The McCloud River from the PCT bridge.
With the Pacific Crest Trail Town kick off coming next Saturday, I thought I would highlight one PCT hike in the Mount Shasta area each day of this week. I will feature these in the order a thru-hiker would encounter them as they approached from the south. Hopefully this will encourage everyone to get out and explore the PCT and appreciate what a blessing it is for hikers in this region!
So, the first trail I want to focus on is the section of the PCT that stretches from Ash Camp to a road crosses near the Ah-Di-Na campground. This beautiful stretch of the McCloud flows just downstream the dam impounding Lake McCloud but there is no hint that the river had recently been tamed. Here it is a wild, raucous waterway, pouring through large rapids formed by substantial boulders. A sense of isolation permeates that area despite being relatively close to McCloud and accessed easily from there. All in all, it is a beautiful area and one that is often overlooked by hikers.
This section of the PCT generally follows the crest of a long ridge that runs from just north of the Pit River in an arc west toward Grizzly Peak and then down to the McCloud River at Ash Camp. It is possible to follow the PCT east from here to Butcherknife Creek but the more interesting hike is to follow the McCloud River west for a few miles. There are numerous place to drop down to the river (steeply sometimes) and some really nice, large cataracts that almost approach the level of being waterfalls rather than big rapids. The PCT eventually crosses a dirt road and begins a long climb up and over a ridge to Squaw Valley Creek. Instead of following the trail, hikers do best to turn left on the road and follow it about 0.5 mile down to the Ah-Di-Na campground. This area has good river access and some fascinating history.
This hike is quite different from the other PCT hikes in the Mount Shasta area. The man feature is the river, rather than the surrounding mountains. The passage through the McCloud’s canyon gives this hike a sense of remoteness that the other hikes don’t necessarily have. I think that that is due, in large measure, to the fact that Mount Shasta is not visible from the trail here. It just feels cut off, but in a good way. No matter what hiker’s feel here, this is a beautiful section of the PCT and one that hikers should consider more often.