If you’re an avid hiker seeking spectacular views in Snoqualmie Pass, you need to hike Kendall Katwalk. Located in the Mount Baker- Snoqualmie National Forest, this is one of my favorite trails for both backpacking and as a day hike.
As one of the 100 Classic Hikes of Washington, Kendall Katwalk promises breathtaking vistas, subalpine lakes, and a traverse across a steep rock face.
In this Blog Post I will share everything you need to know about hiking the Kendall Katwalk segment of Section J of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Whether you’re choosing to backpack or hike Kendall Katwalk, I will share the best time of year to make your trek, what to pack for your journey, answers to commonly asked questions, and share what to expect throughout the trail.
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Exploring Kendall Katwalk: A Pacific Northwest Gem
Kendall Katwalk is a must-do trail in the Pacific Northwest and one of my personal favorites. Whether you’re an experienced backpacker or relatively new hiker, this trail can unlock some of the wonders that the area has to offer. Here is what I will be covering in this post:
- Accessing the Trail: Let’s go over the basics of the hike, how to get there, and what you need prior to getting to the trailhead parking lot.
- Hiking and Backpacking Kendall Katwalk: This blog has a step-by-step guide to navigating the Kendall Katwalk trail. I’ll share everything from hiking through old-growth forests to the best alpine vistas.
- Best Time of Year to Hike the Trail: Each season has something magical to offer when it comes to the Katwalk. I’ll share what to expect for each.
- What to Pack for the Trek: As you prepare for your day hike or backpacking trip, I’ll share some insights on what to bring on your journey.
- Answers to Commonly Asked Questions: Prior to hiking this trail, I had tons of questions, here are the questions I wish I had the answers to before my journey.
- Other Great Trails in Snoqualmie Pass: Snoqualmie Pass has some of the best trails in Washington. I’ll share some of my favorites!
Let’s get into the basics!
General Trail Stats
Region: Snoqualmie Pass
Distance: 14.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,150 feet
Time: 7-8 hours
When to go: June – Oct.
Pass/Permit?: Northwest Forest Pass
Dogs Allowed?: Yes
Date Completed: 10/1-2/23
Accessing Kendall Katwalk Trailhead
In this section I will go over the pre-planning details of hiking Kendall Katwalk.
Location of the Trailhead
Kendall Katwalk is located on the ancestral lands of the Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla, Wenatchi, Snoqualmie, Tulalip tribes and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. We are grateful for the stewards of this land past and present. We are honored to be and recognize that we are guests on this land.
Getting to the Trailhead
The Kendall Katwalk Trailhead can be found in Snoqualmie Pass off of I-90. Whether you’re coming from the east or west,you’re going to take the west summit exit.
The parking lot is to the left after the exit and there are upper and lower lots. I recommend getting to the trailhead early if you want a parking spot on a sunny weekend day.
The parking lot has a pit toilet that can be used prior to your trek and there is a small picnic bench!
Season to Visit
The best time to visit Kendall Katwalk is between late spring and mid-fall. Let’s talk about it:
Spring in the Pacific Northwest is known for vibrant wildflower displays. Kendall Katwalk will be less crowded as snow will still be melting off of the trail, but wildflowers will begin to bloom in the higher alpine meadows.
Summer is the most popular time to hike Kendall Katwalk and the longer days allow for day hikers and thru hikers begin making their way through the pacific crest trail. This is the best season hike to Ridge and Gravel lakes.
Fall is a wonderful time to visit Kendall Katwalk. The fall colors are beautiful and the cooler temperatures make for a more pleasant hike. However, the Katwalk is prone to heavy snow which could occur throughout October. Be prepared for changing weather conditions.
Kendall Katwalk can become inaccessible during periods of heavy snow. Unless you have the proper gear and knowledge, it is not recommended to traverse the Katwalk during this time.
Let’s figure out what passes and permits you will need for your hike!
To hike this trail you will need to leave either a Northwest Forest Pass or America the Beautiful Pass in your windshield. If you’re backpacking this trail, you will also need to register at the trailhead.
