Many thru-hikers share the same dream of hiking one of the most popular trail systems in the US:  the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  This 2,659 mile trail runs from southern California into Canada through the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

The Pacific Crest Trail

Conceived by Clinton Churchill Clarke in 1932, the Pacific Crest Trail was designated a National Scenic Trail in 1968.  This was a massive project of connect existing trail and creating new trail, the PCT was not officially completed until 1993.

The Pacific Crest Trail is a mountainous trail that follows the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges.  The PCT ranges in elevation from just above sea level at the Oregon–Washington border to 13,153 ft at Forester Pass in the Sierra Nevada. This classic route passes through 25 national forests and seven national parks.

 

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The Hike

The best time to start the Pacific Crest Trail depends on the direction of the hike. Northbound thru-hikers start the PCT in mid-April through early May. Whereas, Southbound hikers start in late June through early July.

Thru-hiking is the holy grail of the PCT, however since the PCT is divided up into 29 sections of manageable lengths, there are great options for the day hikers

Hiking on the PCT should not be underestimated, the trail is rugged, and wild swings in weather is the norm.  Injuries are common.  For the thru-hikers, the failure rate is high.

If you head into the Sierra Mountains too early, significant snow and swollen stream crossings will present potentially deadly challenges.

As a thru-hike, the PCT will take the average hikers about 5 months. Elite athlete have finished the trail in as little as two months (FKT 52 days).  Traveling the entire trail in one season  is a remarkable physical achievement and should not underestimated in effort required to succeed.

Go Further

Like other big missions,  success or failure can come down to how well you planned and how well you know the trail.   Logistics are a huge part of this hike, there are many resources and trip reports about the PCT, here are a few: