PCT: Stuart Falls Alternate

An alternative that skips some of the “Oregon Desert” expanse of the PCT, where water is scarce for nearly 20 miles.

Hiking Moderate

Distance
11 km
Ascent
342 m
Descent
268 m
Duration
2-3 hrs
Low Point
1.6 km
High Point
1.9 km
Gradient
VIEW ON MAP
PCT: Stuart Falls Alternate Map

Description

Oregon Section C of the PCT is notorious for a 20-mile stretch called the “Oregon Desert,” where water is scarce or nonexistent in late season. This alternate route to Stuart Falls can alleviate the need for a 20-mile water carry. It adds a little bit of mileage and quite a bit of difficulty over the PCT, however, because much of the way is on an unmaintained trail through a burn area. Though there are stretches of well-established trail, expect some amount of route finding through overgrowth and downed logs. Some is exposed to sun in the burn scars, but a great deal is in shady forest as well, and sheltered campsites near water can be found. Then of course there is the added bonus of the waterfall. Those factors combined make the Stuart Falls alternate the preferred route of many PCTers in mid to late summer.

To take the alternate, northbound hikers will leave the PCT at NB mile 1810.5 on the Stuart Falls trail. The way is shady and easy to follow for a while, but becomes more obscure in a burn area later on. It goes mostly downhill, and at about 3 miles from the PCT is the first good water source, a flowing stream. Continuing through a patchwork of burned and intact forest, the trail eventually turns back uphill and passes close to Stuart Falls. In early season this is an attractive triangular waterfall. By late summer it’s usually shrunk to a few ribbons of water, but still flows. The rest of the way is mostly uphill, on varying states of trail, to reconnect with the PCT at NB mile 1816. Note that the track mapped here is based on the USGS map of the old trail before the burn. Your actual route may differ somewhat, based on conditions encountered.

Sources: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/rogue-siskiyou/recarea/?recid=69442 https://pctwater.com/

Difficulty

Moderate

Hiking along trails with some uneven terrain and small hills. Small rocks and roots may be present.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

3 out of 4

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

Best time to visit

June, July, August, September, October, November

Features

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

Guidebooks in this area