The section of the Pacific Northwest Trail from Oroville to Ross Lake Resort is the longest of the fifteen, and by many accounts it is the most impressive. The trail leaves Eastern Washington's farm country behind and enters the section of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest designated as the Pasayten Wilderness. Thru-hikers get to travel over 100 miles of remote, rugged trail that skirts along the U.S. border with Canada.
Upon leaving Oroville and hiking for 16.4 miles along the Similkameen River to Palmer Lake, hikers will continue through the same farm country that distinguished the previous few weeks of the PNT. The trip to Palmer Lake is a one-day journey, and there are good camping options along the lake. Another day of walking on Forest Service roads to Chopaka Lake, 15 miles by road and on a ridge above Palmer Lake, provides a nice camping spot before entering the Pasayten Wilderness.
Passing Chopaka Lake, the PNT continues to gradually gain elevation toward Haig Mountain and stays at between 4,000 and 7,500 feet in elevation for the next several days. In the Pasayten Wilderness, the terrain changes dramatically into broad vistas, tall crags, deep valleys and forests of fir trees. Cathedral Pass, a stone's throw from Canada and sitting at 7,556 feet, is the highest elevation reached over the entire 1,200 miles of the PNT.
Camping is plentiful in the Pasayten Wilderness. Small backcountry campsites are well spaced between mountain passes. Primitive cabins and shelters are encountered from time to time along the trail, and names such as Spanish Camp, Patrol Cabin, and Barker Brown Cabin delight the mind with gestures into an era long past.
At Castle Pass the PNT intersects with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and follows its course south for the next 12.2 miles. It's unlikely that you'll run into any PCT thru-hikers on the last day of their journey north from Mexico to Canada; a PNT thru-hiker would generally be on this section of the trail much earlier in the year than a PCT thru-hiker.
After passing by Holman Peak, the PNT branches off of the PCT and returns to its western direction toward Ross Lake. Mountains, lakes, forests and glaciers will be your companions along the trail for the next week of hiking. The trail continues along higher elevations through Sky Pilot Pass to Devil's Dome before descending over 5,000 feet to Ross Lake. Here the trail leaves the Pasayten Wilderness and enters into the Ross Lake National Recreation Area, a narrow allocation of the North Cascades that flanks the long and narrow lake as it runs into Canada.
A day's journey along the shores of Ross Lake leads across the Ross Lake Dam and to Ross Lake Resort. The resort offers a good spot to rest and recharge, though vacancies are rare and rooms are pricey. Green Point Campground is a mile up the trail from Ross Lake Resort and is a good campsite to reserve ahead of time if you plan to spend a rest day there. Small supplies can be picked up from the store at the resort. As of the 2016 season, Ross Lake Resort has issued new rules for thru-hikers who wish to leave resupply boxes with the resort and charges a $20 fee. Thru-hikers are encouraged to check back in with the PNTA for resupply resources as they plan their trip.
The next section of trail enters the North Cascades National Park, the second national park on the journey. Like the other two national parks, permits must be booked in advance and can be coordinated with National Park Service staff ahead of time if you let them know you are a PNT thru-hiker. Ross Lake Resort is a final point to check in with National Park Service staff before continuing on from the lake into the national park.
For additional details, refer to the following PNT sections: