Adding some Pacific Crest Trail to the Hot Sisters bikepacking route

Eszter and I spent a few days scouting an alternate route for an exciting new bikepacking route that just came to life this month. It’s a five or six hundred mile backcountry loop highlighting singletrack, hot springs and mountain climbs (on foot) all through the central Cascades in Oregon.

Despite the fact that bikepacking and backpacking have nearly the same goals and impact, we had to avoid one well known trail that traverses the area: the Pacific Crest Trail. We also had to avoid Wilderness areas, but even when the PCT is outside Wilderness it is summarily closed to bikes, and I really don’t know why.

As we scouted our alternate for the Hot Sisters route, trying to piece together backcountry trails with as remote and primitive an experience as we could, we found ourselves including 13 or 14 miles of Pacific Crest Trail, unknowingly.


Come again? Ok, it wasn’t PCT proper — every bikepack we put together goes to painstaking lengths to be 100% legal. It was on ‘de facto’ PCT, in that 99% of thru-hikers are going this way.

It struck us as interesting that all of the hikers would willingly abandon the PCT, where they can be assured they will not run into anyone on a bicycle, to take an alternate route where they can, and did run into mountain bikers.

Of course, it was no surprise to us that all of our interactions with the thru-hikers were overwhelming positive. We spent four months journeying alongside thru-hikers on the CDT last summer. We were instantly welcomed into the trail’s community and made many good friends. Not a single negative reaction from any trail user.

For the days we spent scouting and camping along the “PCT”, we met three or four dozen hikers (the trail is crowded this year, and we are right in the middle of the main pack). Without even trying, we found ourselves in the middle of the trail community. We met one guy sitting on the deck of a lodge, smiling in the sun. Later we welcomed his good friend and hiking partner into our camp and gave him soda and brownies. The next day we met a trail angel at Windigo Pass who was good friends with both of them. We shared stories of the trail, who we had met and adventures past. It made me miss the CDT thru-hiker community, for sure.

We got some funny comments from hikers that we only talked briefly to, like “Oh, bikes! How exotic!” and “Oh, right I’m not on the PCT now so there can be bikes. Cool!” Or, “I wish I had a bike right now!”

Others were curious about bikepacking and how we had managed to traverse the CDT with them last summer.

All of this just makes me continue to scratch my head about the bike ban. The people actually using long distance trails don’t mind mountain bikers, so who is it exactly that is so against them? Is it the bureaucrats sitting in offices, disconnected from the reality on the trail? Perhaps so.

I think it’s well past time, as bikepacking gains in popularity and acceptance, for the bike ban on the PCT to be re-evaluated.

Do I think the whole PCT should be open to bikes? No. There are places they don’t make sense — like Wilderness areas and (maybe) super high use areas. But it seems that many, many sections could, and should be opened.


Besides the fun of meeting hikers and giving them directions for the water, trail and the free campground they were all looking for (that doesn’t exist), our scouting was highly successful for the route. Going by Odell and Crescent Lake adds a bunch of good trail and a much more direct line than the Fuji/Bunchgrass/McCredie/Moon Point route we rode. The upside is that it saves many thousand feet of climbing while opening up the loop some, and only missing one hot spring. It also adds 3 or 4 options to resupply and get burgers, to what was otherwise a very long stretch with no resupply. I think it’ll be the main recommended loop, while the Bunchgrass/McCredie is an alternate for the more adventurous.

Up next we’re going to ride some version of the route that inspired this route — the Idaho Hot Springs Route by mastermind Casey Greene. We owe a great debt of gratitude to him for creating that loop and planting the idea of such a thing in our heads. He also inspired the many hikes to forest lookouts that we incorporated into the route.

24 comments to Adding some Pacific Crest Trail to the Hot Sisters bikepacking route

  • I recently wrote a blog about the challenges of adding Mountain Bikes to the PCT. It is located here: The blog also compares the differences of the PCT and the CDT.

    Also, I have a website with many documents relating to the bikes on the PCT issue. That website is located here:

    Perhaps you should have read those pieces before writing your article.

    It’s nice that there are Mountain Bikers known as bikepackers that have the same goal as backpackers. But when you add Mountain Bikers to the PCT, you’re adding more than just the Cool Bikepackers. You’re also adding the gonzo mountain bikers that want to be king of the hill.

    It’s great that you are creating a great bikepacking route. I think the Hot Sisters Route will be very popular. It would probably be even more popular if you can ban hikers from it. I think different trails for different uses is a perfectly good system.

    • Scott

      Hi Todd,

      Thanks for the comment, I do appreciate your perspective.

