Hike the Pacific Crest Trail in Butte County
The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail travels 2,653 miles between the borders of Mexico and Canada. Hundreds of adventurers each year attempt to make the entire journey in one go but most hikers enjoy smaller sections at a time.
In Butte County, it’s closer than you think to take a walk on one of the world’s most famous long-distance trails! You’ll find a 12-mile stretch of the famous PCT to tackle only one hour away from Chico, Paradise, and Oroville.
Know Before You Go
Make sure to check for any trail closures on the Pacific Crest Trail Association's website before you go
Butte County shares a 12-mile stretch of the PCT with neighboring Plumas County in Lassen National Forest. Thru-hikers coming from the south (those trying to hike from Mexico to Canada) usually appreciate the cooler weather and gentler climbs of this section (hovering between 6000 to 7000 feet in elevation). They know that they’re getting close to the half-way point of the entire trail, which lies closer to Chester. It’s also along this section that many thru-hikers experience some of their first panoramic views of Lassen Peak—signaling that they’re leaving the Sierra Nevada Mountains and entering the Cascades.
One of the quickest ways to experience the PCT from most Butte County communities is to take a drive up the scenic Feather River Canyon to the town of Belden. It’s less than an hour away from Oroville and Paradise along Highway 70. The PCT here crosses the North Fork of the Feather River and climbs steeply in both directions. This section of the PCT is tough (and usually warm in the summer), but you can go as far as you want and come back to swim in the Feather River.
Humboldt Summit is at the top of historic Humboldt Road that first connected Chico to the current-day Lake Almanor area in the 1800s. Catch the PCT here to visit Humboldt Peak—one of several places in Butte County to get above 7000 feet. This 3.2 mile out-and-back hike has sweeping views of Lassen Volcanic National Park, Lake Almanor, and the Butte County high-country!
Get there: Drive up Highway 32 from Highway 99 in Chico for 26.7 miles. Turn onto Humboldt Road and travel 11.7 miles through Butte Meadows and Jonesville. After Jonesville, Humboldt Road turns to gravel for the last 3.4 miles before the summit.
Humbug Summit at Cold Springs
Another beautiful day hike along the PCT starts near Humbug Summit at Cold Springs, a refreshing source of spring water for hikers and horses alike. It’s about 4.8 miles round trip from the Cold Springs trailhead north along the PCT to a short spur trail that leads to the highest point in Butte County (7,140 feet). Mountain wildflowers burst along this section in June and July, especially at the meadow just before the county high point. The 6.8 miles along the PCT between Cold Springs and Humboldt Summit makes for a great shuttle hike option for those wanting to park vehicles at each end.
Get there: To get to Cold Springs, take Humboldt Road through Jonesville and turn left onto Jonesville Road where the road turns to gravel. Continue five miles to Humbug Summit Road. Turn left and head another 1.3 miles on the gravel road to Cold Springs.