day hike PCT Hat Creek Rim trail
We hiked this trail in late May after days of rain, wildflowers were everywhere
The Hat Creek Rim is one of the most famous, or perhaps infamous, stretches of the PCT. People do not always associate Northern California with extremely dry, almost desert-like conditions. However, the stretch of the PCT along the Hat Creek Rim is one of the longest waterless stretches of trail. There are virtually no natural water sources readily available on the PCT between Subway Cave (mile 1375) and Baum Lake (mile 1404). Many hikers and riders have come to rely on the water cache known as “Cache 22.”
This cache gets its name from its location on the PCT, just a few hundred feet south of where the trail crosses Forest Service Road 22. Cache 22 often, but not always, has multiple coolers filled with bottled water and other drinks. However, the trail angel who stocks this cache may not be supplying it consistently, or at all, in the future. Consequently, PCT users should NOT depend on Cache 22, or other caches, quite frankly. Plan accordingly when traveling through this section. Summer temperatures on the Hat Creek Rim can hit the triple digits. This is not the place to be unprepared!
How should PCT travelers deal with a nearly 30-mile dry stretch of trail without Cache 22 being stocked? It is possible to hike this dry section. PCT users safely traveled this section long before the cache was in place.
- Water at Subway Cave—PCT travelers can stock up enough water to hike the entire rim (one or two days) at Subway Cave. Although carrying the extra weight can be cumbersome and heavy, it can make traveling this section safe. As horses may need up to 20 gallons of water per day, this option may not be viable for equestrians.
- Lost Creek—Approximately eight miles north of the Hat Creek Overlook and Mud Lake Trailhead is Lost Creek. Although the creek is only about 1/3 of a mile from the PCT, there is about a 500-foot elevation drop to get to water. Historically, hikers have utilized this spring as a water source.
- Resupply Support—Have someone meet you on the Rim to supply you with water. Many hikers and equestrians have people meet them at trail junctions, trailheads, and campgrounds to re-supply. This may be the most realistic and feasible way for equestrians to ride the Rim over two days.
- Skip this section—If you are not capable of carrying enough water to travel 30 miles, be honest with yourself and consider skipping this section. It’s not worth risking your life.