      I know quite a bit about the history of national scenic trails, and the fact that bikes are not built into the older ones simply because backcountry mountain biking (and especially) bikepacking did not exist back then. Isn’t it interesting that all the newer, more modern, national scenic trails (e.g. Arizona Trail, Pacific Northwest Trail, Florida Trail) not only allow bicycles but mountain bikers are major contributors to maintenance and to the life of the trail?

      The reason bikes are banned on the older ones is, simply, tradition. And that tradition needs to change. And it will change.

      But the point of this post is not to debate the history, intention or politics of the issue. It is simply to state that we found exactly what we found on the CDT last summer: Thru-riders and thru-hikers can, and do, get along. They can happily share the trail. This is honest and current, on the ground reporting. Nothing more, nothing less.

      Thanks for your opinion on banning hikers from the Hot Sisters route, but I think it shows how out of touch with actual backcountry travel you are. Perhaps you should try to understand what bikepacking is, and what a route like this is. The last thing I would do is advocate for banning hikers from it. That would serve no purpose and do nothing to increase the loop’s popularity. The fact is that trail crowding and user conflicts are just not problems in the majority of the backcountry. We really can all share the same trails and not only get along, but enrich each other’s experiences.

    • APRandom

      “But when you add Mountain Bikers to the PCT, you’re adding more than just the Cool Bikepackers. You’re also adding the gonzo mountain bikers that want to be king of the hill.”

      This was exactly my experience with equestrian “racers” in Thousand Lakes Wilderness in California. On the last backpacking trip I did with my father, two women on horseback rode at a fast pace up behind him. I was slightly ahead. He was hard of hearing, and when he noticed them rapidly overtaking him at high speed, he rushed to get out of the way, accidentally falling over with a full pack, off the side of the trail. He was 72, and had an “old-school” heavy backpack load, no ultralight stuff. These women were in some sort of athletic gear, and they were racing up and down the trail for the rest of the day, making noise and raising dust across the lake from our campsite, which was dusty and had horse manure covered areas around it, where previous equestrians had tied their horses (so typical). Ah, Wilderness. What a way to remember that last trip. He died about four years later.

      Many years ago a friend was trying to walk her dog on one of the few dog-legal trails in Marin County, California. Coming down the trail was a runner, who yelled at them to get out of the way, and nearly knocked them off the trail while passing.

      Banning certain types of transportation does not eliminate the bad behavior of some human beings. To characterize one “group” by the behavior of a few is generally not acceptable in human society. Reducing these bad behaviors starts at an early age, when we ought to be taught proper respect for other humans who might be sharing the same place as ourselves. We shouldn’t need rules and regulations to tell us that bikepacking is the appropriate mode for long-distance trails, while “thrill seeking” ought to be limited to areas designed for that activity. One is entirely different from the other, and access decision-making processes ought to recognize this.

  • My point is that it’s perfectly alright to have some trails
    where mountain bikers don’t have to slow down for a hiker.
    According to the rules of the trail, mountain bikers must
    stop and let hikers pass. If there are 10 hikers on a mile of
    trail, that means mountain bikers have to stop 10 times. That
    doesn’t sound like that great of mountain biking experience to me.
    I think Shared trails are alright, but not every trail needs to
    be a shared trail.

    Again, the CDT is not the same situation as the PCT as I have
    stated in my blog post. Plus, you are incorrect to say that the
    Florida Trail allows mountain biking. It is a hiking trail. But that
    being said, every trail has some segments that may have bikes.
    For instance, in some spots the trail may share a rail trail with bicycles.
    This happens because the trail isn’t completely built yet, and they
    are sharing routes to simply get the trail through for the time being.
    To me a rail trail is completely different than a regular trail through the woods.
    Even the PCT does have some segments that are shared by bicycles.
    The PCT uses the Bridge of the Gods which is a road for cars and bicycles alike.

    The Kettle Moraine State Forest in Wisconsin decided to make different trails
    for different uses back in the 1990s. They created different trail systems for
    Hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. These trails have been extremely
    popular. So, if you want to increase your loop’s popularity, that would be
    the way to go

    And is quickly getting out of the way of a speeding mountain biker really enriching
    a hiker’s experience?

    • Scott

      Hi Todd,

      Has it ever occurred to you that you can stop and talk to other trail users? That we can share these beautiful places we love to visit and cherish? That we can share that experience, regardless of what type of transport we are choosing?

      That is exactly the point of my post. And the people who are actually out using long distance trails (i.e. thru-hikers) agree with me. They have no issue with trails being open to bikes, just like mountain bikers have no issue with trails being open to hikers.

