Casual hikers who might be daunted by the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail can dip in a tentative toe on the Kendall Katwalk trail, an hour east of Seattle. In 6 not-too-demanding miles from Snoqualmie Pass to the Katwalk, a morsel of the PCT provides many of the scenic delectables of the full Mexico-to-Canada buffet.
A good Northwest hiking day delivers slightly unsettled weather, neither a bald blue dome nor a relentless downpour. On such a day here, the surrounding peaks stab into clouds while fog droops into valleys below. At a clearing, Mt. Rainier erupts suddenly into view, as startling as a white tiger at the kitchen window. Pikas squeak and scurry, and if you're lucky, you'll spot black-bear paw prints― only prints―along the trail.
The Katwalk is a 200-yard-long ribbonlike ledge blasted from a granite slope as steep as an upended sugar cone. It's an awesome but unthreatening vantage, and a good turnaround for a 12-mile round-trip. At this point, you'll realize you hardly need to hike the entire PCT―or you'll be inspired to do just that.
INFO: Take I-90 east to exit 52; turn left onto Alpental Rd. and park in the PCT lot. The Forest Service requires an annual ($30) or day ($5) pass for parking (425/888-1421).