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Hiking the PCT Without a Car

Posted by Andrew Engelson at Aug 19, 2008 11:25 AM |
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My adventures in car-free hiking continued last weekend. This time, I planned to hike some of the Pacific Crest Trail.

I've blogged previously about a new shuttle service to Snoqualmie Pass that Washington State Parks started this summer. So it was time to try it myself to get to a trailhead.


Kendall Katwalk

It was a scorching hot Friday afternoon when put my bike on the 554 express bus to Issaquah. I had an overnight pack, pared down to the bare essentials at 27 pounds. From the Issaquah Transit Center, I caught the Metro 209 bus to North Bend. Then it was a 5-mile bike ride to the Cedar Falls trailhead near Rattlesnake Lake, to catch the shuttle.

If I'd had more time, I'd have taken the longer and well-graded Snoqualmie Valley Trail. But I was pressed to make the last shuttle of the day (one downside of transit hiking is you've got to be on time!) so I braved the steeper, heavily trafficked Cedar Falls Road. Not exactly pleasant, but I did it.

The shuttle to Hyak was speedy and the driver, Chuck, was very friendly and made good conversation. The shuttle, with a trailer for bikes, dropped me off at Hyak, and then it was a 2-mile ride uphill on backroads to reach the pass and the trailhead for the PCT northbound.

One thing I should point out: the shuttle is primarily meant to serve mountain bikers using the rail-trail Iron Horse State Park, which stretches from Hyak down to North Bend (and continues eastward as the John Wayne Trail all the way to Spokane). The shuttle does not stop at trailheads along the route, although technically they can stop at Twin Falls/Olallie if you request it in advance.

At 4:45 p.m. I locked my bike to a tree and was hiking the PCT. This stretch of trail to Kendall Katwalk and a camp at Ridge Lake is phenomenal, especially in the late evening light. I reached the lake just as a full moon rose over Alta  Mountain. Though the lake is popular, I found a spot and enjoyed dinner by moonlight.

The next morning I hiked further up the PCT above Joe and Alaska Lakes. I'd never explored this stretch of the PCT, and highly recommend it. The views are astounding. I  had to be back into Seattle by Saturday evening, so I hoofed it back down the trail and back to my bike.

I arrived at Hyak in late afternoon, and had an hour wait for next the shuttle. As I sat there waiting, I noticed the cool breeze flowing out the Snoqualmie Tunnel. Why take a shuttle, I wondered, when I had a my own "shuttle"--my mountain bike--and the Iron Horse Trail to North Bend was completely downhill?

So, changing my plans, I decided to bike the 27 miles from Hyak to North Bend. It was awesome! The  former railroad tunnel is 2.3 miles long, pitch-black and freaky, but about the coolest place to be on a 90-degree day (just make sure you have fresh batteries in your head lamp!). The remaining 24 miles of trail is a beautiful 2 percent grade, so you never have to brake during the descent.
It was a kick to ride past all those I-90 hiking destinations I usually see from behind a windshield: Granite Mountain, Bandera, Annette Lake, McLelland Butte, and finally Mount Si. It was satisfying to breeze downhill at a good pace, knowing I wasn't guzzling gas!

I arrived in North Bend in late afternoon and hopped on the Metro bus back to Issaquah, and then another bus to Seattle. The whole adventure was quite a "triathlon," but it was rewarding to get to another trailhead using only a bike, bus and the shuttle service. Total cost was $5 for bus fare plus $20 for the shuttle one-way. Probably not cheaper than driving, but it felt good hike the PCT without using a car!

Photo: Hikers on the PCT at Kendal Katwalk. Photo by Andrew Engelson.


to trail head without a car

That sounds like an exciting adventure. I just wish they could come up with something like that in the north cascades, Mount Baker. With the (WTA) Whatcom Transet Athorty.

Posted by:

Hermod Bakke on Aug 19, 2008 12:35 PM

Great idea.

I get calls constantly with folks asking for a shuttle service to the PCT at Snoqualmie Pass. Actually, I might be asked 10 times a week if the weather is nice. It's usualy people from out of town coming up to see the city and do the PCT from Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass.

Posted by:

Troy Parris on Aug 21, 2008 12:39 PM

What happened to Greyhound Service at Snoqualamie?

My friend and I have hiked the entire PCT in Washington over the past decade (pre current gas prices). On the longer hikes instead of doing a car shuttle we would try to arrange to link up with public transportation. There used to be several buses a day in each direction at Snoqualamie Pass. There's a bus over Steven Pass bus, as well. Good to hear about the shuttle. People need to realize that owning even an old car is costing 30¢ per mile or more so the price of these shuttles is not out of line.

Posted by:

Dave Brook on Sep 07, 2008 05:13 PM