top and it was leveling out, there was a group of 6 hikers cooking lunch and having a wonderful time. I sat next to them and had a snack myself.
My camping destination was Snowgrass Flats and after lunch made my way in the fog down the PCT. The more I descended, the clearer it became and by the time I got to the junction of the PCT and Snowgrass trail #96, I removed all my warmer layers, took off my pant legs and found a tent site in warm sunny weather.
I woke up the next morning to frost on my tent fly since my tent was in the shade of large trees. The sun was out and I moved the tent and all my gear into the sun to thaw out. The morning was beautiful with warmer clear weather. A stark contrast to yesterday morning. I packed up and left by 10:20am to meet my ride at the trailhead at noon.
The weather for this hike as great, clouds and all. Being Labor Day Weekend, there was most likely more people than normal which made it fun. I have never hiked north of Old Snowy on the PCT and it was more beautiful than I hoped. I will do this hike again in a heartbeat but next time plan for 3-5 days…or more.
Great trail to start your season!
Section hiked this trail with friend who is doing the entire PCT. Amazing adventure!