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A Guide to Hiking the Pacific Crest

Pacific Crest Hiking Guide: Northern California

Good-bye Sierra Nevada. The 567-mile (913-kilometer) Northern California section takes hikers away from glaciated mountain terrain and into the volcanic Cascade mountain range. The lakes disappear, and hiking can get hot and dusty in late summer as the PCT now winds among old volcanic flows and ancient bedrock. But the nutrient-rich volcanic soils, coupled with the area's plentiful rains, mean you'll be strolling through lush forests and past picturesque plants like lupine, paintbrush, larkspur and gooseberry. You may not see the wildlife, but this area is home to creatures like the raccoon, marten, mink, badger, fox, bobcat, deer and black bear. In the fall, you may spot a wealth of birds migrating south along the Pacific Coast Flyway [source: Pacific Crest Trail].

This section is also prime logging country. The trail crosses over numerous back roads, unlike the previous section where roads are scarce. Even better, it meanders through Lassen Volcanic National Park, which sits in the shadow of Lassen Peak (10,457 feet/3,187 meters). Continuing on, you can see impressive Mount Shasta in the distance for quite some time [source: USDA Forest Service].

Thru-hikers are advised to hike this section in July and August. And they all know that when they're near Chester, just south of Lassen Volcanic National Park, they've reached the PCT's halfway point [source: Summit Post]. Even better, though, is the knowledge that when they've completed this section, they'll be out of California and in a new state.