PCT: Belden to Highway 36

Miles 1287-1331.3 of the northbound PCT: A lengthy incline through the scar of the Dixie Fire, and reaching the midpoint of the trail between Mexico and Canada.

Hiking Difficult

Distance
70 km
Ascent
3 km
Descent
2.2 km
Duration
1 day +
Low Point
676 m
High Point
2.3 km
Gradient
VIEW ON MAP
PCT: Belden to Highway 36 Map

Description

<i>Notice: Some of this segment remains closed following the Dixie Fire of 2021, but nearly all of it was impacted by the wildfire. Check the PCTA Closures page for updates, but be prepared for unknown and hazardous conditions anywhere.</i>

As of 2021, Northbound miles 1287-1291.5 of the PCT remain closed following the Dixie Fire. On this segment, the trail leaves Highway 70 near Belden and contours charred slopes above the roadway until it swings into the side canyon of Chips Creek. This is another steep-walled gorge that burned in the wildfire, where serious hazards could persist even after the trail reopens. The conditions of the water sources are unknown, and small creeks may be unreliable after the fire. Chips Creek could have decent water, but the PCT contours well above it, so you’ll have to find a safe place to descend.

Where the PCT crosses into Lassen National Forest (NB mile 1291.5) the trail has reopened. This is still within the burn area, however, and damages may not have been fully assessed. The trail continues up the Chips Creek canyon, crossing small streams here and there. Myrtle Flat (NB mile 1293.6) might be a suitable place to camp near water.

The trail fords the creek twice (NB miles 1295.6 and 1296), which can be difficult crossings if the water is high. Not long after comes the difficult climb out of this gorge, on very steep and likely fire-damaged trail. It’s an ascent of nearly 2000 feet to a rocky knoll on the crest of a ridge, where you’ll have vantage over the fire scar in all directions.

From there, the trail proceeds across a rolling expanse of patchwork forest and meadows, crossing a few dirt roads. Safe camps can be found in the clearings and unburned stands. Cold Springs (NB 1305.4) will hopefully have water and a campsite nearby.

The trail meets the perimeter of the burn area at Humboldt Summit (NB mile 1311.9), where there’s a forest road and a parking area. From there, the trail loosely follows a sparsely treed ridgeline, granting nice views from rubbly slopes. Two different trail junctions (NB miles 1313.2 and 1315.8) lead to springs with short detours.

Freshly burned forest returns after a few miles as the trail reenters the fire perimeter near Butt Mountain. Some broad switchbacks lead to a higher ridge walk, on which you’ll soon reach the PCT’s approximate midpoint, at northbound mile 1323. The spot is likely marked with a post and a register.

From there, the trail makes a meandering descent down the mountain to eventually reach Highway 36 (NB mile 1331.3), where there’s a small parking area but nothing else. The town of Chester is 7.5 miles east. It’s a common resupply stop with shopping, dining, lodging, a post office, and a bus service.

Permits: Here the PCT passes through Plumas and Lassen national forests, neither of which require a permit for hiking or camping. However, the California Fire Permit is required for campfires or use of a camp stove. Also, section hikers may need to pay a fee or present a recreation pass for parking at trailheads.

Sources: https://www.pcta.org/discover-the-trail/closures/northern-california/dixie-fire-in-feather-river-canyon-region/ https://www.pcta.org/discover-the-trail/maps/ https://pctmap.net/trail-notes/

Difficulty

Difficult

Hiking trails where obstacles such as rocks or roots are prevalent. Some obstacles can require care to step over or around. At times, the trail can be worn and eroded. The grade of the trail is generally quite steep, and can often lead to strenuous hiking.

High Exposure

3 out of 4

Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.

Remoteness

3 out of 4

Little chance of being seen or helped in case of an accident.

Best time to visit

May, June, July, August, September, October, November

Features

  • Wildlife
  • Historical
  • Picturesque
  • Dog friendly
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

Guidebooks in this area