Are you looking to get out of town for some hiking and camping this summer? If so, there's a good prospect right in our "backyard," in the Pacific Crest Trail. The trail actually stretches some 2,658 miles from Mexico to the Canadian border, through the states of California, Oregon and Washington. It requires some four to six months for an experienced hiker to negotiate. But there are sections locally in both San Bernardino and Los Angeles Counties and I'll be covering these in this column and the next. The trail was originally opened on October 2, 1968 and with the Appalachian Trail, was the first national designated trail.

Please be aware however that the PCT is only a "foot trail". Camping is permitted in certain areas, but you will need to provide your own supplies - including food and water. Absolutely no motorized vehicles are permitted, including motorcycles and ATV's, although horses are allowed in certain sections. The entire trail is administered by the National Parks Service and the U.S. Forest Service. Permits are required for all but casual hikes, particularly long ones, and overnight camping. I would recommend that you contact local authorities for permission and trail conditions.

Although the PCT stretches from Mexico to Canada, I'll only be covering the sections from Big Bear Lake to Agua Dulce (in Los Angeles County), in two sections, east and west of the Cajon Pass. Plan to have someone drop off your group and meet you at the far end of wherever you decide to end your hike, unless you wish to walk the Trail both ways. Carry your cell phones, compass and GPS monitors, if you have one, to keep in touch and know exactly where you are.

Take Interstate 15 South, through the Cajon Pass, exit at Highway 138 and turn south on Wagon Train Road, which is on the east side of the freeway. Drive south, about 1 mile, to the monument for the Mormon Trail and stop there. This will be the "jumping off point" for both hikes.

East of you, at this point is the first stretch of the PCT. Although this section is wide and usually well maintained, do not be deceived. Not all of the PCT is this nice. Most of it is a narrow, twisting trail. This part is actually called Little Horsethief Canyon and proceeds all the way into Summit Valley, in the San Bernardino National Forest, above Highway 138. There is a nice perpetual waterfall up near the head of the canyon, if it hasn't succumbed to drought conditions, and I've been on this section myself.

Here the PCT zigzags through the mountains, eventually descending a canyon, overlooking Lake Silverwood. At the foot of the canyon the trail crosses Highway 138 (a possible pick-up or drop-off point), and diverts around Silverwood, crossing beneath the Dam and close to Highway 173, which at this point connects Arrowhead Lake Road to Highway 138 in the Las Flores area. Below Silverwood, it turns eastward again and enters the mountains in an area formerly called Cedar Springs - although the springs are mostly buried beneath Silverwood. From here the PCT proceeds approximately northeast and emerges about the Forks Dam.

Here it turns east and then southeast following Deep Creek Canyon. Near the Hot Springs it crosses the river, the East Fork of the Mojave River and ascends the canyon almost due south, eventually reaching the top. The section from Deep Creek to this point approximately follows Bear Creek, which drains out of the Cedar Grove area of Lake Arrowhead. Here the PCT turns eastward again. Arrowhead is west of here.

I have not been on the section that proceeds from here, although it's on my "topo" map. However, the PCT runs approximately one mile north of Big Bear Lake and crosses Van Dusen Road, in a canyon by the same name, and from here one can end the hike or walk into Big Bear City.

Actually, the Pacific Crest Trail diverts around Big Bear Lake, and proceeds south across the ridges and into Riverside County, thence to San Diego County and Mexico. Next month we'll explore the section from the Cajon Pass to Agua Dulce in Los Angeles County, so stay tuned!