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Pacific Crest Trail, Section C – Whitewater, California

Cows and windmills above the Pacific Crest Trail at the beginning of section C near Whitewater, California

Cows and windmills above the Pacific Crest Trail at the beginning of section C near Whitewater, California

The storied Pacific Crest Trail runs west of Palm Springs and cuts through the San Gorgonio Pass near the small town of Whitewater. Section C begins just northeast of town, and a small parking lot down a dirt road offers easy access to this point.

This part of the PCT dives into a canyon with a number of the area’s signature windmills sitting atop a ridge to the south. If they’re spinning, you can hear the eerie sound of the blades whistling through the air.

The trail itself very slowly climbs in elevation but is fairly easy even for inexperienced hikers. You’ll see a lot of brittlebush and creosote lining the trail. If it’s warm and sunny, lizards will dart across the path. This part of the PCT is popular for horseback riding as well so keep an eye out for fresh piles on the trail. And while I didn’t see any horses, I did round a bend to see four cows staring at me.

You can hike north as far as you’d like before turning around. Or you can leave a car or arrange for a ride in the Whitewater or Mission Creek preserves for a longer thru-hike.

  • Pacific Crest Trail at the beginning of section C near Whitewater, California
  • Pacific Crest Trail at the beginning of section C near Whitewater, California
  • Pacific Crest Trail at the beginning of section C near Whitewater, California
  • Cows and windmills above the Pacific Crest Trail at the beginning of section C near Whitewater, California
  • Windmills above the Pacific Crest Trail at the beginning of section C near Whitewater, California

Directions: From Interstate 10 near Palm Springs, take the Haugen-Lehmann exit and take H-L Way north until it curves to the west and intersects with Cottonwood Drive. Turn right and take Cottonwood north until it turns to dirt. Keep going about a mile until you see a small parking lot for this stretch of the trail. Nearby geocaches

Elevation profile:

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