Starting in well-protected sub-alpine wilderness and descending into heavily-logged, privately-owned land, this stretch of the PCT offers a dramatic illustration of the effects of public land protection and private industry on Washington's landscape.
From the trailhead off of quiet Highway 12, hike through the lush hills and meadows of the William O. Douglas Wilderness. This section's climbs and dips remain relatively moderate throughout. As it follows the crest from White Pass, the trail passes through sub-alpine meadows and past numerous lakes and streams. Mount Rainier looms large here. At times the trail passes within twelve miles of the peak, and remains a near-constant part of the scenery for much of the hike.
About halfway through the hike, the trail descends below the sub-alpine zone, entering a varied landscape of forests, meadows and the occasional ridge-top. Forty miles or so from Snoqualmie Pass, the trail enters land shared by private companies and the Forest Service. From this point on, almost half the trail leads through clear-cuts and exposed hillsides. Be prepared to face the elements in the logged areas and to enjoy the pockets of protected lands, which include a mile-long swatch of old growth forests, and beautiful mountain lakes and meadows.
From Chinook Pass, the trail has an easy, rapid run to Interstate 90 at Snoqualmie Pass. This stretch presents many private land clearcuts that offer little cover from the often present rain, and as you get closer to the pass, you are likely to encounter more and more day hikers, and overnight campers.
WTA Pro Tip: The pass has public restrooms, a small coffeeshop where you can restock on sugary, carby treats, and the Summit Pancake House, a good stop for a warm meal. Also look for Dru Bru and Commonwealth, breweries where you can enjoy a pint before continuing on to the next section.