- Difficulty: Hard. Best used from June until September.
- Total distance (Round Trip) – 12 miles to the Katwalk and 14.5 miles if go to two beautiful lakes beyond the Katwalk.
- Total elevation gain – 2700 feet for the roundtrip to the Katwalk. 3300 feet if you do Gravel and Ridge Lakes. Trailhead is 3000 ft. High point is 5400 ft.
- Estimated time: 6-12 hours depending on your fitness and how much time you want to spend there. There are many options to turn back sooner but it only gets better the farther you go.
The Kendall Katwalk is a hike along the Pacific Crest Trail from Snoqualmie Pass to reach the Kendall Katwalk. The Katwalk is a rock path blasted out of the cliff face. The Pacific Crest Trail north from the trailhead at Snoqualmie Pass follows a challenging winding path through forests, peaks, across the Kendall Katwalk to a high camp between Gravel and Ridge Lakes.
Kendall Katwalk Trail (a small portion of the Pacific Crest Trail)
Pacific Crest Trailhead to Commonwealth Creek Trail Split (2.6 miles, 900 ft elevation gain, 100 drop)
This section of the trail is not steep – less than 1000 feet is gained in the first 2.6 miles. From the main PCT parking lot, pass a picnic table and stay to the right at the “T” intersection. In 100 yards, don’t take the gravelly overgrown Commonwealth Creek Trail on the left. It’s a walk on a wide trail in the forest to the first switchback at 0.6 miles (3230 ft). There are blueberries in late August and September.
Then the trail continues up with occasional views of Snoqualmie Pass and Granite Mountain to the next pair of switchbacks at 1.5 miles (3690 ft). The forest opens up after the switchback pair into open talus and reaches a summit at the Alpine Lakes Wilderness boundary (2.0 miles, 3830 ft). The next half mile to the trail split (2.6 miles, 3775 ft) is a gradual descent. At 2.25 miles, there is a small waterfall on the uphill side of the trail. Cross over two streams which in high water can be tricky. The trail junction is right after the stream crossings.
While this section of trail is not particularly steep, it is 2.6 miles long and can feel especially long if you are tired on the way down and were thinking the day is over at the waterfall.
Commonwealth Creek Trail Split to Kendall Katwalk (4 miles, 1700 ft elevation gain)
At the Commonwealth Creek Trail junction, stay right and the trail heads south through a forest climbing gradually to a switchback with an open space under Kendall Peak (3.0 miles, 3975 ft). You are now following near the Pacific Crest. The trail proceeds southward at a steady grade, crosses a stream, open slopes and then back into the forest on to reach the northwest shoulder of Kendall Peak (4.0 miles, 4450 ft). At this point there is another major switchback to the north.
At 4.25 miles, there is a nearly flat ridge to cross. Then go across a steep hillside in old growth forest until you break out into open talus and heather at 5.1 miles and 4850 ft. This area is known as Kendall Gardens due to seasonal massive wildflower displays. Wildflower displays are generally best in August after the snow is gone. The trail is steep, rocky, and exposed with Rainier views behind and Lundin Peak and Red Mountain ahead (5.25 miles, 4900 ft).
At 4.25 miles, there is a nearly flat ridge to cross. Then go across a steep hillside in old growth forest until you break out into open talus and heather at 5.1 miles and 4850 ft. This area is known as Kendall Gardens due to seasonal massive wildflower displays. The trail is steep, rocky, and exposed with Rainier views behind and Lundin Peak and Red Mountain ahead (5.25 miles, 4900 ft).
Climb two more switchbacks under Kendall Peak (5.6 mi, 5100 ft) and at the 5400 feet summit, turn due east. Then it’s 0.5 miles on switchbacks below Kendall Peak to a “mini” Katwalk with new views of Red Peak and beyond (6.1 miles, 5380 ft). It’s an up and down half mile to the Kendall Katwalk (6.6 miles, 5370 ft). This stretch is dangerous when snow is still on the trail as it drops off steeply to the west side. If you have a dog, keep them on a leash as a mistaken step off the trail is likely the end. Once you reach the sign to dismount your horses, you have reached the Katwalk. The famous Katwalk photos are almost all taken from the north end so you might not even realize you are there until you have crossed over.
Kendall Peak has four summits, all nearly equal in height. At 5784 feet, the northernmost peak is the highest and the most visited.
Going northbound (outbound from Snoqualmie Pass) on the Kendall Katwalk (Pacific Crest Trail), at around 5200 feet, look for a large stump which partially obstructs the left side of the trail. Just beyond this stump is a bootpath (not well traveled) which leads straight uphill to the northernmost summit of Kendall Peak.
Alternatively, you can continue past the bootpath on the trail to where it crosses a pass on the east side of the ridge. Then scramble the ridge south to the summit. This is a more difficult dangerous route (Class 3-4) and there is plenty of loose rock.
Kendall Katwalk to Gravel and Ridge Lakes (1.25 miles, 150 ft drop to Ridge Lake, 175 ft drop to Gravel Lake)
For those with enough fitness, energy, and willpower, consider going an extra 1.25 miles to two beautiful Alpine Lakes on the Pacific Crest. These are Ridge Lake and Gravel Lake. Gravel Lake is the larger of the two and is a slightly greater drop from the saddle between them that the Pacific Crest Trail passes through.
Past the Katwalk, the high airy ridge changes gradually to less rock and more soil and vegetation. There is one traverse of a small talus field (7.3 miles). Descend 250 feet through the talus to the saddle between the lakes (7.6 miles, 5200 ft). Gravel Lake is to the north. Ridge Lake is to the east and Alaska Lake is visible below Ridge Lake. The extra 0.25 mile is to descend and visit the two lakes.
Kendall Katwalk Trailhead Location
From North Bend, take I-90 eastbound and take Exit 52 (West Summit). Go left under the freeway onto Alpental Road. In 0.1 turn right onto an unmarked road with a sign stating the need for a Northwest Forest Pass to park. Then shortly the road splits. On the right hand side is the main parking lot which handles 50 vehicles. On the left is the horse trailer and overflow lot. Both have restrooms.