The town was named by two of its founders, one from Chester, Vermont and another from Chester, Missouri.

Like Quincy, Chester was left out of the PCT town guide, and that was a mistake. This major tourist hub on the north shore of gigantic Lake Almanor is an easy 10-minute hitch east from the busy trail crossing on Highway 36. This is a walkable town with plenty of everything: a large grocery store you could resupply out of, plenty of inexpensive restaurants and motels, a laundromat and no less than three hardware stores. Essentially everything you care about is along five blocks of Main Street south of the river.

Although trail people have been laying over here for decades, PCT traffic is not a conspicuous presence in town. The bulk of the tourist traffic is RV people and boaters on Lake Almanor. This is another logging town trying to redefine itself. Unlike Quincy 30 miles to the south, Chester already had a pretty strong tourist base to build on.

I have no favored restaurants in Chester -- and I don't think that's the town's fault. Let's just say I have a history of making poor choices here. Hiker journals mention the Kopper Kettle Cafe (243 Main St., 530 258-2698) as a standard diner, heavy on the breakfast side. Two other Chester old-school standards -- the Timber House and the Ranch House -- were out of business as of the end of 2017.

The Antlers Motel (268 Main St., 530 258-2722) and the Cedar Lodge (1487 County Rd. 324, 530 258-2904) seem to be the dominant lodging operators. Be aware that the Cedar Lodge is at the junction of highways 89 and 36, a significant walk west of the town core. The Best Western Rose Quartz Inn (306 Main St., 530 258-2002) on the site of the old Chester Manor Motel is probably Chester's nicest hotel. The folks who run the Antlers would probably disagree with that assertion. Both are relatively new facilities. Both are in the location you want.

The post office is at 218 Laurel Lane (530) 258-4184. The Holiday Market (271 Main St., 530 258-2122) is almost as good as a small suburban supermarket. The Seneca Healthcare District Hospital is at 130 Brentwood Dr., (530) 258-2151.

At the end of Warner Valley Road, about 150 yards off the PCT, is Drakesbad , a historic lodge complex that lives up to its iconic reputation. (866) 999-0914. The lodge, just inside Lassen National Park, is a very special place, for reasons that are too much to explain here. You'll understand within five minutes of walking up. If you had a wedding anniversary, a marriage proposal or something on that scale that happens to coincide with your passage here, consider yourself very fortunate.

Drakesbad has a very long track-record of being completely PCT-aware and hiker friendly. However do not expect to just roll in here and get lucky. They routinely sell out many months in advance. Even if you are not planning on staying overnight it's essential to contact them ahead of time to inquire about meal timing, showers, laundry, access to the hot springs pool and resupply box instructions.

The few people I know who have been lucky enough to stay at Drakesbad said it was one of the high points of the journey. Even if you can't score a bed, a meal here will probably be remembered for a long time. Reservations for meals are mandatory. Call (530) 524-2841. Do this well before the day you plan to roll in.

Chester map

2000-2018. David Plotnikoff. All rights reserved.