The birds are chirping. The bees are beginning to buzz. Butterflies are fluttering away. Summer’s here and there’s nothing better than by heading out for a hike. And what’s the most famous of all hiking trails? The PCT! Although hiking the entire length would be ultra cool, most of us can’t take off 5 months to do it. For the rest of us, we can get a taste of it by trying one of these awesome day hikes on the California Pacific Crest Trail sections.
What’s The PCT?
Officially designated as the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, it runs the full length of the United States from Mexico all the way up to the Canadian border. At a whopping 2,653 miles long, it closely follows the highest portions of the Cascade and Sierra Nevada Mountain ranges. Of course, there are arguments of which section is the prettiest, but our hearts always go directly to the sections that cross through the California High Sierra.
For those in Yosemite that wish to get a taste of the high country, start at the Tuolumne Meadows Campground. From here, the moderate hike follows the Tuolumne River. Widely referred to as the “Epic Waterfall Hike”, it features five major waterfalls interspersed with an assortment of smaller ones. As the trail becomes steeper and more challenging, the falls also become bigger and more impressive. Depending on how long you want to hike, the cascades in the order you’ll see are Tuolumne Falls, The White Cascade (Glen Aulin Falls), California Falls, LeConte Falls, and finally the Waterwheel falls. Even if the water isn’t roaring, the views make this strenuous hike worth it. Be very aware that the amount you hike down will mean the amount you have to hike back up. For more ideas on what to see in Yosemite National Park, check out Visit Yosemite | Madera County’s page.
If you want to truly get away from the masses and still see the PCT, Ebbetts Pass is where to go. The scenic byway starts off on the west side near the quaint town of Arnold which is where the first European settlers discovered the majestic stands of Giant Sequoia. And just east of the pass is the trailhead. If you head south, you’ll be rewarded with shaded slopes and a beautiful alpine canyon. For those that walk fast or head out early, you can get to Noble Lake by lunch. For those that head north from the trailhead instead, you’ll see a host of lakes and the darker rock of the Mokelumne Wilderness. Either direction, expect refreshing High Sierra lakes and idyllic wildflowers in mid-summer.
In the section that goes through Lake Tahoe, the PCT is joined for approximately 50 miles to the TRT or Tahoe Rim Trail. The 165-mile hiking trail is beautiful in itself. The idea was dreamt up in 1978, but it took until 2001 for it become a reality. Just south of this segment, the PCT heads over Echo Summit just south of the city of South Lake Tahoe. For an easy hike, follow the PCT north from the Echo Summit trailhead as it follows the shores of Echo Lakes. Those with time restrictions or just a bit tired, you can bypass the return by hopping on the water taxi. For more hiking opportunities in and around South Lake Tahoe, check out the following article: Six Great Hikes In Tahoe South.
While 300 individuals attempt to do the entire length of the PCT annually, we think these day hiking adventures are a great place to start. Who knows… maybe in a few years, you’ll tackle the entire thing!
Author: Alex Silgalis
Alex founded Local Freshies® in 2014 to be the #1 website providing the “local scoop” on where to eat, drink & play in mountain towns throughout North America. When he’s not writing and executing marketing strategies for small businesses & agencies, he’s in search of the deepest snow in the winter and tackiest dirt in the summer.