      Sure, in limited places, like near high density population centers, separate trails *sometimes* make sense. But that’s the exception, not the rule. Applying that situation to a long distance trail, where crowding and conflict are emphatically not an issue, is just absurd. We pedaled some 700 miles and only had handfuls of encounters with other users, almost all of which were positive and not a burden at all.

  • Todd McMahon

    I talk to trail users all the time. But having a speeding mountain biker barrel down the trail at you is not conducive to starting a friendly conversation. You say having separate trails for separate uses “sometimes makes sense.” Well, all that I’m saying is that the PCT IS THAT SOMETIMES. You say crowding and conflict is not an issue. What I’m doing is preserving the PCT for the future when it will be more of an issue. Right now there are 7 billion people on this earth. It’s expected to rise over 10 billion people by 2050. Right now the CDT States have only 8 million people, but the PCT States have over 48 million people. By 2050, the PCT States could have over 60 million people in them. I say we preserve the PCT as it is so generations to come can enjoy it the way it was meant to be enjoyed. Plus you are totally wrong on saying that most hikers want mountain bikers to share the PCT. I have found it to be the other way around. Most Mountain Bikers are perfectly okay with letting hikers enjoy a trail in peace. In fact, even IMBA says that they’ve received a substantial response from their members against having mountain bikes in Designated Wilderness Areas. I think the feeling is the same regarding bikes on the PCT

  • Scott

    Fair enough, Todd. We disagree. There’s not much point in continuing the debate further since we each have our opinions, though I do appreciate that you have kept it civil, which doesn’t always happen on the internet.

    The population argument is irrelevant. You’re treating a long distance trail like a popular state park near a major metropolitan area, which does not make sense. Crowding and conflict on true backcountry trails will never be a problem — if it’s even possible to get there, we’ll have much bigger issues to worry about.

    Thanks for the comments, and again, for keeping it civil.

  • Max

    You crack me up Todd!! You’ve repeated the same phony baloney so many times, you think it is the truth! Thank God you and Richard Welch are the self appointed voices for saving the PCT from more camaraderie, more trailwork, and more money! At least Richard has spent time on the PCT!!!

  • Todd McMahon

    Max, it is the truth.
    The PCTA is not in favor of allowing bikes on the PCT, and they are the ones sponsoring over 50 trail crews a summer to work on the PCT, plus they have local chapters that help maintain the trail. Plus, I have hiked over 1800 miles on National Scenic Trails, of which, I did the Kekekabic Trail. Remember the Kekekabic Trail, that’s the trail Ted Stroll is basing part of his argument on, but yet I have never heard that he has ever been near the Kekekabic Trail.

    And Scott, I always keep it civil. Unfortunately, mountain bikers don’t have a good response for me, so they ban me from their pages even though I am completely civil. I think the worse argument in terms of not being civil was when I said on the Sharing the PCT facebook page “It’s pretty pathetic that you guys can’t let hikers and horseback riders enjoy a trail in peace.” That hardly sounds like something that would be harsh enough to get me banned.

    • Scott

      Todd, your responses may be civil, but they surely show you are out of touch and suggesting absurd things (e.g. closing the Hot Sisters bikepacking route to hikers). I can see this type of suggestion growing tiresome after a while.

  • Man, you guys have had an epic trip… and now the IHS route!! Jeez.

  • Todd McMahon

    Good luck with your Hot Sister’s Loop. Hopefully you are now scouting routes that don’t include the PCT.

    • Scott

      You completely missed the point of the post. We never intended to include the PCT, but we found that all of the hikers were leaving the PCT to instead hike trails open to bikes. Interesting! Those trails, the de facto PCT, are being included in the Hot Sisters route as they are 100% open to hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians. All with no conflict or issue whatsoever!

  • Todd McMahon

    Scott, my suggestion to exclude hikers on a mountain biking trail is not an absurd suggestion, but in fact it may be the latest trend. Right now the Exchequer Mountain biking club is building a Mountain Biking only trail system down near Yosemite. Check out there facebook page and read this in their about section “700 Acres of Bike Only Park that will house 40 plus miles of trail for all riders of all skill level supported by the Exchequer Riders Club.”

    • Scott

      It’s absurd because it’s a bikepacking route that is 500+ miles long, and includes all of the following: multi-use singletrack, double-track, gravel forest roads, paved roads, major paved highways, and city streets. See my comments above about you not taking the time to even understand what is going on here. The last thing any bikepacker would want is to see it closed to hikers. We need more people using these trails, loving them, and caring for them. Not less. There is a huge difference between a state park near a metro area, and a backcountry trail.

