Pacific Crest Trail to Porcupine Lake and the Deadfall Lakes

Length: 23.0 miles round trip

High Point: 7650 feet

Elevation Gain: 2150 feet

Difficulty: moderate

When to Hike: late June through mid-October

Controlling Agency: Mount Shasta Ranger Station, Shasta-Trinity National Forest, 204 West Alma, Mount Shasta, CA 96067. (530) 926-4511. http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/shastatrinity

Special Features: This walk along the Pacific Crest Trail features exhilarating views of major northern California landmarks ranging from Lassen Peak to Mount Shasta to Mount Eddy to the Trinity Alps and other Klamath Mountain ranges. You’ll also visit Porcupine Lake, pass by meadows and springs, and walk near the head of a glacial cirque with an amazing display of wildflowers. In addition, you can easily connect with trails to explore the Deadfall Lakes region and climb Mount Eddy.

Directions to the Trailhead: From I-5, take the Central Mount Shasta Exit. Head west and south, first on South Old Stage Road and then on W. A. Barr Road. Bend around Lake Siskiyou to meet Road 26. Follow 26 west (it’s paved the whole way) along the South Fork Sacramento River, then park at Gumboot Saddle, which is 18.3 miles from Mount Shasta City and 2.5 miles west of the turnoff to Gumboot Lake and Gumboot Campground.

Description and Comments: This description comes from 75 Hikes in California’s Mount Shasta and Lassen Volcanic National Park Regions, revised edition. Find out more about the book at http://www.northerncaliforniahikingtrails.com/ and be sure to check out author John Soares’ blog on Northern California hiking trails.

Find the path on the east side of the large parking lot and start climbing, soon enjoying a good southwest view of the Trinity Alps as you walk through a forest of Jeffrey and western white pine and white and red fir. The western white pines and red firs will be with you for much of the journey, being replaced only at the higher elevations by mountain hemlock and whitebark pine.

Gain another view at 0.4 mile, this time of mighty Mount Shasta, the drainage of the South Fork Sacramento River, Gumboot Lake, and many nearby mountains. Thus begins a pattern that will last for several miles: ascending and descending moderately as the trail alternates between the west and east sides of the north-running ridge crest.

Cross a dirt road at 0.7 mile, and then at 1 mile look north to Mount Eddy and west down to Picayune Lake. A saddle at 1.6 miles frames a view of Mount Shasta and a level spot for camping. Such spots are interspersed along much of the trail, except for the last section from Toad Lake to the Deadfall Lakes.

Another saddle at 2.7 miles holds a trail junction. Continue straight and climb, soon reaching a series of spring-fed and flower-festooned meadows that stretch west down the mountainside (one spring flows year-round). Return to the east side of the crest and walk by more meadows and a thick red fir forest, then enter open country at 5.6 miles with an expansive vista southeast to Lassen Peak and its neighboring volcanoes.

Reach a trail fork at 6.1 miles and go left, leaving the Pacific Crest Trail for a brief 0.2-mile climb to Porcupine Lake. Surrounded by the high rock walls of its glacial cirque, this beautiful lake has deep, clear waters for swimming and several campsites near the eastern shore. It makes an excellent first-day destination.

Return to the PCT and walk 0.2 mile to another trail fork at 6.3 miles. You can take a right and drop 0.4 mile down to the west shore of attractive Toad Lake, where you’ll find several good campsites. The trail then rises from the lake’s northwest edge to rejoin the PCT.

If you don’t visit Toad Lake, continue along the PCT, contour above Toad Lake and enjoy stupendous views to the east and south. Go straight when the trail from Toad Lake crosses the PCT at 7.2 miles, then climb up to a saddle, the trip’s highest elevation, at 8 miles. Say good-bye to southern views and hello to Mount Eddy, which rises prominently 2 miles to the north. You now contour along a large glacial cirque that heads the North Fork Sacramento River drainage. Note the intense trailside display of dozens of wildflower species.

Reach another saddle and a trail fork at 9.2 miles. Go briefly left for 50 feet, then go right at another fork on the higher of two trails that leave from the saddle’s western side. Enjoy the vista of the Klamath Mountains as you gently descend past red firs, flowers, a few meadows, and talus boulder slopes to see Lower Deadfall Lake at 10.8 miles.

Continue down to a trail fork at 11.3 miles. A right quickly brings you to campsites at impressively beautiful Middle Deadfall Lake. To finish this hike and to connect with the Deadfall Lakes and Mount Eddy hike, go left for the final 0.2 mile to a meeting of trails at Deadfall Creek.

Maps: USGS 7.5′ Seven Lakes Basin, USGS 7.5′ Mumbo Basin, USGS 7.5′ Mt. Eddy, USGS 7.5″ South China Mtn.