The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is the jewel in the crown of Americas scenic trails, spanning 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada through three western states. It reveals the beauty of the desert, unfolds the glaciated expanses of the Sierra Nevada, and provides commanding vistas of volcanic peaks and glaciers in the Cascade Range. The trail also passes through historic mining sites and evidence of man's endless quest for natural resources.
The Oregon section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) runs 430 miles across volcanic peaks and past scenic lakes. This section, from near Siskiyou Summit (elev. 4,310 feet) in southernmost Oregon to the Washington border, is not only the shortest, but is also the easiest to hike or ride. Oregon’s Cascade Range is a subdued volcanic landscape, having a gentle crest that is fairly constant in elevation. The highest point in Oregon is an unnamed saddle (elev. 7,560 feet) north of Mt. Thielson. This, and other ancient volcanoes-Diamond Peak, Mt. Washington, and Three Finger Jack, plus recently active Mt. McLoughlin, Mt. Mazama (Crater Lake), the Three Sisters, Mt. Jefferson, and Mt. Hood – punctuate the skyline. The only major elevation change in Oregon is the 3,160 feet drop into the Columbia River Scenic Gorge to cross Interstate 84 and the Columbia River on the Bridge of the Gods (elev. 180 feet).
The PCT in Oregon does a great job of winding around the large peaks at relatively consistent altitude (remember that is relative). The only major elevation change in Oregon is the 3,160 foot drop into the Columbia River Scenic Gorge to cross Interstate 84 and the Columbia River on the Bridge of the Gods (elev. 180 feet). Whereas the prominent volcanoes are visible magnets luring travelers onward, so too are the lakes. These are not randomly scattered, but occur mostly in clusters, some of which are found north of Highway 140 in the Sky Lakes Wilderness. The trail traverses Crater Lake National Park, where a spur trail leads to the rim for a spectacular view of this magnificent lake. The PCT passes the largely unvisited small lakes and ponds of the Diamond Peak Wilderness before crossing Highway 58 near Willamette Pass. More small lakes and ponds are found in the Three Sisters Wilderness and north of Highway 20 in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness and the adjacent Olallie Lake Scenic Area. In northern Oregon, the PCT is largely lake-free, although the trail visits or presents views of several sizable reservoirs. The Chief attraction for this northern stretch is glacier-robed Mt. Hood (elev. 11,235 feet), Oregon’s largest and most hazardous active volcano.
The best time of year to experience this section of the Pacific Crest Trail is from July through September. The route is usually snow free during these months. But, keep in mind that there can be dense rain at times along this strech.