EXPLORE OUR IN-DEPTH HIKING GUIDE ON ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL HIKES IN THE SEATTLE AREA: THE FAMOUS KENDALL KATWALK.
While the Kendall Katwalk - a 150 yard long narrow pathway that was blasted out of the side of a steep granite mountain face - is the main draw to this scenic hiking trail, we instead recommend checking this hike out for the amazing mountain views and opportunity to swim in turquoise alpine lakes.
The Kendall Katwalk Trail is actually a part of the world famous Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which runs 2,650 miles from the border of Mexico in the south to the border of Canada in the north. Therefore, if you are feeling gumptious, you can really hike as far as you want along the trail (the Kendall Katwalk is around 6 miles from the trailhead).
Below is an in-depth hiking guide that covers everything you need to know about one of the best hiking trails in the state of Washington.
WHERE: Mount Baker - Snoqualmie National Forest & Alpine Lakes Wilderness in Washington (it is part of Section J of the PCT)
WHAT: hiking and backpacking trail, out and back
DISTANCE: 12 miles to the Kendall Katwalk, option to go muuuuuuch farther
HIGHEST POINT: 5,400 feet / 1,646 meters, at the top
GEAR NEEDED: sturdy hiking shoes, a well-sized day bag or backpacking gear (depending on your distance), sunscreen, lots of snacks, and a water filter
TRAIL CONDITIONS: singletrack trail, forested and shaded for 1/3 of it and open for the rest of it, no super steep sections, awesome lake and mountain views
DOGS ALLOWED: yes, but they must be leashed
PARKING DIFFICULTY: well-sized parking lot, has a bathroom, must have either the Northwest Forest Pass or a National Park Pass (it is federal land); arrive early to secure a parking spot (it gets busy)
➳ You can check out the full Alltrails map to the Kendall Katwalk trail here.
\\ How to Get to the Kendall Katwalk Trailhead
It is really easy to reach the Kendall Katwalk Trailhead if you are coming from either Seattle or from the eastern half of the state of Washington (like from Leavenworth or Spokane). The trailhead is located right off of Interstate 90 near the Snoqualmie Summit (and the Summit at Snoqualmie Ski Resort).
Once you reach the pass, which is approximately 23 miles from North Bend (the last major town on the west side) and 32 miles from Cle Elum (the last major town on the east side), the Kendall Katwalk trailhead will be on the opposite side of the interstate as the ski resort. You will see a sign for the trailhead as well as numerous signs for the PCT (which the Katwalk is a part of). There is a large parking lot and bathroom at the trailhead. You will need to have either a National Park Pass (like this one) or a Northwest Forest Pass.
❔ GOOD TO KNOW: it takes around 50 minutes to reach the trailhead from downtown Seattle (without much traffic). Due to its closeness to the metropolis, if you are planning to hike on a weekend we definitely recommend arriving to the trailhead nice and early.
If you are looking for an even longer adventure and you don't want to drive up to the trailhead, then you do have the option to bike along the Cascade to Palouse Trail, which starts near North Bend and ends at the Washington-Idaho border. We have biked the whole distance from North Bend to Snoqualmie Pass and absolutely loved it. It is a pretty easy 21 or so miles up the trail to the base of the ski resort and then another 3.5 miles to the actual Kendall Katwalk trailhead.
\\ The Best Time to Hike the Kendall Katwalk
We recommend hiking the Kendall Katwalk trail in mid to late summer or in the early fall. Because the trail has a good number of narrow sections with steep drop-offs on one side (including the famous Katwalk), you will want to make sure it is completely melted out of snow.
We hiked the trail during the last week of August and found it to be absolutely perfect. There was no snow along the trail, the wildflowers were blooming, and the sun was shining. But, with that being said, the trail was also quite busy. So if you are not looking to share the trail with others, we recommend arriving really early (before 8 AM) or visiting on a weekday.
