Many hikers ignore the section of the Cascades between Mount Rainier and Snoqualmie Pass because it has a reputation for not being as scenic as other parts of the Pacific Northwest due to logging and private usage. If this section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) proves anything, it's that this is truly not the case. This trail provides hikers with views of Mount Rainier, various buttes and passes, and access to the Norse Peak Wilderness, all of which provide stunning views.
Begin your trip along the PCT at Chinook Pass, which sits midway through the east border of Mount Rainier National Park. The PCT does not reenter the park past this point. Pass over Highway 410, and begin your walk following closely along the highway for the first mile. Quickly branch off and make your way towards Sourdough Gap and Crystal Lake. Pass Sheep Lake along the way.
The PCT will not intersect directly with Crystal Lake, which is in the Park, but there is a trail that provides access for those interested in a visit. Continue along the PCT past Three Way Peak towards Crystal Mountain Resort. Make your way around Crystal Mountain and the resort area, keeping a reasonable distance away, and pass through Bear Gap, Panhandle Pass, and Bell Pass. Pickhandle Point and Crown Point are on the right.
Once past the Crystal Mountain area, pass by Norse Peak on the left and enter the Norse Peak Wilderness. This portion of the trail offers the best views. Pass by Reese Lake just before you reach Castle Mountain, both on the left. Make your way through the Norse Peak Wilderness along rolling hills. Spot Arch Rock as you walk towards Louisiana Saddle.
From here, the trail stays relatively flat until you reach Government Meadow, where there is a shelter and a toilet. Keep an eye out for lots of elk. Past Government Meadows, the trail continues to roll north. Be aware: there is little access to water between Government Meadows and Blowout Mountain - about 8.8 miles of trail. The only water comes from a spring about 5 miles past the meadows.
Reach Blowout Mountain and enjoy the views. After this point, connect to Stampede Pass. Again, there is little water. You may find water at Tacoma Pass, but there is no reliable source until you reach Stampede Pass. 6 miles past Blowout Mountain, cross paths with a cross country ski trail, and from this point on stay in close proximity with cross country ski trails, roads, and eventually the highway when you reach Snoqualmie Pass.
Before Stampede Pass, pass by Bearpaw Butte and climb to Snowshoe Butte, a logged-over summit which features blueberries and Silver Firs. Enjoy grand views of the Cascade Crest, then descend into old growth and second growth forest. Eventually, reach a weather station where there is access to water. Around the weather station, there are lodgepole and western white pine trees.
Past the weather station, walk under overhead power lines. If you can ignore the buzzing sound, they create nice meadows beneath them with lupine, indian paintbrush, and beargrass in bloom. Finally, make your way past Lizard Lake to Stampede Pass. Here there are nice views of Mount Rainier. Stampede Pass connects to Highway 54 and other roads, so be alert when crossing it.
Past Stampede Pass, enter the final stretch to Snoqualmie Pass. Meander past Stirrup Creek, Twilight Lake, Yakima Pass, and Mirror Lake along the way. Tinkham Peak and Silver Peak are prominent on the left, and just past them enter Olallie Meadow. The rest of the trail is a pleasant walk as you pass Lodge Lake and finally reach Snoqualmie Pass.