Hikers can get the best of both worlds with this PCT section hike. This route combines the peaky mountains and high-crest trails of Northern California with the lush, never-ending greenery of Oregon. It’s worth taking the week off to knock off this chunk of the PCT.
Distance: 63 Miles
Time: 5 Days
Maps Used: Halfmile’s PCT Maps – Section R
Day 1: Seiad Valley to Cook and Green Pass
Miles: 12 Elevation +/- : +3032 Camp Elevation: 4736 ft.
The hike out of Seiad Valley is brutal to say the least. A recent fire left the 14 mile climb charred, exposed and cluttered with downed trees. Minimal water sources and a 3,000 foot climb made the route out less than ideal.
After heeding the advice of some locals and those hiking south who descended that route, we decided to bypass the initial 14 mile ascent along the trail and opt for a 12 mile walk up a dirt fire road. Unless your a PCT purist, I would recommend anyone do the same.
To follow this route, head west out of Seiad Valley along Klamath River Hwy. After crossing the bridge, take a right and head up Seiad Creek Rd. There are no turns from here. After 4 miles the road turns to dirt and you follow it up to where it intersects with the PCT at Cook and Green Pass. There is a large area for camping and an easily accessible spring at Cook and Green Pass.
Day 2: Cook and Green Pass to Alex Hole Spring
Miles: 12.5 Elevation +/- : +3107/-1255 Camp Elevation: 6588 ft.
Leaving Cook and Green Pass to the east, you immediately begin an uphill climb along scorched terrain for about 3 miles. Afterwards, the trail gives way to a little more greenery and you begin to traverse along the ridge line through partially forested, partially burnt terrain.
As you look back towards Cook and Green Pass you’ll see the faint line along the scorched hillside that is the portion of the PCT you bypassed the day before.
After beginning your day around 4,700 ft., you finally top out your climb for the day around 6870 ft.. Shortly thereafter you begin a mild decent down to Alex Hole Spring. Alex Hole Spring is about .2 miles off trail down a dirt road near PCT mile 1683. The campsite that sits next to a spring and atop the cliffside is more than worth the detour.
Day 3: Cook and Green Pass to Wrangle Gap Shelter
Miles: 15 Elevation +/- : +2588/-2677 Camp Elevation: 6499 ft.
After climbing out of Alex hole camp, you being a northward climb up and along the mountain ridge. You’ll top out around 6900 ft and then begin a relatively flat traverse that provides views of Mt. Shasta and the mountain ranges to the South East.
From here you descend about 4 miles to a large, 6-way dirt road crossing. On the other side of the dirt road you immediately begin to ascend up and through the forest.
The next notable landmark is the expansive Donmore meadow. Just after the Donmore creek crossing you will find the Donmore cabin sitting up on the hill overlooking the meadow – a great place to stop for lunch. From there, you will continue a moderate uphill climb into Oregon.
While Oregon is widely regarded as a relatively flat section of the PCT, you’ll find no shortage of elevation gain in the first few miles. Working 2.5 miles, you’ll climb to nearly 7100 ft
An incoming storm lead us to seek shelter at the Wrangle Gap Shelter. To find the shelter, head west down the unpaved fire road from the Wrangle Gap road intersection around PCT Mile,
Day 4: Wrangle Gap Shelter to Mt. Ashland Campground
Miles: 11.7 Elevation +/- : +2001/-1987 Camp Elevation: 6513 ft.
After climbing back up the PCT from the shelter, you begin a mild traverse, first around the mountain ridge and then along the northern slope.
You descend about 2 miles to an opening and road crossing with beautiful views of Mt. Shasta to the east.
After a short uphill on the other side of the road you are rewarded with some leisurely miles through a quiet forest. However, take the time to enjoy it because afterwards you’re in for some more up hill hiking.
Once your climb tops out near PCT mile 1707, Mt Ashland will come into view shortly thereafter. With a rather clear line of sight to Mt. Ashland for the rest of the day, you can track your progress until you finally reach the Mt. Ashland Campground.
While Mt. Ashland campground isn’t directly along the PCT it is only a short bushwhack directly up hill once you reach the intersection with dirt road 40S15.
Day 5: Mt. Ashland Campground to Callahan’s Lodge
Miles: 8.7 Elevation +/- : +568/-2865 Camp Elevation: N/A
After making your way back to the trail, it is a straight downhill shot to the I-5 in Oregon and Callahan’s Lodge. If you have the time, Callahan’s lodge is more than worth the stay. It’s surrounded by pines and has a lushes yard and back patio to relax the day away. You can book a room or for the more budget conscious, camp on their lawn.