The legendary thru-hike of America’s West Coast states.
Stretching from dusty desert on the Mexican border, across snowy mountains in California, to rainy forest at the Canadian border, the Pacific Crest Trail travels through an overwhelming array of environments and covers a daunting distance of 2,650+ miles. It tours some of the American West’s most iconic and wild scenery: sky islands of Southern California, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, Yosemite and other national parks of the Sierra Nevada, giant volcanoes of the Cascade Range, and the Columbia River Gorge. A thru-hike earns all this scenery plus the prestige of traveling on foot from one international border to another, across the entire north-south span of the western United States.
Hiking the continuous footpath from Mexico to Canada is, of course, the legendary achievement on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), but there’s no requirement to complete all of it. Most PCT hikers simply do sections at a time, coinciding with ideal seasons by region. Those who attempt the full length typically begin from the south in mid-April or May and finish in August or September. Some hike north to south instead, starting in late June or early July and finishing in October or November.
In many ways, the PCT is an ideal long-distance trail for determined thru-hikers, with a balanced mix of conveniences and challenges. It is well-marked, well-maintained, and gently graded for its full length (occasional washouts and seasonal snowfields notwithstanding). Resupply points and water sources are frequent enough, but just barely so in certain sections. However, the windows can be short for ice-free trails in the mountains and for water sources in the deserts. The seasonal combinations of variables––high and low, hot and cold, wet and dry––necessitate careful planning and preparation for all manner of conditions.
This guidebook contains every mile of the Pacific Crest Trail from a northbound perspective, divided into digestible segments between reasonable access points. This makes the information useful for section hikers making loops or shuttling, and also for distance hikers planning for resupply. Key information like water sources, possible camps, and notable scenery are included, as well as requirements for permits and other tips for logistics. This is by no means an exhaustive resource, but it should serve as a guideline for planning and navigation. Whether or not your goal is to piece together every step of the PCT, this guidebook can be a starting point to get you on the trail.