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Originally published June 5, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 11, 2008 at 4:51 PM

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Favorite hikes on Washington's Pacific Crest Trail

The Pacific Crest Trail stretches 2,650 miles from Campo, Calif., on the Mexican border to Monument 78 on the Canadian border in the North...

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The Pacific Crest Trail stretches 2,650 miles from Campo, Calif., on the Mexican border to Monument 78 on the Canadian border in the North Cascades. The Washington section begins at the north end of the Bridge of the Gods, which spans the Columbia River. From there, it runs 500 miles north, passing through 10 wilderness areas (Indian Heaven, Mount Adams, Goat Rocks, William O. Douglas, Norse Peak, Alpine Lakes, Glacier Peak, Henry M. Jackson, Lake Chelan-Sawtooth and Pasayten) as well as two national parks (Mount Rainier and North Cascades).

The Washington section can be enjoyed as one summerlong extended outing, of course, but that's not necessary. Since the PCT runs south-to-north, all the state's west-to-east highways bisect the trail. That makes access easy at the mountain passes. You can find fabulous day-hiking opportunities as well as overnight, or multiday, backpacking adventures. Here are a few favorites:

Bird Mountain Loop

Distance: 7 miles round-trip.

Contact: Mount Adams Ranger District, 509-395-3400.

Indian Heaven Wilderness is a wonderland of sparkling lakes, jagged peaks, open forests and, most notably, sprawling meadows filled with flowers and an array of wildlife. A rambling loop around Bird Mountain allows hikers to experience the best of each of those offerings. This loop is best done clockwise, so begin on the Cultus Creek Trail (No. 33) and start a long, steep climb to the east flank of Bird Mountain before traversing around the flank of the mountain to join the Pacific Crest Trail on its southern face. Turn north on the PCT to skirt the western face of Bird, cutting through forest and meadow and passing a number of clear lakes along the way. Turn east once more on Trail 108 to head back down to the campground.

Getting there: From Trout Lake, drive west on Highway 141 for about 8 miles to Peterson Prairie Campground and a junction with Forest Road 24. Turn right onto Road 24 and drive 5.5 miles to the Cultus Creek Campground on the left. The trailhead is near the back of the campground loop.

Shoe Lake

Distance: 14 miles round-trip.

Contact: Naches Ranger District, 509-653-2205.

When you hear "Pacific CREST Trail," this is what most people think of — a trail dancing along a narrow ridge at the top of the mountain range. After climbing through cool pine forests from White Pass summit to the top of the ridge, the trail heads south along the sharp ridgeline of Hogback Mountain. The PCT here is merely a faint footpath through alpine meadows hugging the side of a knife-edged ridge. Turn around at Shoe Lake — named for its horseshoe shape — or continue on if you prefer. Just be aware that camping is prohibited in the lake basin to allow the area's sparse vegetation to recover from years of abuse from unthinking campers.

Getting there: Drive Highway 12 to White Pass. The PCT-South Trailhead is located just east of the ski area on the south side of the highway.

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Sourdough Gap

Distance: 7 miles round-trip.

Contact: Naches Ranger District, 509-653-2205.

Seldom do you find a trail this gentle with such spectacular scenery. A pretty, clear-water lake, grassy wildflower meadows and outstanding views await hikers willing to share the trail with lots of fellow nature lovers. Of course, with lots of meadows for grazing, rocks for hiding in and trees to perch in, the area is also popular with a host of bird and animal species. Deer, mountain goats, hawks, falcons, marmots, martens, chipmunks and the ever-faithful friend of hikers, gray jays, are just a few of the furred and feathered creatures that thrive here. With a modest elevation gain of just 400 feet in the first 2.5 miles, the trail can be enjoyed by hikers of all abilities — kids will love it, and the idyllic little lake basin, with its lakeside meadows and shady groves of trees, makes a great destination.

Getting there: Drive east from Enumclaw on Highway 410 to the summit of Chinook Pass. Just east of Tipsoo Lake, turn left (north) into a small trailhead parking lot on the north side of the highway. The trailhead is found on the backside of the lot, behind the restrooms. (Note: If the parking lot is full, return to the Tipsoo Lake parking lot at the summit of the pass and hike the quarter-mile trail around the lake to the lower lot and the PCT trailhead.)

Kendall Katwalk

Distance: 11 miles round-trip.

Contact: Cle Elum Ranger District, 509-674-4411.

Cut into the side of a granite cliff, the Katwalk offers a remarkable hiking experience — striding on a narrow shelf hundreds of feet in the air. Actually, the Katwalk just feels narrow. Rather than a typical trail tread of 20 or 24 inches, the Katwalk is a good 4 or 5 feet wide as it stretches across a vertical cliff face on the ridge between Kendall Peak and Red Mountain. The trail, blasted into the cliff face by dynamite crews hanging suspended from ropes, is perfectly safe once the winter's snow has completely melted off. If there is any lingering snow on the Katwalk, though, don't attempt it — it's not the place to slip and fall.

There is, of course, more to this hike. The Pacific Crest Trail climbs from Snoqualmie Pass, cutting through old-growth forests; through a log-littered avalanche slope (a perfect place to see just how powerful an avalanche can be); and traversing broad, steep-sloped wildflower meadows. Just beyond the Katwalk, backpackers will find great campsites at a pair of small alpine lakes.

Getting there: Drive Interstate 90 to Exit 52, signed Snoqualmie Pass West. At the bottom of the exit ramp, turn left (north) and cross under the freeway and, in about 100 yards, turn right onto a dirt road leading into the PCT trailhead parking area.

The information in this article, originally published June 5, 2008, was corrected June 11, 2008. The highest point in Indian Heaven Wilderness is Lemei Rock, which the U.S. Forest Service lists at 5,927 feet.. A previous version of the story incorrectly reported that Bird Mountain is the highest point in Indian Heaven Wilderness.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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