      Bikepackers are not looking for a speed thrill fun park. They are backcountry travelers, moving slowly and enjoying everything the wilderness has to offer.

  • Todd McMahon

    Scott, I wouldn’t include the PCT as a de facto route for mountain biking. That is the totally wrong thing to do. You already know the PCT is a hiking and horseback riding trail, and mountain biking is not allowed. Encouraging people to ride on the PCT is by having it be your de facto route, is sending the wrong message to everyone. Again, you say bikepackers are not looking for a “speed thrill fun park.” But as I have said before in this thread, if you open up the PCT to Mountain Biking, more than just the cool bikepacker types will be riding on it. The mountain bikers that are looking for a “speed thrill fun park” will also be riding on it. It’s obvious by your statements that you are the one that doesn’t understand what’s going on. It’s also obvious that if you are making a Bikepacking Route that’s 500 miles long, you should be able to avoid places like the PCT that doesn’t allow mountain biking.

    • Scott

      * We are not including any PCT on our route
      * PCT thru-hikers are choosing to leave the PCT
      * PCT thru-hikers are taking trails open to mountain bikes, instead of the PCT, making that route ‘de facto’ PCT
      * We are including those trails in a bikepacking route
      * This whole situation makes me question the validity and reasoning behind the bike ban on the PCT

      I don’t know how else to explain it. But if you cannot grasp what is going on here, I would appreciate it if you refrain from posting further. Thank-you.

  • Todd McMahon

    *Okay, this is a trail I can support.

    *You are not including the PCT in your route, that’s great!!!
    *If PCT hikers are choosing to leave the PCT, that’s their business.
    *If PCT hikers are taking routes other than the PCT, then they should
    not get credit for hiking the PCT.
    *If you are using some other trail instead of the PCT, that’s fine,
    perhaps you should stop calling it the de facto PCT because that’s confusing.
    * This whole situation makes me wonder why you even wrote this blog.

    Perhaps you should not bring up the bikes on the PCT when referring to Hot Sisters
    because they are two totally different things.

  • Max

    So re-Todd-ed. Sofa king re-Todd-ed. It’s like talking to a monkey, isn’t it? (Except the monkey might be significantly brighter!)

  • Todd McMahon

    Our typical Max, never has anything of substance to say

    My main point here is that if Scott Morris wants to get
    his Hot Sisters Loop completed, why isn’t he promoting his Hot Sisters Loop
    instead of doing a rant about the PCT? It totally makes no sense at all
    and could hurt his chances of completing his Hot Sisters Loop.

    Again, the PCT was created as a hiking and horseback riding trail long
    before Mountain Biking even existed. The PCT Advisory Council did their
    job and disbanded because they were set up by Congress as a temporary committee to
    figure out the details of the trail. There is no mechanism in place to
    go back and change work of a National Scenic Trail Advisory Council, so Congress would have
    to act to change it.

    Ted Stroll has finally figured that out and is raising money through something
    called the “Sustainable Trails Coalition” to lobby Congress. He wants to raise
    $120,000 to $180,000 so that he can hire a lobbying firm to lobby for bikes
    in Designated Wilderness Areas and on all National Scenic Trails including the
    PCT. If he raises the money, it will basically be a waste of money because
    the Sierra Club is going to defend Wilderness Areas.

    I’d much rather have the money go to the Hot Sisters Loop

  • Max

    “rant about the PCT”??? Can you read Todd?

    Your main point here and every other place you have posted on the internet — and there are A LOT of places you have posted — is you are an attention loving troll who is obsessed about this subject and you don’t want to share trails with bicycles. All you ever needed to ever say was “No bikes on the PCT!” and your “main point” would be stated succinctly. But instead you endlessly troll every discussion about the topic and have even created a website dedicated to your trolling. You are the 2nd coming of Vande-you-know-who.

    Now I’ve become your personal troll here and elsewhere, to make sure others know what kind of kook you are.

  • Todd McMahon

    Max, do you have anything to say about the topic at hand, or are you just obsessed with me?

  • Max

    Everything I’ve ever posted about successfully sharing trails and the greater good that comes from it is ignored and dismissed by you and other Hateful Old Hikers. But I figured out long ago you are a troll (one of your coworkers sent me a private message explaining…. uhhh… “you”). So yeah, now I mostly troll you and Richard. There’s nothing left to say in support of re-opening the PCT to bicycling. It is a no brainer and it will happen in the next decade. You better buy that plane ticket soon!

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