While a vast majority of the trail is on public land or protected on private property through a conservation easement, about 10 percent of the trail remains vulnerable to development, clear cuts and barriers to public access. Once such area is Stevens Pass, roughly an hour east of Seattle, which draws millions of day hikers, backpackers, horseback riders, backcountry skiers and birdwatchers, and serves as a gateway to some of the most spectacular wilderness in the North Cascades, such as the Alpine Lakes, Henry M. Jackson and Glacier Peak wilderness areas.

In 2015, the owner of a 402-acre property at Stevens Pass, which contains 3/4 of a mile of the Pacific Crest Trail, expressed interest in closing off public access to the trail and selling the property to a developer, likely for luxury residential cabins and houses for the nearby ski area. The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA), the nonprofit organization that maintains and protects the trail, and the U.S. Forest Service, which administers the trail, worked with the landowner to purchase the property, but the federal funding secured for the purchase had been diverted to help pay the costs of fighting 2017 wildfires, leaving the deal in jeopardy of falling through.


With the landowner’s funding deadline looming, PCTA turned to the Fund’s Conservation Loans program, which provided $1.2 million in bridge financing. Combined with funds raised from Pacific Crest Trail supporters, PCTA was able to purchase the property at the last minute. The property will remain under its ownership until additional federal funding can be secured for transfer to the U.S. Forest Service. 

“Our Conservation Loans program is designed exactly for situations like this – where irreplaceable landscapes are at risk of being permanently lost, due to funding or timing gaps. We are honored to partner with the PCTA to ensure that the Stevens Pass portion of the PCT is protected for the benefit of all people, now and forever.” 

—Caitlin Guthrie, Conservation Loans Associate for The Conservation Fund

Why This Project Matters

The Stevens Pass region along Highway 2 in Washington connects wilderness areas on existing public lands and provides an important north-south connection for many local wildlife species including grizzly bear, Canada lynx, wolverines and American martens.

Pacific Crest Trail Project Page7
A view of the Northern Cascades from the Pacific Crest Trail near Stevens Pass. Credit: Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA)

The property contains nearly one mile of Nason Creek, a tributary of the Wenatchee River that supports runs of species listed under the Endangered Species Act, including Upper Columbia steelhead, Upper Columbia spring Chinook and bull trout. Protection of this stretch of Nason Creek also benefits important salmon habitat restoration efforts occurring downstream.

The Pacific Crest Trail gains in popularity year after year, which helps strengthen the country’s $887 billion outdoor recreation economy. In Washington alone, the outdoor recreation economy generates more than $26 billion in consumer spending; $7.6 billion in wages and salaries; $2.3 billion in state and local tax revenue; and more than 200,000 direct jobs.

Learn More