FATMAP difficulty grade
California Section O begins a multi-day stretch of the PCT heading roughly west, starting a prolonged bow around Mount Shasta before curving up toward Oregon.
In these first 50-or-so miles of the section, the trail makes a gradual climb to a rolling ridge with prolific views of Shasta ahead.
Eventually, the trail tips downward to meet the McCloud River in its lush canyon, before the rest of Section O climbs again from there. From the start of the section at Burney Falls (NB mile 1419), the PCT contours a forested hillside to soon reach Lake Britton Dam and cross it on a paved road (NB mile 1420.9).
There’s a nice view of the Pit River tumbling through its canyon below.
From there, rolling terrain among sunny forest trends generally uphill for the next several miles.
A notable photo stop is Rock Creek Falls (NB mile 1424.5) where a little waterfall drops through basalt cliffs.
There are decent campsites in the vicinity as well. Beyond Rock Creek, it’s steadily uphill, with a couple of potential water sources at Upper Jake Spring (NB mile 1427.8) and Screwdriver Creek (NB mile 1428.6).
There are several forest road crossings and one large powerline cut that reveals a grand view of Mount Shasta (NB mile 1434.3).
From this vantage, you’ll realize that the trail has gained a prominent ridgeline, with steep valleys falling away below. The PCT proceeds to roll along the crest through a patchwork of forest, subalpine shrub, and rocky meadows.
Much of the way is dry and sun-exposed, so you’ll want to be sure to get water at Clark Spring (NB mile 1436.9), which is just off trail but should be signed, and has a campsite nearby as well. As the trail makes a broad arc to trend generally westward, you’ll enjoy easy walking and frequent views over a ridge-rippled horizon and the sky-scraping cone of Mount Shasta.
Decent camps and water sources are spread throughout the next several miles.
Moosehead Creek (NB mile 1447.3) is one spot in particular that offers sites near water.
Another is Deer Creek Spring (NB mile 1461.6).
In some places, the trail gets more exciting as it cuts across denuded slopes or through rock bands, such as beneath Grizzly Peak (NB mile 1459.5), but in general, it’s a mellow ridge walk and then a gradual descent to the McCloud River. Just before reaching the river, the trail crosses a dirt road and comes to Ash Camp (NB mile 1470.9), which is a common place to spend the night.
It’s a Forest Service primitive campground that’s free of charge, offering a toilet, tent sites, and natural water source in a creek.
The camp itself is walk-in only, but a nearby parking area can serve as a trailhead for section hikers. Permits: On this segment within Shasta-Trinity National Forest, no permits are needed for hiking or camping.
As with the rest of California, however, a [campfire permit](https://www.readyforwildfire.org/permits/campfire-permit/) is required for use of a fire or camp stove.
Additional fire restrictions may apply seasonally.
Sources: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/stnf/recarea/?recid=6579 https://www.pcta.org/discover-the-trail/maps/ https://pctmap.net/trail-notes/