It seemed natural for the third installment of the PCT Spotlight to feature a trail that began at the Gumboot Trailhead. There are two great options here. First is the trip south to the Seven Lakes Basin. The other is the hike north, to Porcupine and Toad Lakes. I ended up choosing the latter, for a couple of reasons. One reason is that the trails sees a little less use. The main destinations are further away than the hike to the Seven Lakes Basin, so more people tend to head to the south. The second reason is that this section of the PCT features more views of Mount Shasta than just about any other part of the long trail. That is tough to argue with!
The hike to Porcupine and Toad Lakes is the longest hike to be featured on the HikeMtShasta PCT Spotlight. It is 11.5 miles to Porcupine Lake and 13 miles to Toad Lake. Of course, if one braves the road up the Middle Fork of the Sacramento River, it is possible to shorten the hike considerably by starting at Toad Lake. In spite of the length, the hike is well worth the effort. It is one of the prettiest trails in the region, with views of Mount Shasta, and the Trinity Dividen as well as vistas of the Trinity Alps to the west. The hike’s destinations are are the two lakes, which are quite different in character. Porcupine Lake occupies a rocky basin right at the base of beautiful Porcupine Lake. Toad Lake lies in a bowl cut into a vein of peridotite rock, which results in sparse vegitation on some parts of the ridge above the water. Both are quite beautiful.
This is a great section of the PCT. After some gradual climbing over the first couple of miles, the trail reaches the crest of the Trinity Divide and levels off. It then begins a very easy traverse along the top of the Divide, weaving back and forth between the east and west sides of the divide. The trail also passes through some very remote sections of the Trinity Divide. Fawn Creek Canyon, part of the South Fork of the Sacramento River is visible from the trail, as is the large basin that forms the headwaters of the Middle Fork. Geologically, the trail passes through some varied terrain, with large outcroppings of gabbro and peridotite, both of which are typical of the Trinity Divide. There are a few springs and lush meadows along this great section of trail as well. More fascinating geology and great views lie beyond Toad Lake too, for those willing to push further.