Stevens North to Stehekin: 100 Miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, Washington

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 13111A, Backpacking


  • Backpack through remote wilderness in one of the most beautiful sections of the PCT
  • Ride a boat down Lake Chelan
  • Enjoy enchanting lakes, mountain vistas, and alpine meadows


  • Delicious vegetarian-friendly meals
  • Experienced leader team
  • Food drop to lighten your pack


DatesAug 14–24, 2013
Difficulty4 (out of 5)
StaffBill Gifford

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Trip Overview

The Trip

Do you love the mountains?  Would you like to explore a 100-mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail with an experienced leader team?  Would you like to camp in secret campsites and watch the light change across the face of Glacier Peak, the hidden mountain of the Cascades? 

Then join Bill and James as we hike what some consider the most beautiful section of the PCT, and see what you say. We will start at Stevens Pass, and for the next ten days we will travel north on the PCT, crossing no roads until we end our hike in the Stehekin Valley. We will camp at a succession of mountain lakes, travel along high, open ridges, pass through alpine meadows and ancient forests in the valleys.  At the end of our hike we will spend our last night in tent cabins at Stehekin Valley Ranch, with its famous pies and hot showers, within sound of the rushing Stehekin River. In the morning we will take a shuttle bus down to the head of Lake Chelan, a 55-mile-long inland fjord thrusting deep into the mountains from the plains of eastern Washington. We will ride the Lady of the Lake boat downlake to Fields Point landing, where a shuttle bus will pick us up for the ride back to our cars at Stevens Pass. If you love the mountains and like to hike through gorgeous flowery meadows and camp near high lakes, if you are up for a rugged hike with full wilderness immersion, then this is the trip for you.


Day 1: We will meet at the parking lot at Stevens Pass, leave our cars here, introduce ourselves, load our packs and hit the trail on the way to our first camp at Lake Janus.

Days 2-10: For the next nine days, we will head north on the PCT, traveling about 100 miles to our destination at Stehekin. Our campsites are not fixed, nor our daily mileages; we will need to average ten miles a day. If we do more than that in the first few days we may take a layover day. We will travel through a landscape of passes, ridges, alpine meadows and mountain lakes, as we pass around the southern, western and then northern sides of Glacier Peak. This volcanic mountain has 11 glaciers and is over 10,000 feet high, yet is not visible from any highway; only those who travel into the backcountry may admire its valleys, cliffs, and glaciers. Place names such as Fire Creek Pass, Kodak Peak, and Lake Valhalla give some of the flavor of the beauty of the landscape through which we will pass.

To help ease our load, midway along our route we will pick up a food drop brought to us by a horse packer. The route around Glacier Peak had been rerouted since a major storm in 2003 washed out sections of trail and destroyed bridges. In the Fall of 2011, the original route was reopened, so our trip will get to appreciate the recently renovated trail and bridges. Bill was one of the leaders who did this trip in 2012; it was so beautiful that he felt drawn to do it again the following year.

Day 11: On our last day, after a hot shower, dinner, a good night’s sleep, and a hearty breakfast, we will ride the bus down to the lake, the boat down the lake, then another bus back to Stevens Pass, to arrive back there by mid-afternoon on August 24. After loading our vehicles, we will say our goodbyes and spread to the wind. Boat, bus, and shuttle fees are included in the trip price.



Getting There

We will meet at Stevens Pass the morning of Wednesday, August 14. Directions will be provided. Cars will be left in the parking lot here. The leaders will help to coordinate carpooling from Portland or Seattle. The closest major airports are Seattle/Tacoma and Portland. Amtrak provides service to both Seattle and Portland. The leaders will provide a roster so participants can arrange carpools from Portland or Seattle.

Accommodations and Food

We believe in eating well on hiking trips and plan for a variety of tasty, nutritious food. Meals may include meat, but can be adapted for vegetarians. As everyone has different tastes, we will ask participants about food preferences before finalizing the menu.

All meals are included, from lunch on our first day to lunch on the last day. We will have breakfast at camp each morning, enjoy lunch along the trail, and have dinner at the next night’s camp. Everyone will share in the cooking chores, which we will rotate daily. 

Trip Difficulty

This trip rates four on a five-point scale (moderately strenuous) and the rewards are equal to the effort. Over ten days, we will hike about 100 miles with about 15,000 feet of elevation gain and loss, perhaps with one layover day. A food drop will help to lighten our loads. Elevations will mostly be in the range of 4000 to 6000 feet. This is definitely a trip for fit and experienced backpackers. If you have any questions about your fitness and experience as they relate to this trip, please discuss them with the leaders in detail. 

Water will be readily available along our route so we should not have to regularly carry large amounts of water. That plus the food drop will mean that our packs should not be overly heavy even though this is a 10-day backpack. Although anything is possible with weather, August in this area is generally warm and sunny with little or no rain. The trip leader has often hiked for a week or two at this time of year and had nothing but good weather. Extremes are possible, however, and you must come prepared for anything, as you would on any backpack trip. The demands of the trip require very good physical conditioning, a flexible attitude, and a sense of adventure. With these three traits, the rest will work out!

Equipment and Clothing

Trip members furnish their own backpack, sleeping bag, tent, and other personal gear, including eating utensils. This must not weigh more than 25 pounds -- and if you can keep it below 20 pounds, all the better. The Club will provide commissary equipment, including pots, stoves and cooking utensils, and all food. For water treatment, the Club will provide a group water filter at camp and purification tablets during the day. Your share of commissary, including bear canister, food and cook gear, will weigh 10-12 pounds to start, decreasing each day, increasing when we pick up the food drop and then decreasing again. Your pack must have sufficient volume to hold a bear canister. We will have a group first-aid kit; you should bring personal supplies and medications. You must bring mosquito repellent, sunscreen, a quart water bottle, a hat with a brim, and clothing suitable for possible rain and cold along with well broken-in hiking boots.



Green Trails Maps Inc.

  • McGregor Mtn.....#   81
  • Glacier Peak........# 112
  • Holden..................# 113
  • Benchmark Mtn...# 144


  • Spring, Ira and Harvey Manning,100 Hikes in Washington’s Glacier Peak Region. The Mountaineers.
  • Lorain, Douglas, Backpacking Washington. Wilderness Press.


The Sierra Club is an environmentally focused entity. We are concerned about conservation and sustainability of resources, both locally and globally. Our work is accomplished by volunteers and aided by a salaried staff, and encourages grassroots involvement. Our outings seek to empower participants toward greater understanding, advocacy and participation in the goals of the Club. Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under a permit from the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

We will be hiking in an established wilderness area, away from roads and civilization, where we can appreciate past conservation efforts and consider what yet remains to be done. To minimize our impact, we will take special care to practice the Leave No Trace ethic.

This trip will be operating under permits from Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, and North Cascades National Park.

Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under permits from North Cascades National Park, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.



Bill Gifford has been leading Sierra Club backpack trips in the Northwest since 1976, including trips to Mount Hood, Mount Rainier, Eagle Cap, Hells Canyon, the North Cascades, the Sky Lakes, Glacier Peak, the Three Sisters and the Strawberry Mountains. Trees and wildflowers are his particular area of expertise, which he enjoys sharing with other hikers.

Assistant Leader:

James Gifford, Bill’s son, has had much hiking experience since childhood. He has hiked in Alaska and New Zealand as well as Oregon and Washington and is particularly interested in wilderness photography. Together, James and Bill provide two generations of leadership.

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