Stevens to Snoqualmie: Through the Alpine Lakes Wilderness on the Pacific Crest Trail, Washington

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14115A, Backpack


  • Traverse the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, on one of the most beautiful PCT sections
  • Enjoy mountain vistas, alpine meadows, and beautiful lakes
  • Hike with people who share your passion for the outdoors


  • Delicious meals and group cooking equipment
  • Discussions about our nation’s beautiful public lands and wilderness protection
  • Experienced leader team 


DatesAug 30–Sep 6, 2014
Difficulty5 (out of 5)
StaffMichael Jensen

Trip Overview

The Trip

Climb the Mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. - John Muir

Over 700 mountain lakes, soaring peaks (often snow-covered), granite ridges, “U”-shaped glacial valleys, and the incomparable topography of the Cascade Range.  Douglas fir, Ponderosa pine, and cedar forests, broad mountain meadows, and rushing rivers.  All this is the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, so designated in 1976, through which we will backpack on the Pacific Crest Trail. Some PCT thru-hikers consider the section from Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie Pass to be the most beautiful and wildest of the entire trail.  Schaffer and Selters write “this section will challenge your legs, lift your spirits, and probably confirm your reasons for backpacking.”  Join us as we explore and enjoy this beautiful protected area. 

Hiking at elevations between 3,000 and 6,000 ft, we will backpack for about 74 miles, with views of magnificent peaks and camp most often by inviting lakes. If we’re lucky, we’ll see mountain goats, marmots, and other furry creatures (but bears only at a distance, we hope). Starting at the north end at Stevens Pass, we will spend eight days/seven nights on this rugged hike for a full wilderness experience.  We will end at Snoqualmie Pass in the south. While the wet Cascades weather is well known, September offers many bluebird days to enjoy the great outdoors, and we will take a positive attitude that we will encounter that good weather.



Day 1: After starting at Stevens Pass Trailhead (4,100 feet), we'll follow the PCT about 7.7 miles to Mig Lake Campground. Elevation climb: 1,950 feet; loss: 1,650 feet. Campsite elevation: 4,667 feet.

Day 2: We'll continue hiking 10.3 miles on the PCT to Deception Lake. Elevation climb: 3,260 feet; loss: 2,550 feet. Campsite elevation: 5,060 feet.

Day 3: We'll continue on the PCT for 12.5 miles to Deep Lake. Elevation climb: 2,900 feet; loss: 3,800 feet. Campsite elevation: 4,400 feet.

Day 4: We'll follow the PCT for about 7.5 miles to Waptus River. Elevation climb: 500 feet; loss: 2,000 feet. Campsite elevation: 3,000 feet.

Day 5: We'll follow the PCT for about 14 miles to Lemah Meadow. This is our longest and toughest day; the view from the top of Escondido Ridge, which we go over, is supposed to be spectacular. Elevation climb: 3,800 feet; loss: 3,600 feet. Campsite elevation: 3,200 feet.

Day 6: We'll follow the PCT for about 6.5 miles to reach a small lake north of Park Lakes. Elevation climb: 2,400 feet; loss: 900 feet. Campsite elevation: 4,800 feet.

Day 7: We'll follow the PCT 7.3 miles to Ridge Lake. Elevation climb: 2,400 feet; loss: 2,740 feet. Campsite elevation: 5,300 feet.

Day 8: On our last day together, we'll cover 8 miles to reach our cars at Snoqualmie Pass. Elevation climb: 850 feet; loss: 3,000 feet.

Wilderness travel can go as planned or unforeseen conditions or circumstances can necessitate a change in plans, so please bring a flexible attitude with you on the trip.



Getting There

The closest major airports are Seattle/Tacoma (90 miles one way) and Portland (250 miles one way). Amtrak provides service to both Seattle and Portland. The leaders will provide a roster so participants can arrange carpools from Portland or Seattle.  We will meet at 1:00 p.m. the day before the official start of the trip (August 29) to have an orientation, review packing suggestions, eat dinner together, and run the four-hour round-trip car shuttle to Snoqualmie Pass. The outing begins at 8 a.m. on day one (August 30) in Stevens Pass; the cars will be left in the ski area parking lot here. We finish the trip on September 6. Participants should not book return flights until the day following the end of the trip (September 7).

Accommodations and Food

The trip price includes all meals from lunch on day one through lunch on day eight, as well as use of group camping gear. We will prepare simple, lightweight, easy-to-prepare, good-tasting meals from dried and freeze-dried ingredients, using recipes tested on previous Sierra Club trips. Vegetarian options are possible. Any food allergies or limitations must be indicated to the leader as far in advance of the trip as possible. Participants will share cooking and clean-up activities with guidance as necessary from the trip staff.

Trip Difficulty

This trip is rated 5 (strenuous) on a 5-point scale, but the rewards are equal to the effort. We will hike about 74 miles, with about 18,000 feet of elevation gain and 20,000 feet loss in eight days.  Elevations will mostly be in the range of 3,000 to 6,000 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.

Although anything is possible with weather, early September in this area is generally warm and sunny with little or no rain. It is not uncommon to hike for a week or two at this time of year and have 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

A detailed equipment list will be sent to all registered trip members in a future bulletin. Participants are expected to furnish their own backpack and camping gear, as well as good raingear (including backpack cover), layers of clothing to keep you comfortable between 30-75 degrees, broken-in medium-weight waterproof boots, and other personal gear, eating utensils, toiletries, etc.; you must bring mosquito repellent, sunscreen, a quart water bottle, and a hat with a brim.  Your personal backpack gear should come to no more than about 25 pounds as we will give you up to about 15-17 pounds of commissary gear.  Your pack must have sufficient volume to accommodate a bear canister. We will have a group first-aid kit for emergencies; you should bring personal supplies and medications. You may also find hiking poles helpful for stream crossings, steep downhills, and difficult terrain.  



Green Trails Maps Inc: 

  • Stevens Pass, WA ....# 176
  • Snoqualmie Pass, WA ....# 207

Downloadable maps on website by Halfmile:


  • Schaffer, J.P. and Selters, A., Pacific Crest Trail: Oregon and Washington, Wilderness Press.
  • Parks, S.K., Pacific Crest Trail: Oregon and Washington


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.

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.

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.
While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.

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



Michael Jensen has been hooked on backpacking since his first backpack trip in the Wind River Range in 1980. He has backpacked on Sierra Club and personal trips in twelve states and Canada. Sharing glorious vistas with interesting new people makes these trips a wonderful experience. While his job at a university keeps him indoors too much, in his spare time his outdoor activities with family and friends include day hikes, backpacking, telemark skiing, and an occasional canoe trip. Michael also enjoys reading, writing fiction, and photography.


Becky Wong is from British Columbia, Canada. She is also a marathon pacing coach and runner. Becky has led trips with the Sierra Club on the Rainbow Plateau in Arizona and the Sierra Nevada. She also has many years of backpacking on the West Coast of Vancouver Island as well as in the Canadian Rockies. She believes in spending as much time as possible outdoors. "Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit" - Edward Abbey. Becky is a Certified Wilderness First Responder.

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