The Hidden Gems of The PCT

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.


Cas­tle Crags, California

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, Oregon

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.


Mt. Adams, Washington

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.