|The dramatic Trinity Alps. (Trinity Alps Adventures)|
The 18 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) within the Trinity Alps Wilderness are without question the newest and best 18 miles of trail in the area. Paradoxically, this stretch of trail gets less use than many of the other trails, despite being very scenic, easy hiking and close to a whole string of lakes.
One reason for the lack of traffic is that this section of trail is near the midpoint of the PCT, and only very serious PCT walkers, starting from either Canada or Mexico, get this far. Another reason is that this part of the PCT is a long drive from just about anywhere. Whatever the reasons, the lack of attention is wonderful for those who do choose to hike this section. It is a marvelous way to see the eastern part of the Trinity Alps.
The PCT comes within a mile of each of a beautiful series of lakes north of the Scott River crest. In order from east to west, they are: East Boulder, Middle Boulder, Telephone, West Boulder, Mavis, Fox Creek, Section Line, Virginia, and upper and lower South Fork lakes. Although many of these lakes are not described in this particular trip, they can all be easily reached from the PCT, along with Marshy and Mosquito lakes, located south of the Scott River crest.
Along with the potential for solitude, the PCT offers ridgecrest walking abounding in spectacular vistas including Mount Shasta, Lassen Peak and the central Trinity Alps peaks. Much of the trail is constructed to a relatively level grade through a variety of vegetative zones including meadows, chaparral and evergreen forests. You will have to descend into the various drainages to find decent campsites, but because of the individual attractions that the lakes have to offer, this can hardly be considered to be a drawback. Solitude, panoramic vistas and diversity make the PCT a very worthwhile undertaking.
You have a choice of trailheads from which to start. The recommended route begins at the Scott Mountain Campground just off Highway 3 at Scott Mountain Summit. This route is 4 miles longer than the alternative, but it is all on the well-graded Pacific Crest Trail. The other choice is to begin at the Mosquito Lake/Marshy Lake road and hike one-and-a-half miles from the wilderness boundary along the dusty road to an intersection with the PCT. The terminus of your trip as described is at Carter Meadows Summit on Forest Highway 93.
There are only two reasons for walking down the Mosquito Lake/Marshy Lakes road from the saddle where the PCT crosses the road 2.1 miles down the southeast side of the ridge. The first is a spring running into a pool just below the road .6 mile from the saddle. An excellent campsite is beside the pool where a cabin once stood. The second reason for walking down the road would be to go to Mosquito Lake and Camp Unalayee. The camp is .4 mile up a moderately steep road that forks right from the main road 1.8 miles below the saddle. Mosquito Lake is .2 mile above the camp. Backpackers are welcome to visit Camp Unalayee, but overnight camping is discouraged since 75-80 young people and a staff of 25 adults are in the area. Mosquito is a gorgeous little lake, surrounded by meadows, but hardly worth fishing while camp is in session, June through August.
A good reason for not walking the road, in addition to most people's natural preference for good trail over dusty road, is that you might miss the PCT where it crosses the road .3 mile beyond the Mosquito Lake junction. Although the trail is signed where it crosses the road, it is not very obvious. If you cross the Mosquito Lake outlet creek on the road, you have gone past the PCT junction.
Scott Mountain Campground Trailhead: The Pacific Crest Trail crosses Highway 3 at the very top of Scott Summit, and continues west just north of Scott Mountain Campground. Park well off the highway, but not in the campground, and look for signs and emblems marking the trail where it crosses old roads between the campground and Forest Road 40N63 on the north side of the summit.
Mosquito Lake/Marshy Lakes Road Trailhead: Turn left (west) from Highway 3 immediately north of Scott Summit on Forest Road 40N63 and travel a locked gate, which presumably stops all vehicular traffic at the Wilderness boundary except for Forest Service vehicles, those of Camp Unalayee and a few private inholders. Park along the side of the road as space allows.
Carter Meadows Summit Trailhead: To locate the trailhead for the end of Trip 27 drive north from Scott Mountain Summit on Highway 3 to the small town of Callahan. Just beyond the town turn left onto Forest Highway 93, which heads toward Cecilville, Forks of Salmon and Somes Bar, leading 11.7 miles to Carter Meadows Summit. A sign as you approach the summit reads"Pacific Crest Trail, 1/4 MILE." As the highway curves, an unsigned dirt road on the left quickly leads to a parking area large enough for about 10 cars. The trailhead is obvious at the far edge of the parking area.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication