PCT: High Bridge to Rainy Pass

Miles 2571.9-2591.1 of the northbound PCT: Through a lush river valley in North Cascades National Park.

Hiking Easy

Distance
30 km
Ascent
1.5 km
Descent
536 m
Duration
1 day +
Low Point
482 m
High Point
1.5 km
Gradient
VIEW ON MAP
PCT: High Bridge to Rainy Pass Map

Description

The PCT enters North Cascades National Park near High Bridge in the Stehekin Valley, then goes northward about 18 miles through the national park. Beyond the park bounds, there remain a few more miles to a highway at Rainy Pass. Almost all of this 20+ mile segment goes uphill in the northbound direction. The ascent is rarely steep, but it's long and drawn out with primarily forest for scenery. So while it may not be a highlight section of the PCT, it makes for relatively easy and well-watered miles leading closer to Canada.

From the trailhead, at High Bridge (NB mile 2571.9) the ascent begins right away, on a short set of switchbacks above the road. The trail continues uphill to a lake (NB mile 2573.6), and on the way are several clearings that reveal forested slopes on either side of this valley. The trail continues on some rolling terrain, but mostly upward through the gorge. The river tumbles out of sight somewhere below. Overhead are steeper slopes with bluffs of vertical rock. Clearings continue intermittently, usually in the form of brushy burn areas. Hikers may enjoy abundant berries in the late season, as well as shows of fall colors. Water is generally easy to find in small creeks that cross the trail.

The first campsite is Bridge Creek (NB mile 2576.8), which is well equipped with picnic tables and bear lockers. Beyond there, the PCT joins an old road for a short distance, then turns into the valley of Bridge Creek, where the forest thickens. Later the trail crosses this creek on a bridge (NB mile 2579.7), and North Fork camp is just on the other side. A steeper climb then takes the trail high above this creek.

Another bridge crosses Maple Creek (NB mile 2581.6), which may be the last on-trail water for a while if conditions are dry. In the proceeding miles, however, signed spur trails lead to campsites with water in Bridge Creek. Once the PCT exits the national park (NB mile 2587.7) it crosses the creek on another bridge (NB mile 2588.7) and soon nears the highway.

After traveling roughly parallel to the road and within earshot of traffic for a few miles, the PCT finally crosses Highway 20 at Rainy Pass (NB mile 2591.1). This is a remote spot where distance hikers don’t commonly leave the trail, but trailheads on both sides of the road are very popular for other hikes in the area. The town of Mazama is about 20 miles east, offering typical small-town amenities plus a gear store. Winthrop is a bigger place with more options, several miles farther down the same road.

Permits: No permit is required for hiking through North Cascades National Park, but a backcountry permit is needed if you wish to camp within park bounds. The PCT Long-Distance permit can suffice for certain camps, but not all. Otherwise, you will need to obtain a separate backcountry permit in person from a ranger station. For more information, see the North Cascades Pacific Crest Trail page.

Sources: https://www.nps.gov/noca/planyourvisit/pacific-crest-trail.htm https://www.pcta.org/discover-the-trail/maps/ https://pctmap.net/trail-notes/

Difficulty

Easy

Walking along a well-kept trail that’s mostly flat. No obstacles are present.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

May, June, July, August, September, October

Features

  • Wildlife
  • Historical
  • Picturesque
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Family friendly
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

Guidebooks in this area