Take a voyage through the Green Tunnel. The section of the PCT that runs through Oregon is known for its relatively flat terrain that cuts through dense green forest which often limits views to within 50 yards. While some may find it a bit monotonous, I found it to be a meditative and peaceful experience.
Backpacking isn’t always about climbing to the tallest peak or going on some crazy adventure. Sometimes, you just need a quiet escape into nature where the constant buzz of car engines and airplanes is replaced by bird songs and stillness. In this case, you’ll want to take a trip along Oregon’s southern section of the PCT.
Distance: 54.5 Miles
Time: 4 Days
Maps Used: Halfmile’s PCT Maps – Oregon Section B
Day 1: I-5 Oregon to Porcupine Gap
Miles: 6 Elevation +/- : +1432/-769 Camp Elevation: 5020 ft.
The first day is fairly easy and if you take the side hike up to Pilot Rock it comes with some stellar 360-degree views. We left around mid morning after filling up on some bottomless pancakes at Callahan’s lodge.
We planned out such a short day to give us time to take the slight detour up the Pilot Rock trail. This PCT section hike runs right past the 1 mile, out-and-back trail making it an easy side hike. Heading uphill from the trail junction, you follow a short but steep switchbacking trail up to the base of Pilot Rock. From there, it is a short scramble up a chute to the top.
After soaking in the views you can continue on down about another mile down the trail to camp atop a nice saddle below pilots rock. There is only space for 1 tent here.
If this campsite is too small or exposed, there is a large campsite at Porcupine Gap, about .7 miles further down the trail, with sitting logs and a fire ring.
Day 2: Porcupine Gap to Little Hyatt Outlet
Miles: 16 Elevation +/- : +2438/-2836 Camp Elevation: 4621 ft.
Your morning begins with a relatively flat and forested path winding up and over hills occasionally breaking through the tree cover to find stunning views of Mt Shasta to the Southeast. The pictures don’t quite do it justice.
About 5 miles in you’ll reach your first and last reliable water source for the day – a piped spring which flows into a small pond. If the spring isn’t flowing you’ll have to fill up in the pond. It can be a bit murky and warm, but it tastes fine after filtering.
Once you come to the Little Hyatt Outlet bridge, take a sharp left up and over the hill just before you cross the bridge. There’s plenty of room for camping and swimming along the southern shore of the reservoir under some tree cover.
Day 3: Little Hyatt Outlet to TR1755
Miles: 14 Elevation +/- : +2550/-1463 Camp Elevation: 5708 ft.
Up until this point, you’d probably be wondering how Oregon got it’s nickname, “The Green Tunnel”. Today, you get your first real experience of what it’s like to spend an entire day under tree cover with no real expansive views.
Throughout the day the dense forest limits your views to around 50-100 yards in any direction. However the trail is nice and groomed, and quite level all day. This makes for some quick and easy going hiking. Before you know it you’ll find yourself stumbling across your campsite for the night: a large clearing among some trees on the right hand side of the trail.
Spending a day among the tree’s and forest critters is quiet enjoyable. Relax and zone out to the sounds of the forest: birds singing, chipmunks rustling in the trees and the occasional deer trotting off into the brush. You won’t get this experience back in the concrete jungle.
Day 4: TR1755 to Fish Lake
Miles: 18 Elevation +/- : +1466/-2205 Camp Elevation: N/A
Very early on in the morning you get a quick peek back to the Southeast where new views of Mt. Shasta give you a perspective on just how far you’ve traveled during your PCT section hike.
Enjoy the views, because shortly afterwards you head back down into the green tunnel. For the next 10 miles you will only break tree cover to cross the occasional road. The first variety of the day comes when you reach the lava beds of Brown Mountain, nearly 11 miles into the day’s hike.
Brown Mountain is one of about 20 major volcanoes which make up the Cascade Volcanic Arc. Last erupting around two thousand years ago, the resulting lava beds make for a unique hiking experience.
After reaching the first lava bed around PCT mile 1766.5, you have about 6 miles left to go before reaching the trail junction that will take you west towards Fish Lake. From the trail junction, it’s a 2 mile hike to the Fish Lake Resort which offers free camping for hikers.