Day 73: Up Onto Hat Creek Rim

June 29, 2017

Total daily miles: 23.1 miles

Total PCT miles: 987.4 miles

Start: mile 1371.2

End: mile 1394.3

Total elevation gain/loss: 1665.4/2192.3

Today we hiked the infamous Hat Creek Rim. It’s known for being an especially hot and dry segment of the PCT plopped down in the middle of tree-covered mountain passes. We’d been warned to night hike the rim, but we didn’t really set ourselves up well for the timing to night hike and we honestly aren’t huge fans of night hiking to begin with. So daytime hiking it would be.


We woke up extra early this morning (4am alarm!) so that we could get an early start on the day and take advantage of the cool morning. About 4 miles in we had our first attraction — Subway Caves. The cave is a short distance off the PCT, but well worth the detour. The cave is actually an old lava tube that is now hollowed out. We climbed the stairs down into the cool tube (literally, it stays at about 50 degrees year-round) and had a look around. It’s dark in the tube and we’d brought our headlamps, which barely made a impact in the pitch darkness. I turned off my headlamp to take a photo, and discovered that I couldn’t get it to turn back on. Of course.

This unnamed lava tube was right along the PCT!

Down into the tube…

It looked a lot darker than this in real life.


We didn’t realize at the time that you could actually walk all the way through the lava tube and exit out the other side. Still a really awesome side trip and well worth the effort.

One of our first glimpses of Mt. Shasta. It looked so much bigger in person!


It was finally time to make our final climb up to Hat Creek Rim. The panoramic view from the top of the run was amazing. Behind us we could see Mt. Lassen and in front of us Mt. Shasta. Both immense and snow covered as we started to bake in the exposed morning sun.

Looking back at Lassen.


I’d heard a lot of horror stories about the rim, so I was surprised at how beautiful I found our morning walk to be. The trail dramatically runs along the cliffs of the rim (which reminded me of a mesa) and there were lots of flowers. There was even occasional shade to take the edge off the heat!


We each carried an extra liter of water (2.6 L total), so we were able to bypass the steep descent to Lost Creek. We stopped for a quick lunch in the shade of some trees and then continued on. Our plan was to make it a few more miles so that we could siesta near a newly installed water tank that promised shade nearby.  

This plan was quickly scrapped when we arrived at the communications tower in the rim and saw trail magic!!! Several women from Burney were out for the day offering wonderful food, drinks, shade, and chairs. It was quite a surprise because we were on a remote dirt road, not a major highway. The women had actually day hiked the entire 27-mile rim trail (in one day!) to determine the best spot for trail magic. I’d say they chose well!


We ended up spending a few hours relaxing at the trail magic. Why siesta at the water tank when we could do it here? It was a great chance to relax and chat with our hosts and other hikers. We even ran into Tawney, who we hadn’t seen since our first day on the trail!

This cow followed me down the trail for awhile. Probably one of my more frightening animal encounters so far.


Refreshed and feeling extra lucky, we continued down the trail. The water tank was almost full and since we’d already rehydrated at the trail magic we only needed an extra liter each. Then it was a few more miles, past a cow pond (and a cow who stalked me for awhile), until we found a good spot to stop and camp before descending from the rim.

It was a dusty day.


I know that our trail magic may have skewed our experience, but today was a great day. Between the lava tube, beautiful views along the rim, and wonderful hospitality, I couldn’t have asked for more!

Current ailments:

Elizabeth: none.

Michael: sore left big toe.

3 thoughts on “Day 73: Up Onto Hat Creek Rim

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