Siskiyou is blessed with vast wilderness, jaw-dropping views and quaint towns, topped by a mystical mountain and picturesque Alpine lakes. And through that rugged and breathtaking landscape weaves the Pacific Crest Trail, also casually referred to as the “PCT.” Made household-name-famous in Cheryl Strayed’s book “Wild,” the Pacific Crest Trail spans 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington, with 120 miles of that trail in Siskiyou. California’s north even includes the mid-point of the trail that falls near Dunsmuir.
But it’s Siskiyou’s small towns along the PCT that have become almost as well-known as the journey itself, referred to as some of the “friendliest towns” on the trail. They provide places to shower, rest, wash clothes, resupply, with great restaurants where hikers can down a 4000-calorie breakfast and pour back some amazing locally crafted beers! Here’s a little snapshot of what Siskiyou’s four PCT towns offer to hikers who take the time (and energy!) to refuel, resupply, and rejuvenate in town.
Situated in a canyon and surrounded by the dramatic Castle Crags wilderness near the Soda Creek Trailhead, Dunsmuir is a charming railroad town with lots of great food and lodging that has been a go-to stop for hikers for a long time. The Dunsmuir Lodge is a favorite option that offers comfortable lodging and gives rides to PCT hikers when possible, and the Railroad Park Resort offers the “only in Siskiyou” experience of eating on a caboose and sleeping in a train. When it comes to food, it’s hard to beat Dunsmuir, but both the Cornerstone Café and the Wheelhouse offering big breakfasts to refuel, and Yaks on the Five can deliver a hiker’s much-needed caloric bang for a few bucks with burgers built on cinnamon rolls and more than 20 craft beers on tap – many from other towns along the trail! And, it doesn’t get more local than the Dunsmuir Brewery Works, which also serves great seasonal food featuring local ingredients.
City of Mount Shasta
No other mountain dominates the Pacific Crest Trail the way Mount Shasta does, so it’s no surprise that the city of Mount Shasta was proudly named the first official “Trail Town” of the Pacific Crest Trail. It was officially announced in 2018 as part of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System Act and there’s typically a celebration in July. But even outside the celebration, as an official trail town, you can imagine how much the city of Mount Shasta loves its hikers!
There are a variety of yummy places to eat in town, and PCT hikers can indulge in particularly large breakfasts at the original Black Bear Diner and Cooper’s Restaurant in the Best Western Tree House. The Berryvale Market & Café and Mount Shasta Grocery offer great local food resupply stops, and there is a wealth of outdoor shops in town for hiking needs. There’s even a new outdoor beer garden, Garden Tap, at the Native Grounds Nursery.
There are also lots of lodging options, including the Shasta Inn and Strawberry Valley Inn next to Native Grounds, as well as the recently renovated Inn at Mount Shasta. You can even find adventure and hiker-friendly accommodations at the brand new LOGE Mt. Shasta that offers everything from hotel rooms to hostel bunks and camping.
A few day hike from Mount Shasta, the charming town of Etna, population 700, has been called “the friendliest town on the trail.” It’s situated in the valley below Etna Summit and offers not one but TWO local breweries – including the Etna Brewing Company (one of the oldest in California!) and Paystreak Brewing. The tiny town is also home to the Denny Bar Co. – the only craft distillery-restaurant between Sacramento and Oregon.
The local post office is known to bring in an extra dumpster during PCT “hiker season” and the local high school art students design the town’s annual trail patch. It’s not unusual to see backpacks lining Main Street, or locals giving rides to hikers to and from Etna Summit. The lovely Alderbrook Manor in town maintains an official “Hiker’s Hut” and the Collier Hotel and Etna Motel are quaint and comfortable options right in town.
There are also a number of tasty restaurants and bakeries in town where hikers can refuel on delicious local fare. Even the hardware store and coffee shop get into the action, selling some of PCT hikers’ most-used backpacking supplies.
Seiad Valley, located near Happy Camp and close to the mighty Klamath River, has the singular charm of the fact that every through hiker on the trail actually has to pass straight through the little enclave of buildings that make up “Seiad.” One of those buildings is the Seiad post office, which makes it a convenient resupply point.
One of the other buildings is the Seiad Café, which happens to be the home of the famous (infamous?) pancake challenge that was once featured on the Food Network. For PCT hikers, or anyone crazy enough to take the challenge, the task is to eat five giant pancakes and the meal is free. Sounds easy, until you realize the size of the spatula hanging on the wall! International hikers are also pleased to discover that the café regularly stocks all kinds of things you wouldn’t expect to find off the beaten track simply because of the number of hikers that roll through each summer. (Vegemite, anyone?) Of course, there are lots of other things to choose from on the menu too, so you don’t have to be a glutton for pancake punishment to enjoy the stop to refuel!
For hiking enthusiasts that aren’t currently on the PCT, there are a ton of other opportunities to explore Siskiyou as well! For inspiration on eight Siskiyou summits above 8000 feet, click here.