Northwest Forest Pass
This trail is located in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and requires a Northwest Forest Pass.
A Northwest Forest Pass gives access to hikes to all of the National Forests within Washington and Oregon The pass costs $30 annually and can be purchased here.
America the Beautiful Pass
America the Beautiful Passes work at both National parks and National Forests.
If you visit National Parks and National Forests 3 or more times within a year, the $85 annual cost is worth it! Just visiting and buying a one-day pass for a National Park can cost $35.
If you want to purchase an America the Beautiful pass, you can purchase one here!
For backpackers staying overnight on the trail and Day-Use Hikers, there is a self-registration box with permits at the beginning of the trail.
Fill out the form and connect the permit to your backpack. This will inform park rangers of the number of people, stock, and dogs in your party, when your expected exit is, and where you will be staying if you’re backpacking.
Self-registering helps with park funding and directing resources to high traffic areas.
Now that we know the basics, let’s pack for our hike!
What to Pack
Packing the right gear for Kendall Katwalk is crucial to having a safe and comfortable trek. Here is a short list of the gear I packed for my backpacking trip to Kendall Katwalk. Some of these essentials will be useful for day trips as well.
As always, make sure you’re bringing the Ten Essentials of Hiking.
If you need to brush up on the Ten Essentials, you can read about them here.
WIth backpacking to Kendall Katwalk later in the season, the evening was a lot colder than in the summer. This is some of the gear that I was thankful to have packed while sleeping in freezing temperatures.
For sleeping I was happy to use a sleeping pad with a higher R-value. The Exped 5R has been my go-to sleeping pad for the last two years.
This trek was the first time I used the Sea to Summit Ascent Sleeping Bag and I was SO impressed. The wide foot box made sleeping in a mummy sleeping bag so much more comfortable.
The night I camped it was extremely windy, so I was happy to bring my Jetboil which had no problem lighting under windy conditions.
To catch the sunrise in the morning, I was happy to have my collapsible X-Cup by Sea to Summit for coffee. It is not a necessity, but it doesn’t take up much space and is lightweight.
Read my complete backpacking list here.
Kendall Katwalk Trail
Kendall Katwalk is an iconic segment of Section J of the Pacific Crest Trail that takes you through old-growth forests, subalpine lakes, and of course across the famous Katwalk itself.
Through the Forest
Beginning at the Pacific Crest Trail main parking lot, you begin the trail surrounded by towering trees in a lush forest. The trail begins with a gentle grade winding through the forest with a few longer straight sections. It is a great warm-up for what is to come later on in the trail.
At around the 2-mile mark, you will enter the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. You’ll notice that the landscape changes from a vibrant green forest to a boulder field carpeted in moss.
In this section you will lose 100 ft of elevation gain, I tried not to think about that on the ascent.
The trail has long straight sections with a gradual grade as opposed to having a large series of switchbacks. As you meander through the forest there will be small breaks in the trees that show just how much elevation you’ve gained.
At around 4.25 miles, you will reach a flat ridge top. This is a great spot for a short break and there are even a couple of backcountry campsites.
Continuing on the trail, there is a small series of switchbacks in which you’re hiking along the spine of the mountain. This enables you to see on either side of the ride.
Eventually the forest will open up and a large boulder field will be spread out before you. This section can be challenging to walk on especially with a large pack on your back. However, take solace in knowing that you’re almost there!
The boulder field ends and there are just a few switchbacks before the trail breaks off between Kendall Katwalk and Kendall Peak.
Kendall Peak is a popular extension to the trail for those looking for panoramic views of the surrounding central cascades and Snoqualmie Pass area.
Push to the Katwalk
The final section between Kendall Peak and Kendall Katwalk is an exciting trek as you hike along ridgelines and on rocky outcropping.
The trail itself is not too challenging and has a gentle grade but it is the first real glimpse at just how high up you actually are with a number of steep down-offs.
When you reach the Katwalk you will have uninhibited views of the mountains that surround you. The Katwalk itself is pretty wide. Looking across the valley you can see Alta Mountain, Hibox Mountain, the Three Queens and Island Mountain.
