5 Places to View the Solar Eclipse from the PCT
On August 21, 2017, the skies over central Oregon will go dark at 10:18 am (PST). That is when the moon will pass directly in front of the sun, creating the first full solar eclipse to occur in North America since 1979. In Oregon, the Path of Totality (see map), where the sun will be 100% blocked, will stretch for more than 63 miles, and will cover the PCT from approximately Santiam Pass (OR mile 309; PCT mile 1,998) to Timothy Lake (OR mile 382; PCT mile 2,071).
Within this area, the ideal place to observe the eclipse is anywhere you have a clear view of the eastern sky, 39 degrees above the horizon—think halfway between the horizon and directly overhead. The show will begin at approximately 9:05 am (PST), when the moon begins its passage in front of the sun. It will take more than an hour to reach full coverage, at which point day will become night—a spectacular and awe-inspiring show unlike any other!
Where to See the Eclipse
To witness the full extent of the eclipse—almost 2 whole minutes of darkness—you want to be as near the center of the path as possible. As it happens for this year’s eclipse, the center of the path runs right through Jefferson Park (OR mile 342; PCT mile 2,031). Unfortunately, if you’re thinking you’re going to roll into the park and get a front row seat, you better plan on having lots and Lots and LOTS of company. Willamette National Forest managers are actually dreading this event, knowing that the eclipse will be drawing hundreds of spectators into this sensitive wilderness environment. If you have to be in the center of the action, it is of the utmost importance that you follow LNT practices and take care to minimize damage to this area.
Of course, anywhere within the 70-mile path with a clear view of the eastern sky will give you an opportunity to see this celestial event. However, the farther from the center of the path, the shorter the time of total coverage, down to just 20 seconds at the edges of the path. Here are some other high points or open, east-facing locations in the full path along the PCT (south to north) where you can catch the eclipse and perhaps avoid some of the heaviest crowds.
1. MINTO PASS (OR mile 320; PCT mile 2,009)
Just south of the pass, above Wasco Lake, there are good, clear views eastward; the view from the lake below may be obstructed. You can also proceed 1–2 miles north of the pass, where the PCT circuits the bluffs above Bear Valley where there are more wide-open views.
2. NORTH CINDER PEAK (OR mile 329; PCT mile 2,018)
After the PCT circuits North Cinder Peak, before it bends westward to proceed around Mt. Jefferson, it exits the trees on a high plateau with a huge, wide-open view of the mountain, the valleys and cinder cones below, and all things to the east. This could be an amazing viewpoint.
3. PARK DIVIDE/BUTTE (OR mile 345; PCT mile 2,034)
If you’re looking for elevation with an unparalleled view this is the place to go. Of course, with its proximity to Jefferson Park, this will also likely be a hot spot. Get there early and stake out your spot on the 6,851-foot high point, just a short scramble off the PCT.
4. MANY LAKES VIEWPOINT (OR mile 351; PCT mile 2040)
This large rock outcropping affords big open views over the basin holding Timber, Monon and Olallie lakes, with Olallie Butte in the background. This small viewpoint won’t accommodate too many people, so claim it early for your front-row seat.
5. NORTH PINHEAD BUTTE (OR mile 367; PCT mile 2056)
After passing through the viewless Pinhead saddle, proceed around North Pinhead Butte to a couple of open scree slopes the PCT crosses that offer wide-open views eastward. You’re looking over harvested timberland, but the view is clear.
Areas north and south of the Path of Totality will not experience the full eclipse. For example, Portland will experience 99% of the eclipse, and Eugene will experience 98% of the eclipse. And these partial coverages will occur in just seconds, as the moon keeps moving past. Because of their location outside of the total path, these areas will not see total nighttime-like darkness, but just a dimming of the sky. The farther away from the path, the less of an eclipse effect. Thus, if you want to see the big shebang, you need to find a place inside the actual path.
How to Watch the Eclipse
USE EYE PROTECTION You should never look at a partial eclipse with the naked eye, or risk eye damage. Only when the sun is 100% covered by the moon—in the Path of Totality—should you peek without eye protection. For viewing the eclipse as its happening, wear shaded eye protection—not sunglasses! You can purchase eclipse-viewing glasses online, or just about anywhere in Oregon right now.
CHOOSE YOUR SPOT And get there early! If you’re planning to be section- or thru-hiking through Oregon and want to catch the eclipse, choose a viewing location away from trailheads and side trails—and plan to get there a day or two early. Eclipse viewers will be flooding into easily-accessible places the evening before and morning of the event. Stake out your spot and settle in for the big event—it’s worth an extra zero day!
CROSS YOUR FINGERS Oregon’s summer weather is pretty reliably sunny and clear. However, it’s not out of the ordinary for a random summer storm to pass through. As the eclipse date gets closer, we’ll be carefully watching the weather forecast and posting updates in our weekly conditions reports. You can also follow our Facebook and Twitter feeds for midweek news and updates.
More Eclipse Info
Eclipse 2017 – All things eclipse related.
PCT Crowds – Tips and suggestions from PCTA.
Travel Oregon – Details and info for catching the eclipse across the state.
Space.com – Tips for safely viewing a solar eclipse.
Main photo: The sun’s corona shines brightly during a full solar eclipse. Photo by Kurt Kulac.