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Trip Report    

Pacific Crest Trail: Harts Pass to Rainy Pass

This was a glorious four days of expansive views, bright red September color and lots of blueberries! Plus 28 PCT Thru-Hikers! Definitely highly recommended for this time of year or anytime in the mid to late summer for that matter.

Our group carpooled to Rainy Pass and met two shuttle vehicles from Classic Mountain Cabby,, (509) 996-2894. $450 for 8 people to transfer from Rainy Pass up to Harts Pass, a bit steep, but worth it to avoid the rough 4 hour RT drive twice to shuttle cars. The drivers/owners Jeremy and Tyler were very nice and they got us up there safely and comfortably.

To avoid a bit of dull walking at the start, the shuttle can take you to the parking lot just past Meadows CG where a short spur cuts over the PCT, eliminating about 1.5 miles from Harts Pass. From there we traversed on dry open trail with broad south and east views for several miles. Some of us took a faint boot path up to the top of Tatie Peak for more views (you can actually go up to the top from this side and down the other, just a little bit of loose scree and a few exposed spots) while others went on to wait at the saddle just beyond. At about mile 6.5 (all dry, no water at all in this stretch), the trail passes a big cleared camp right beside the trail on the left, with side trails descending from it to more camps and a nice small stream with a pool below and a nice kitchen area/camp beyond. We stayed here on our first night and there was plenty of room for our 7 tents. This was a cold pocket though! Lovely evening rambling and sunset viewing on the main PCT heading south toward Grasshopper Pass. First day around 5 miles with little elevation gain.

The next day we took our time ascending gently to Grasshopper Pass - stopping for breathtaking views of Mts Ballard and Azurite across the deep valley to the west from various little slots over the ridge. An enchanting section of trail that followed the dwarf larch and whitebark pine forest along the ridge. At the point where the trail crossed Grasshopper Pass and began to descend, we dropped packs and took another boot path to the top of peak 7125, another very worthy viewpoint with just a few places where hands were needed.

Then the long switchbacking descent through fields of ripe blueberries, followed by increasingly thick brush as we headed down the valley of Brushy Creek. As many had told us, the creek was in close view but couldn't be accessed due to thick brush and a steep talus cliff. Finally, 2 hours after dropping off of Grasshopper Pass, we came to the junction with the W Fork Methow trail at a bridge over the river, the first water since our last night's camp. Refreshing lunch spot! From there it was less than 2 miles to the next bridge over the W Fork Methow, with a USFS camp sign and nice camps to both sides of the bridge (if a little dark in the forest). We stayed here on night 2. A 9.7 mile day with <1000' elevation gain.

The next day the trail ascended for a couple of miles through lovely thick forest with occasional water trickles, sunbreaks and views up to Mt Hardy high above, before switchbacking and then emerging onto the saddle of Methow Pass and views across to Cutthroat Pass and the Porcupine Creek Valley to the southeast, and Tower and the Golden Horn to the northeast. This was a lovely though dry lunch spot, and an opportunity for more side rambling up to some knobs below Mt Hardy.

From Methow Pass we had just a bit over a mile of lovely but hot south-slope traversing to a point where the trail cut in a little hook to the north and the clear bootpath to Snowy Lakes (unsigned) cut off northward. A modest-sized camp with a little trickle of water sat on the edge of the dropoff just across from the junction. The half-mile bootpath was steep and dry, sometimes following the rocky stream channel, but emerged quickly into the basin of lower Snowy Lake and, shortly above, even prettier Upper Snowy Lake. Some established camps around both lakes but more good camps around the upper lake and that's where we stayed. This area's vaunted reputation is very well deserved! One of the most lovely camp spots I've had the privilege to enjoy. We all sat on a rock and watched the sunset and sunrise over Mt Hardy and all the peaks of the North Cascades to south and east. A 6.5 mile day with 2700 feet elevation gain.

On day 4 we reluctantly broke camp at Upper Snowy Lakes and headed back down to the PCT, turning left and heading toward Granite Pass. This was a mostly dry stretch though there were a few gullies with a trickle, enough to fill a bottle if necessary though no good pools for scooping. Hot and dry south-facing slope with no shelter, so get an early start! In a couple of hours we came into some trees and lovely bright red berry foliage, and were surprised to encounter the pass sign in a low forested spot. After the pass the trail switchbacked for about a mile before crossing over to the east side of the ridge and then traversing in the open to Cutthroat Pass, views of tiny Cutthroat Lake and Early Winters Spires/Liberty Bell below and across. Cutthroat Pass made a lovely lunch spot. From there it was a fairly quick 2 hours to make the 5 miles down to Rainy Pass TH, crossing a few streams (the official Porcupine Creek camp that is signed closest to Cutthroat appeared to have very limited water, but several streams crossed the trail below). The last 2 miles was under cover in lovely forest. Last day approx 10 miles and ~800-1000' gain.

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