Above:  Twin Sisters, Morning Light. Photo by Alex Maier.

North Cascades, Section 7

The PNT climbs to dramatic vistas as it works against the grain of the steep Cascade Mountains in the eastern half of Section 7. Here, the trail spans the rainshadow of the Cascades, wending across the Cascade Crest, from the dry Pasayten Wilderness, to the lush temperate rainforests west of the massive range.

Known to some as the “American Alps,” a seemingly endless horizon of majestic peaks define this breathtaking landscape. The North Cascades contain the most active glaciers found in the lower ‘48. At lower elevations, the trail explores ancient forests along river valleys. At higher altitudes, heather meadows surround post-card perfect alpine lakes beneath the towering peaks of Mount Shuksan and Mount Baker. In this section of trail, visitors climb close enough to see cracks in the mighty volcanoe’s glacier-clad slopes.

Further west, an eclectic collection of hand-made trail markers speak to the history of the PNT; some of the first trails ever constructed by PNTA volunteers can be found in Section 7. This diverse landscape encompasses the foothills of the Cascade range and the teal glacial waters of the Skagit River. In the popular Chuckanut Mountains, sweeping views of the San Juan Islands await travelers heading southwest across the inland sea, known as the Puget Sound.

Hikers and Mount Shuksan
Hikers in the Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest beneath Mount Shuksan. Photo by Alex Maier.
Hikers in the Mt Baker-Snoqualmie NF beneath Mount Shuksan. Photo by Alex Maier.
Section 7 At A Glance
Plan Your Trip - Section 7
Section 7 At A Glance

Ross Lake NRA to Oyster Dome
196 mi (315 km)
Highest Point: 5,240’
Elevation Gain/ Loss:  +25,757’ / -27,337’

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Ancient forests and alpine meadows
  • North Cascades NP
  • Panorama Dome
  • Mt. Baker
  • Park Butte Lookout
  • Baker Lake
  • Baker Hot Springs
  • Scrambling on Mt Josephine
  • Oyster Dome and the British Army Trail

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:

  • Camping in Section 7 requires planning ahead
  • Permits are required to camp in North Cascades NP
  • The PNT passes through private property and county parks – these areas are day-use only
  • Follow WA DNR rules for dispersed camping on State Forests
  • Check PNTA Trail Alerts for possible trail closures before you go
  • Check current campfire and stove restrictions before you go
  • Proper food storage for black bear habitat is required
  • Grizzly bear encounters are possible (but unlikely) in the N Cascades Ecosystem

PUBLIC LANDS:

North Cascades National Park Complex
Mt Baker-Snoqualmie NF
Harry Osborne-Les Hilde State Forest
Alger State Forest
Squires Lake Park – Whatcom County Parks
Blanchard Mountain State Forest
Cascade Trail – Skagit County Parks

 

SPECIAL HAZARDS

  • Black bears
  • Hazardous ford at Swift Creek
  • Mountain weather
  • Rugged trail conditions
  • Bushwhacking
  • Motorized routes
Plan Your Trip - Section 7

The PNT travels through some of our wildest public lands. These special places are home to animals iconic of wilderness, and species found nowhere else. By following the regulations of our National Parks and National Forests, you can help keep wildlife wild and the backcountry safe on the PNT.

Getting to and from the Pacific Northwest Trail is part of the adventure – America’s wildest National Scenic trail is located in some of the most remote mountain ranges of the Northwest and logistics are part of the challenge.

A visit to the undiscovered communities of the Northwest is a fun part of any trip on the PNT. From rugged mountain towns, to historic seaside cities, the diverse communities visited by the trail provide a peek into the lifestyles unique to the Northwest. 

The weather and climate across the trail corridor can vary greatly by geographic area, elevation, and season. The major mountain ranges of the PNT create rain shadows. This effect creates drier and warmer east sides, that can approach desert-like climates, and much cooler and wetter west sides that include rain forests.

“Against the Grain” is the unofficial slogan of the PNT, with good reason. This rugged, 1,200 mile route climbs over seven mountain ranges and it presents some unique challenges along the way. For those uncomfortable with hazardous situations, there are many trails on the PNT that are accessible to a wide range of visitors.

The Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail travels through many different public and private lands. You can help to protect our natural resources, and the quality of the experience. Respect private property and learn the regulations of the area you are visiting.

Today, the PNT offers an experience that may be more challenging and rugged than it will be a generation from now. Until then, making the effort to be fully prepared for an adventure on the PNT is key to having a safe and enjoyable trip.

FAQ

Search our knowledge base of common questions about the PNT. If you can not find an answer here, please can contact us or join the conversation on the PNT Hikers Facebook group.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:

  • Permits are required to camp in North Cascades NP
  • Proper food storage for black bear habitat is recommended
  • Grizzly bear encounters are possible (but unlikely) in the N Cascades Ecosystem
  • The PNT passes through private property and county parks – these areas are day-use only
  • Follow WA DNR rules for dispersed camping on State Forests

Find critical up-to-date information about the PNT trail network in one convenient location or subscribe to plain text email alerts.

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