Hiking the PCT Campo to Lake Morena is a challenging introduction to the trail. If this is your first time to take a thruhike, this is quite a sobering way to begin the trek. In other words, many hikers realize at this early stage that hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is a lot different to their initial expectations.
That being said, with the right attitude, this is a fantastic stretch. I really enjoyed this trek from Campo to Lake Morena on the PCT and look back on this day as one of my absolute favourites.
But what does this mean to you?
Well, it means that if you arrive to hike PCT Campo to Lake Morena with the right gear and attitude, you will do just fine.
In this post, I will relay some of my own experience as well as everything you need to know about hiking the PCT Campo to Lake Morena section:
Hiking the PCT Campo to Lake Morena
Campo to Lake Morena is precisely 18.6 miles. The Campo PCT trailhead is just one mile south of the town and the section ends at the Lake Morena Campground. Overall, the trail is considered moderately difficult but first timers, this can require a real effort to complete. Check out the post linked above for more information on Campo and the trailhead itself.
How Long Does it Take to Hike from Campo to Lake Morena?
Most hikers take one day to hike from Campo to Lake Morena. However, some hikers decide to split this day into two.
Where Can You Find Water Between Campo and Lake Morena?
Nowhere. In fact, too many hikers underestimate how much they will need and end up running out. Take everything you will need with you to the trailhead and carry as much as possible.
About Lake Morena Campground
Lake Morena Campground is well used to hikers and has enough space to cater for a very large crowd. Many hikers decide to skip over this campsite and continue further toward Mt Laguna but honestly, I recommend that you stay here overnight.
After all, just up the road you will find an excellent little cafe that serves really good fast food. There is also a small general store and the locals are super friendly around here.
As for the campsite itself, the showers and toilets are excellent while the grass is near perfect throughout.
Note: Lake Morena campground costs $5 per person.
Tip: Have some 25c coins for the shower and there is a small charging outlet on the hexagonal building next to the shower block.
My Own Experience Hiking the PCT Campo to Lake Morena
Although I had planned on hiking the Pacific Crest Trail for almost two years, I had researched precisely zero in terms of logistics. That is to say, even when I set foot on the border of Mexico in California, I still had no idea where I would be sleeping that night. Why? I did not feel it necessary as long as I knew there was enough water in my backpack.
But I did not hike the PCT Campo to Lake Morena in just one day. Instead, I hiked just four miles on my first day and camped next to what looked like an abandoned railway. There was also a *shallow creek here so I refilled my seven litres of water and settled in for a quiet night. It was late in the afternoon so only one of two hikers passed at this time and none of them seemed interested in camping after just four miles!
Needless to say, that first day was extremely leisurely. However, there was a rather lengthy climb the next morning or at least that’s how it felt at the time.
*Do not rely on this creek.
Meeting Fellow Hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail
My first encounter was with an elderly lady named Linda. She was travelling extremely slow and had little to say in our first meeting so I continued onward. I soon caught up with a Canadian, Lyle, who was sitting in the shade and when I stopped to enjoy a snack with him, Linda joined us for a chat. It was nice to meet fellow hikers on the PCT – I had concerns about there being too many people on the trail but ended up finding this a comfort rather than a hinderance of any kind.
Rattlesnakes on the PCT
I had also wondered if I would see any rattlesnakes on the PCT and in hindsight, this was quite a stupid question. After all, I saw four on only my second morning. Ironically, the first of these was immense and looked like an actual dinosaur as I approached. It was crossing the trail and as I moved closer to take a picture, the rattle sounded which was more than enough reason to stay back. Shortly after, I needed to jump over a rock next to a cliff side to avoid walking past quite an angry and smaller version but this was more than enough experience to know there are many rattlesnakes in the Mohave.
Water Between Campo and Lake Morena
Once again, I cannot highlight the importance of your water carry. I gave Lyle a little bit of my water on this day but overall, I was very shocked to find that so many hikers brought so little water. As a rule, I think hikers should carry at least 7 litres and drink as much as possible along the way. Further, you should expect a steep descent into Hauser Creek and a very long ascent back up the other side.
What would I advise? Don’t feel like you need to hike this in just one day. Many people laughed that I took two days to hike the PCT Campo to Lake Morena section. And most of these people ended up quitting their own hike for one reason or another.
You Can Watch a Video of my First Day Below: