Trail Report & Closure Update
It’s almost summer, and Oregon’s PCT hiking season is right around the corner! There hasn’t been much to report since our last update, while waiting out winter and early spring, but in recent weeks there have been several encouraging developments—and plenty of warm, sunny weather to help melt the snow and dry out the trail. The even better news is that many of the areas that were closed last year due to wildfires have been reopened for hikers this summer.
With all of last year’s fires, the outlook for PCT hiking this year was questionable. But as the snow has been melting out and forest and park managers have gotten to evaluate the areas affected by the fires, things are taking a turn for the better, with all but one area reopened. Hikers will experience freshly burned sections of the PCT in some areas, and should take a few extra precautions when traversing these sections (see tips below). Following is the updated condition of each area with any special notices.
Sky Lakes Wilderness
AFEECTED AREA: PCT: Oregon: Sec. 2, miles 30–41; Halfmile: C5–C7, miles 1804–1815
Approximately 11 miles of the PCT, between the Seven Lakes Basin and the southern boundary of Crater Lake National Park, experienced some patchy burning in the High Cascades Complex fire last summer. With only minimal damage, this section was reopened before the season ended last year. Forest managers will soon be getting into the area to begin repairs. It is currently unknown what condition the Stuart Falls area is in. There are currently no closures in effect in this area.
Crater Lake National Park
AFEECTED AREA: PCT: Oregon: Sec. 2, miles 55–60; Halfmile: C10–C11, miles 1829–1834
Park officials are still assessing the condition of the PCT in Spruce Lake Fire area, where it is known that the trail received significant damage. Trail crews and volunteers will be working this summer to make repairs as the area becomes accessible. The PCT is scheduled to remain closed between Bybee Creek Camp and the Bald Crater Loop Trail until until repairs are complete. Use the Rim Trail alternate.
Access the Rim Trail by proceeding up the Dutton Creek Trail to Rim Village, or up the Lightning Spring Trail to Rim Drive. From either of these connectors, hikers can follow the Rim Trail (or the road) north and reconnect with the PCT near Grouse Hill. Due to its higher elevation, the Rim Trail may retain snow into early summer. For more information and park conditions updates, visit CLNP.
Three Sisters Wilderness
AFEECTED AREA: PCT: Oregon: Sec. 4, miles 54–58; Halfmile: E9, miles 1962–1966
The largest PCT closure last year, stretching for more than 50 miles, encompassed large swaths of the Three Sisters Wilderness in both the Willamette and Deschutes national forests. Thankfully, only a handful of trail miles, between Mesa Creek and Hinton Creek, were actually affected—and with only light to moderate damage (see map). After evaluating conditions, the Forest Service lifted the closure order on May 3. There are currently no closures in effect in this area.
Mt. Jefferson Wilderness
AFFECTED AREA: PCT: Oregon: Sec. 5, miles 26–32; Halfmile: F7–F8, miles 2028–2034
The Whitewater Fire on the west side of Mt. Jefferson rendered almost the entire Mt. Jefferson Wilderness inaccessible thru most of last summer. Thankfully, the spectacular Jefferson Park was spared. Where the fire crossed the trail, from approximately Milk Creek to Whitewater Creek, it received fairly significant burn damage, but the Forest Service has lifted the closure order as of May 3. The Whitewater Creek Trail remains closed; all other trails in this area are open.
Hatfield Wilderness (Columbia Gorge)
AFEECTED AREA: PCT: Oregon: Sec. 6, miles 31–50; Halfmile: G5–G8, miles 2128–2147
The Eagle Creek Fire was perhaps the most devastating fire of 2017. It torched the entire Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, and affected nearly every trail—some lightly, some catastrophically. The good news is that the Forest Service, Trailkeepers of Oregon, Friends of the Gorge and PCTA have been working diligently to get the area’s trails reopened as quickly—and safely—as possible. Some trails have already reopened (see list). As of this posting (6/5), the PCT remains closed between Indian Springs Camp and the Bridge of the Gods (see map).
The good news is that the Forest Service expects to reopen this section very soon, perhaps even this month. (We’ll post an update when that occurs.) The bad news is that the popular Eagle Creek alternate remains closed for the foreseeable future. This trail was heavily damaged by the fire, and frequent landslides continue to do further damage. Once the PCT in this area reopens, hikers should stick with that route, or consider the Herman Creek Trail as an alternate path to Cascade Locks.
Tips for hiking thru burn areas
BE VIGILANT When hiking thru a recently burned area, beware of hazards, including burned and damaged trail tread, overhanging trees and snags, burnt out roots and stumps, and unstable hillsides. These areas may also experience above average amounts of blowdown and washouts.
WIND WARNING Wind and dead, burned trees are a dangerous combination. If you approach a recently burned area on a windy day, consider waiting until the wind subsides. The older the burn area, the more susceptible trees are to being toppled by even moderate breezes.
DON’T LOITER The Forest Service recommends that hikers make their way thru recently burned areas as quickly as possible in order to avoid incident. Hikers should not stray from the trail in these areas, and should absolutely not camp in recently burned sections of forest.
SAY THANKS If you encounter a trail crew working on the PCT as you’re hiking thru, be sure to thank them for the work they’re doing. This year is going to take extra effort to get the trail cleaned up, and most of these fine folks are unpaid volunteers who just love the PCT.
Share this news with others.
Let us know what you’re seeing out on the PCT this summer. Send us an email with your news and photos.
2018 Trail Conditions Reports
This year, due an extensive travel and hiking schedule, we won’t be able to post Oregon trail conditions on a weekly basis. Part of that is due to the fact that we will be on the PCT and posting updates directly from the trail and zero day sites. You can find these updates by following us on our Facebook and Instagram feeds. As important trail news comes in, we will continue to post here on PCT: Oregon as often as we can. We suggest you bookmark our Trail Conditions page, where you will find all the links you need for Oregon weather, water, wildfire, snow and obstruction updates.
If you’re going to be hiking the PCT thru Oregon this summer, please share what you’re seeing and experiencing on trail so we may keep others updated. Send us an email with your news and photos.
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