Ridge and Gravel Lakes
If you want to continue your adventure, which I highly recommend, you can hike an additional 1.25 miles to Ridge and Gravel Lake.
This section of the trail continues along the Katwalk and winds along the mountain side. If you’re lucky you might even hear some Pika chirping at you.
The subalpine meadows are beautiful in this area of the trail.
There are large campsites surrounding Ridge lake off of the “Ridge Lake Camp Trail” if you’re planning on staying overnight on the trail.
The journey back is relatively easy for a trail with such high elevation gain, but that is because of the gradual grade of the descent. Take in the views on your way down, because it will be over before you know it!
Once you’re back at the trailhead, consider popping over to Dru Bru for a post hike beer and hotdog. It is one of my favorite breweries!
Commonly Asked Questions
Here are some answer the commonly asked questions about Kendall Katwalk in Snoqualmie Pass:
How long does it take to hike Kendall Katwalk?
It takes roughly 6 to 8 hours to hike Kendall Katwalk, but this is dependent on your own hiking speed. If you’re planning on adding Gravel and Ridge Lake to your hike, it could add an additional 1 to 2 hours to your trip.
Do you need a pass for Kendall Katwalk?
Yes, you need a pass for Kendall Katwalk. If you need either an America the Beautiful Pass or Northwest Forest Pass. If you’re spending the night on the trail, you need to self-register at the trailhead.
What is the history of Kendall katwalk?
The history of Kendall Katwalk is connected to the construction of the Pacific Crest Trail. Located within Section J of the Pacific Crest Trail, the Katwalk was constructed via dynamite and is considered the “hardest piece of trail ever built”, Elmo Warren – lead contractor for the project.
The Katwalk portion of the trail cost about $42,000 per foot in today’s dollars which would mean that the 600 ft long trail would cost $25.2 million.
Have there been any deaths on Kendall Katwalk?
Yes, a 64 year old woman died on Kendall Katwalk in 2018 after falling. For more information you can read about it here.
Can you backpack Kendall Katwalk?
You can backpack Kendall Katwalk trail. There are designated campsites around Gravel and Ridge Lake which are 1.25 miles past the Katwalk. Both lakes have spectacular sites and are popular stopping points for thru hikers on the PCT.
Remember to set up your tent 200 ft from water sources and only camp on established sites. The high alpine meadows are extremely fragile and easily damaged.
If you have any more questions about the trail, feel free to drop you question in the comments and I will get back to you and add it to the list above!
Should Kendall Katwalk be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington?
I am hiking all “100 Classic Hikes of Washington”. But the question is, Should Kendall Katwalk be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington?
I believe Kendall Katwalk should absolutely be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington. The trail is largely accessible to people wanting to experience spectacular views in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Being on one of the best sections of the Pacific Crest Trail, Kendall Katwalk is just a small glimpse of the majesty of the PCT. I cannot recommend this trail enough.
Let me know in the comments if you think Kendall Katwalk should be a 100 Classic Hike of Washington!
If you’d like to complete your own 100 Classic Hikes journey, you can purchase the book here.
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Other Snoqualmie Pass Hikes
Snoqualmie Pass has some of the best views in the state on some of the most popular trails.
Here is a short list of some of my favorite trails along Snoqualmie Pass including Spectacle Lake, Granite Mountain, and Lake Ingalls.
Spectacle Lake is a backpacking trail that leads hikes to a beautiful lake basin. Camp on the iconic peninsula for a day or two to enjoy swimming in the brilliant blue water.
Granite Mountain is a fantastic hike for anyone looking to summit mountains and visit old Washington fire lookouts. With over 4,000 ft of elevation gain this hike is definitely a buttburner with amazing payoff.
A popular hike for the infamous Washington Larches, Lake Ingalls is a phenomenal hike summer to fall. After completing this trail many times, it’s one of my favorites to recommend.
And that’s it for Kendall Katwalk! Follow along as I hike all 100 Classic Hikes of Washington by subscribing to the blog!
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