❔ GOOD TO KNOW: we have also heard that the Kendall Katwalk is an amazing trail to do once the larch trees start to change colors. Supposedly, the whole mountainside that the trail curves up and around comes alight with shades of red and gold. This usually occurs between late September and mid-October.
\\ What to Bring With You to Hike the Kendall Katwalk
You will want to wear a pair of sturdy boots that can handle all kinds of terrain: from rough talus fields to just miles and miles of trail pounding. These hiking boots by Vasque seem to be a jack of all trades and therefore should be able to handle whatever the trail throws at you. Recommended hiking boot.
These socks can easily go from hitting the trails to hanging out at camp due to their moisture-wicking properties and slightly elastic stretch. Plus, they are made partially of recycled materials - meaning they are good for you and the planet. Recommended hiking socks from Smartwool.
MOISTURE-WICKING SUN SHIRT
No matter the month (or weather) you are planning to hike in, you will likely want to wear a nice lightweight long-sleeved shirt on the trail. This one by Backcountry works perfectly as your base layer for it is lightweight and breathable enough for hot sunny days, but also insulated enough to still be great when the temperature starts to cool down. Recommended long-sleeve shirt.
This lightweight fleece jacket works great as both a mid-layer for winter hiking adventures or as a solo jacket once the season starts to warm up. Plus, the raglan-style sleeves provide seam-free comfort when you are carrying a heavy backpack. Finally, the fleece jacket is made of recycled fabrics and is Bluesign approved (its sewing is also Fair Trade Certified). Recommended hiking jacket.
While a nice cozy jacket will help keep you nice and warm on those chilly mornings or late-season days, usually the best jacket to have with you while hiking - especially in the PNW - is an easy-to-pack rain jacket. This one by Patagonia checks all of the boxes: it is super lightweight and can pack down into its own little pouch, it has underarm zips that let you vent air even when hiking (and sweating), it has an adjustable elastic draw cord hem that allows fine-tuning for the perfect fit, and finally, it is also Bluesign approved and its sewing is Fair Trade Certified. Recommended rain jacket.
Depending on the time of year, you will likely choose to gravitate towards wearing either full-length hiking pants or a set of lightweight active shorts. We tend to veer more towards wearing pants while hiking unless it is absolutely scorching out - just for the sun protection and less likelihood of getting scratches and cuts from plants. These pants by Black Diamond, are durable enough for all kinds of trails. Recommended hiking pants here.
HIKING DAY PACK
By far one of the most important items in your hiking repertoire is going to be your backpack. Because you will be carrying this bag all day on the trail you will want to make sure it is really comfortable. This bag by Osprey holds 24 liters of gear, while still having plenty of straps to allow it to fit perfectly to your body. Plus, it is made of a nice durable nylon construction that can withstand tons of trail abuse. It also has a specific place to attach your trekking poles or ice ax if needed. Recommended day pack.
HIKING FIRST AID KIT
This is one of those items that you don't realize you need until it is too late. Luckily, this lightweight pack comes with (almost) everything you could need if an accident does unfortunately occur on the trail. Recommended hiking first aid kit.
Hiking first aid kit for your dog: because you want to make sure your best friend stays safe on the trail as well. This pack is also very lightweight and doesn’t take up that much space. The perfect doggy first aid kit.
We personally have never been the type of hikers to use trekking poles but we have friends who absolutely swear by them. This set by Black Diamond can handle all kinds of terrain, are super lightweight and pack down small enough to be stored easily on the side of your backpack. Recommended trekking poles.
Once you make it back to your basecamp (your car, your tent, your house) make sure to take off those boots, stretch out your arches and let your feet breathe. Seriously, this might be one of the best feelings ever. After you do that, slip on a pair of these comfortable Teva sandals (we won’t judge if you add socks too). Recommended post-hike sandals.
POST-HIKE COZY SHIRT
Similarly, there are few things nicer than taking off your sweaty shirt and putting on a nice cozy, clean one after a long day on the trail. This one by Parks Project is made of a nice durable, soft cotton fabric and cut into a very vintage-y style. Recommend post-hike shirt.