Ever thought about backpacking sections of the Pacific Crest Trail in Northern California? Philip Kramer, author of the new book Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Northern California Section Hiking from Tuolumne Meadows to Donomore Pass (Mountaineers Books, 2018) shares key information in this wide-ranging interview.
Why Does Section Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail Have Such a Mystique?
For me, the mystique of the Pacific Crest Trail has always been wrapped up in the appeal of a prolonged wilderness experience. I’ve always been intrigued by traveling great distances through wild areas that you otherwise wouldn’t see unless you’re on foot and the Pacific Crest Trail provides a lot of that. It’s not all wildernesses, but it offers a way to experience a great and varied western landscape in an intimate way. And perhaps at the heart of the matter is that with any big adventure, there are questions of whether you’ll make it and how it will change you and your perceptions of the world around you.
When Did You First Hike the Pacific Crest Trail?
I thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2013. I started April 26th and ended October 26th, which is to say I took my time!
Why Is Section Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail Growing in Popularity?
Section hiking has several advantages over thru-hiking (which is not to say that I think one is better than the other!). Most people are living busy lives filled with various responsibilities: children, careers, financial obligations, etc. Finding four months or more to leave those all behind to thru-hike can be difficult. Finding a week, two weeks, or even a month to hike portions of the Pacific Crest Trail over time is substantially easier (though still a feat!). In my mind, this is the single largest reason that section hiking is becoming more common.
What’s Your Favorite Pacific Crest Trail Section in the Sierra Nevada?
I love the northern portions of Yosemite National Park where it meets the Hoover Wilderness. The farther from Tioga Pass Road you get, the fewer people you see. The landscape is challenging and stunning and there are an endless number of side trips one can take to visit distant lakes or nearby peaks.
What’s Your Favorite Pacific Crest Trail Section between Mount Shasta and the Oregon border?
The Klamath Range takes the cake for me in this region, specifically the Marble Mountain Wilderness. I knew very little of this area before hiking the PCT and it’s been a treasure trove of surprises. The area is incredibly diverse geologically and botanically and the landscape is impressively rugged. It also doesn’t hurt that you get frequent vistas of Mount Shasta. Honorable mention: the Trinity Alps Pacific Crest Trail section.
What Did You Like Most About Writing this Book?
Well, it wasn’t the computer time (which there was a lot of)! My favorite part of the project was how it forced me to dig deeply into each area and really learn about it. During my thru-hike I charged through Northern California and really didn’t have a lot of positive takeaways. Returning to explore it at a slower and more thorough pace revealed that I had missed a lot of amazing places and facts!
What Did You Like Least?
I think I gave that away with the last question! The screen time! I don’t do well in front of a computer all day and it was often a challenge for me to stay focused on writing and editing when the sun was shining outside.
What Are Your Future Hiking Plans?
This summer I’m hoping to revisit the PCT in Washington State where I live. In 2013, I ended my thru-hike by snowshoeing all the way from Stevens Pass to Canada (almost 200 miles of trail). I want to revisit that section of trail in Summer and enjoy some warm flowery days!
Any More Hiking Guidebooks on the Horizon?
Not at the moment! This book coincided with the birth of my daughter and it’s made for a busy three years. My goal for the time is to finish promoting Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Northern California Section Hiking and then regroup for whatever is next.
What Key Piece of Advice Do You Have for PCT Section Hikers?
Don’t rush through it! There are of course many critical things a hiker needs to be prepared, but the experience of the place is at the heart of why most of us hike and time spent on the PCT (or any trail) is invaluable. Leave yourself an extra day or two to enjoy your surroundings and let yourself unfold into the wilderness.
Where to Buy Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Northern California Section Hiking
Main Pacific Crest Trail Section Hikes in Northern California
- Tuolumne Meadows to Sonora Pass
- Sonora Pass to Echo Lake
- Echo Lake to Donner Summit
- Donner Summit to CA Highway 49
- CA Highway 49 to Belden
- Belden to CA Highway 36
- CA Highway 36 to McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park
- McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park to Castle Crags State Park
- Castle Crags State Park to Etna Summit
- Etna Summit to Seiad Valley
- Seiad Valley to Donomore Pass
These are the longer sections. The book breaks each section into three to five shorter sections that are accessible by road. For example:
Castle Crags State Park to Etna Summit
- Castle Crags State Park to Forest Road 26
- Forest Road 26 to Parks Creek Trailhead
- Parks Creek Trailhead to Scott Mountain Summit
- Scott Mountain Summit to Carter Meadows Summit (Trinity Alps Wilderness)
- Carter Meadows Summit to Etna Summit (Russian Wilderness)
About Author and Photographer Philip Kramer
Philip Kramer is Washington-based outdoor photographer and writer. Philip is represented by Getty Images and his clients include Lonely Planet, BBC, National Geographic, and Sunset Magazine. Find his writing and photography website here, his Instagram account here, and the website for all four Mountaineers Books PCT Section Hiking books here.
What sections of the Northern California PCT have you hiked? Which sections do you want to do? Any questions for Philip? Let us know in the comments below.