Mount Washington Wilderness: Little Belknap Crater Trail

Mount Washington along the Pacific Crest Trail
Dramatic views of the High Cascades over massive lava flows characterize the Mount Washington Section of the Pacific Crest Trail. With the exception of a small spur trail up to Little Belknap Crater this hike is entirely on the PCT. One can start this at the official PCT trailhead about 1 mile west of the Dee Wright Observatory.

Entering the Mount Washington Wilderness along the PCT

Looking south towards the Three Sisters
Besides the incredible views of the Three Sisters and Mount Washington, you have the pleasure of walking through two very unique 'islands of forest'. It seems safe to assume that these areas were spared from the last lava flow that occurred 2,600 years ago.  The trees near the edges of the lava flow can be very old, but appear to be mere saplings due to a combination of poor soil and harsh winters.

After passing through the second 'island of forest' you will make your way across a long section of uninterrupted lava flow. Upon reaching the spur trail, turn right and begin the short accent to the top. There is a small bench within a hiker constructed wind screen, but on this trip I noted a large number of carpenter ants crawling all over the wood. 
View of Mount Washington from Little Belknap Crater

Belknap Crater from Little Belknap Crater along the Pacific Crest Trail
Unless you're planning on hiking all the way to the Highway 20 trailhead of the PCT (about 15 miles away), it's necessary to return the way you came. There are several lava tubes worth checking out as you return to the PCT. No matter if you're thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail or out for a day hike- Little Belknap Crater is definitely worth checking out. 

Small wind screen atop Little Belknap Crater

Lava tube along the Little Belknap Trail

Shrubs beginning to take hold in the middle of the lava flow along the Pacific Crest Trail

Directions from Sisters: Follow Highway 242 for 15.5 miles west to the crossing of the PCT. Just west of the Dee Wright Observatory

Hike Distance:  9.5 from the start of the trail miles round trip

Hike Type: Out and Back 

Elevation Gain: 1800 Feet

Trailhead Elevation: 5200 Feet

Usage: Moderate

Difficulty: 3 out of 5 because of rough terrain

Fees: None

Cell Service with Verizon: None

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