Miles 485.7-517.6 of the northbound PCT: A highland traverse overlooking the Mojave, then a quick descent to face the desert.



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This is the middle segment of California Section E, which in total spans 112 miles from Agua Dulce to Tehachapi Pass.

Northbound from Lake Hughes, the PCT enjoys a final hurrah of piney highlands before dropping decidedly downward, and crossing Highway 138 in a flat valley of the Mojave Desert. From Lake Hughes Road (NB mile 485.7) the PCT makes a determined climb up a sun-exposed mountainside, gaining more than 1000 feet in two miles.

Then the gradient lessens, but the uphill continues until the trail surpasses 5000 feet above sea level along a mountain crest.

Pine trees and oaks offer some shade at that elevation, though much of the forest burned in a 2020 wildfire.

Abundant clearings now provide expansive views to the valleys below. A jeep road shares this ridgeline, and the trail parallels it closely for much of the way.

The road serves a few Forest Service campgrounds which can be used by PCT hikers, though some may still be closed following the fire.

[Upper Shake Campground]( (NB mile 493.4) is one of these, and it has a spring.

The next is [Sawmill Campground]( (NB mile 498.2), which has a wildlife water tank nearby that hikers may draw from.

More of these tanks, known as guzzlers, can be found near the PCT in the next several miles.

Check the [PCT Water Report]( for locations and conditions.

Aside from the designated campgrounds, good spots for dispersed camping are also easy to find. After crossing a highpoint of around 5700 feet, the PCT begins a descent the north, tracing a ridgeline and finally dropping in broad switchbacks.

It crosses Pine Canyon road at NB mile 510.9, making one possible start or endpoint to this segment.

The proceeding 7 miles northbound are on private land where no camping is allowed.

Here the trail meanders through desert hills to reach Highway 138 (517.6), and an overnight option at the [Hikertown]( hostel.

It’s a popular resupply even for those not spending the night, as the hostel sells basic supplies and also accepts packages. Permits: In this part of Angeles National Forest, permits are not required for hiking through or for backcountry camping, but an [Adventure Pass]( is required for parking at trailheads, and campgrounds may charge their own fees.

Campfires are not generally allowed, but anyone camping overnight may still need the [California Fire Permit]( for use of a camp stove. Sources: