Etna Summit: PCT Access and Gateway to the Russian Wilderness

Etna Summit sits astride the Pacific Crest Trail. It has stunning views of the Russian Wilderness and the Klamath Mountains surrounding the North Fork Salmon River, all part of Klamath National Forest. Easily reached by paved Sawyers Bar Road from the town of Etna in the Scott Valley below, it offers the perfect place to park the car and take in the vista, or to start a hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, or both.

Russian Wilderness from Etna Summit. Etna Summit is a popular trailhead for Pacific Crest Trail through-hikers and section hikers, plus day hikers.
Russian Wilderness from Etna Summit, a popular trailhead for day hikers and an on/off point for Pacific Crest Trail through-hikers and section hikers.

Reach Etna Summit Via Sawyers Bar Road

Drive CA Highway 3 through the Scott Valley to the Etna turnoff, which is 26.5 miles from the junction of CA Highway 3 and I-5 in Yreka and 12.7 miles from Callahan. Drive a half mile down Collier Way to downtown Etna, turn right on Main Street, and then drive 10.5 curvy and paved miles on Sawyer’s Bar Road to Etna Summit, initially past houses in the valley, and then up through beautiful forest.

For the best views, park on the right side of Sawyers Bar Road, facing west. If you’ll be hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail, park in the large lot on the left.

Etna Summit: Pacific Crest Trail Hikers Key Access Point

Pacific Crest Trail through-hikers and section hikers often get off the PCT at Etna Summit and hitchhike down to the town of Etna, where they find a warm welcome that includes stores, restaurants, brew pubs, and a city park that allows camping. Pacific Crest Trail section hikers can start or end their treks at Etna Summit.

Day Hiking Mount Shasta, Lassen & Trinity Alps Regions. Includes trails in other regions of Northern California: Castle Crags, Russian Wilderness, Marble Mountain Wilderness, Lava Beds National Monument, Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, Lassen National Forest, and the Redding area.Etna Summit: Hiking Opportunities in Russian Wilderness and Nearby

Etna Summit is the gateway to many hiking opportunities, many covered in my book Day Hiking: Mount Shasta, Lassen & Trinity Alps Regions:

Taylor Lake to Hogan Lake and Big Blue Lake (Hike 81)
Paynes Lake via the PCT and Smith Lake (Hike 82)
Ruffey Lake and Meeks Meadow Lake

Etna Summit Video

Check out this video I shot. It’s part of my Northern California Hiking Trails Youtube channel. Please like the video and also subscribe and click notifications so you’ll find out about all my future videos. Also see all my other videos from my Russian Wilderness hikes.

Sawyers Bar Road: From Etna Summit to Forks of Salmon

I’ve driven the full length of Sawyers Bar Road, but it was a long time ago. From Etna Summit, Sawyers Bar Road continues west, following the course of the North Fork Salmon River. It travels 29 miles to the tiny town of Forks of Salmon, where it meets Salmon River Road, which then continues another 17 miles to Somes Bar at Highway 96. Beyond Etna Summit, Sawyers Bar Road turns to one lane (still paved) and becomes very curvy as it winds along high slopes with sheer drops that are disconcerting to many.

Only drive Sawyers Bar Road if you have experience driving one-lane roads in the mountains. Definitely don’t do it in an RV or pulling a trailer, and be aware that there are no services.

Map of Etna Summit, Sawyers Bar Road, the Pacific Crest Trail, and Nearby Trails

This map shows Etna Summit, Sawyers Bar Road, the Pacific Crest Trail, plus trails and lakes in the nearby Russian Wilderness and Klamath National Forest.
This map shows Etna Summit, Sawyers Bar Road, the Pacific Crest Trail, plus trails and lakes in the nearby Russian Wilderness and Klamath National Forest.

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