Thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is top on many hikers bucket list, but taking four to six months to hike the 2650 mile trail isn’t feasible for all. Fortunately there are many gorgeous stretches between the desert of California and the woods of Washington that can be hiked in a week or weekend. While many sections lie on well trodden trails, here are a few where you’ll find beauty and relative solitude.
Southern Border Monument to Lake Morena—20 miles
The beginning of the PCT might not seem like it’s hidden, but this isolated stretch takes you through rolling hills of Coulter pine and oak before descending into Hauser Canyon. The Forest Service recommends doing this as an overnight trip, so bring a tent and stay at the camp here. Plan to hike out early to avoid a shadeless ascent during the hot desert afternoon.
Castle Crags State Park to Etna Mountain—100 miles
The beginning of the Big Bend section of the PCT stretches through the Klamath mountains hitting the Castle Crags, Trinity, and Russian wildernesses. This rugged route winds through an area heavily defined by glaciation. The lakes, granite spires, and diverse forests are as beautiful as the trail is strenuous, which is very.
Seven Lakes Basin to Fourmile Lake—30-45 miles
The Sky Lakes Wilderness is an epic section to explore, but its winding trails will have you straying off the PCT. A highly recommended route leads you southwest from the Sevenmile trailhead through fir, pine, and hemlock forests. Mandatory stops include the Seven Lakes and Sky Lakes Basins, as well as the aptly named Heavenly Twin Lakes. Only three miles from the finish, beautiful cliff-lined Blue Lake is worth an afternoon stopover or an even an extra night.
Diamond Peak via Immigrant Pass—15 miles
This picturesque and relatively easy section can be packed into an overnighter or stretched out to several days as side trips abound. Hike 4.7 miles from Immigrant Pass to the well-marked, but unofficial, trail up Diamond Peak. The non-technical scramble adds three steep, but well worth the effort, miles. After the descent settle in at great streamside camps in the meadow below Diamond Peak. Tree-lined Hidden Lake makes for a relaxing lunch/swim spot on the hike out.
Mount Adams—23 miles
Little brother to Mount Rainier, Mount Adams is gorgeous and much less visited. Its rugged, volcanic scenery travels along one of the only “level” sections of the PCT in the Evergreen State. From the fir and hemlock forests below gradually climb through lava fields and mountain meadows to above tree-line views of Adams and its rival stratovolcanoes.
Rainy Pass to the Canadian Border—70 miles
We finish at the finish line, but bring your passport because this length of the PCT takes you to Manning Park in Canada. You’ll also need your climbing legs as the trail gains over 13,000 feet up and over countless passes. Head here in mid-August for wildflowers in the meadows or September when the larches paint the hillsides a glowing golden hue.