The southernmost section of the PCT, beginning at Mile 0 on the Mexico border, going to Mile 20 at Lake Morena Park.
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.
The southernmost section of the PCT, beginning at Mile 0 on the Mexico border, going to Mile 20 at Lake Morena Park.
Mile 20 to Mile 41.5 of the northbound PCT: Climbing to a highpoint near 6000 feet among cool pine forest in the Laguna Mountains.
Mile 41.5 to Mile 77 of the northbound PCT: Tracing the highland rim with a huge view over the desert, and gradually descending to the parched lower elevations.
Mile 77 to 109.5 of the northbound PCT: Continuing a long, waterless stretch through desert hills, then finding greener pastures in the broad valley to the north.
Miles 109.5-151.9 of the northbound PCT, and the start of CA Section B: Up and down through expansive desert hills, with crucial stops at friendly hiker havens.
Miles 151.9-179.4 of the northbound PCT: A long climb into the San Jacinto Mountains, reaching potentially treacherous terrain at the higher elevations.
Miles 179.4-209.5 of the northbound PCT: Traversing precipitous slopes of the San Jacintos, then descending aggressively to the desert floor.
Miles 209.5-266.1 of the northbound PCT: A long ascent from the low desert into the highlands, through a mountainous wilderness to a bustling resort town.
Miles 266.1-329 of the northbound PCT: Descending from the mountains through a gorge flowing with water, into a desert basin with a picturesque reservoir.
Miles 329-342 of the Northbound PCT: Finishing up Section C to meet the interstate at Cajon Pass.
Miles 342-369.4 of the northbound PCT: A long and waterless ascent into the San Gabriel Mountains.
Miles 342-369.4 of the northbound PCT: Tracing a line across the sky above Los Angeles.
Miles 454.5-485.7 of the northbound PCT: Beginning California Section E, with meandering miles through the desert hills.
Miles 485.7-517.6 of the northbound PCT: A highland traverse overlooking the Mojave, then a quick descent to face the desert.
Miles 517.6-566.5 of the northbound PCT: Following "The Aqueduct" and rows of windmills through the Mojave Desert.
California Section F of the PCT: A procession of parched hills leading into the Sierra Nevada.
Miles 652-702 of the northbound PCT, and the start of CA Section G: A journey of ups and downs to finally escape the desert and get into high country, reaching the gateway to the Sierra at Kennedy Meadows.
Miles 702-750.2 of the northbound PCT: From Kennedy Meadows South, along a stretch of the Sierra Crest, to a trail junction near the road that leads to Lone Pine.
Miles 750.2-767 of the northbound PCT, and the end of CA Section G: Forging higher into the Sierra and joining with the John Muir Trail near Mount Whitney.
Miles 767-788.9 of the northbound PCT: Cresting the highest elevation anywhere on the 2,650-mile trail, at the 13,200-foot Forester Pass.
Miles 788.9-831 of the northbound PCT: Crossing over three high passes and through deep gorges between, surrounded by grandiose peaks of the High Sierra.
Miles 831-857.7 of the northbound PCT: Climbing along lakes and falls to Muir Pass, rolling through sky-high meadows of Evolution Basin, then descending through yet another waterfall gorge of the central Sierra Nevada.
Miles 857.7-878.7 of the northbound PCT: Crossing over Selden Pass, between two opportunities for resupply in the remote expanse of the central Sierra.
Miles 878.7-906.7 of the northbound PCT: Over the seventh of nine major passes in the central Sierra, and reaching the outskirts of Mammoth, CA near Devils Postpile.
Miles 906.7-942.5 of the northbound PCT: From Devils Postpile National Monument to Yosemite National Park, through the photo-famous landscape of Ansel Adams Wilderness.
Miles 942.5-1016.9 of the northbound PCT: Continuing through the northern reaches of Yosemite National Park, among a labyrinth of granite far removed from the park’s crowded areas.
Miles 1016.9-1048.8 of the northbound PCT: Through the stark geology of the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, to the crossing of a remote highway on the Sierra crest.
Miles 1048.8-1092.3 of the northbound PCT: Approaching Lake Tahoe through a mosaic of volcanic peaks and granite mounds, with mountainside meadows and alpine lakes around every turn.
Miles 1092.3-1124.8 of the northbound PCT: Through the Desolation Wilderness near Lake Tahoe, packed with alpine lakes and prime camping within polished granite basins.
Miles 1124.8-1153.4 of the northbound PCT: Tracing a line across the sky above Lake Tahoe, on a bald crest of craggy peaks.
A meandering course over consecutive ridges and valleys, with no shortage of vast views or comfortable camps.
Miles 1195.4-1234.8 of the northbound PCT: A big climb from the river to the crest, then a stroll along ridges and forest mosaic to the edge of an extensive burn area.
Miles 1234.8-1267.9 of the northbound PCT: Through the burn zone of a 2020 wildfire, on a rolling ridgewalk punctuated by a sharp dip into a river gorge.
Miles 1267.9-1287 of the northbound PCT: Up and over a lofty plateau, then abruptly down into a river gorge, within the burn scar of the Dixie Fire.
Miles 1287-1331.3 of the northbound PCT: A lengthy incline through the scar of the Dixie Fire, and reaching the midpoint of the trail between Mexico and Canada.
Miles 1331.1-1350.1 of the northbound PCT: Entering Lassen Volcanic National Park for a taste of hydrothermal features that are rare outside of Yellowstone.
Miles 1350.1-1377.4 of the northbound PCT: Continuing through Lassen National Park, past backcountry lakes and views of volcanic peaks.
Miles 1377.4-1419 of the PCT: Along a panoramic rim with views to Mount Shasta, then down into a broad valley with entrenched creeks and the spectacle of Burney Falls.
Enjoy frequent views from an undulating ridge, with lush valleys below and the white cap of Mount of Shasta on the horizon.
Rolling ridges and deep forest between the McCloud and Sacramento Rivers in Shasta-Trinity National Forest.
Miles 1501.2-1560.2 of the northbound PCT: A stunning hike beneath granite spires of the Castle Crags, then along miles of panoramic ridge within view of Mount Shasta.
Miles 1560.2-1599.7 of the northbound PCT: Through the rugged expanse of two wilderness areas, each studded with granite peaks and sparkling lakes.
Miles 1599.7-1655.9 of the northbound PCT: Through the stunningly colorful landscape of the Marble Mountains Wilderness.
Miles 1655.9-1718.9 of the northbound PCT: The final big climb from a Northern California valley, then along a panoramic ridge to cross into Oregon.
Miles 1718.9-1742.7 of the northbound PCT: Beginning the ranges of Oregon with a climb and a ridgewalk, among fragrant forest and meadows plus a giant tower of basalt.
Miles 1742.7-1773.4 of the northbound PCT: Following the Cascade Crest farther into Oregon, through deep conifer forest and over beds of ancient lava.
Miles 1773.4-1820.9 of the northbound PCT: Threading between wooded lakes among volcanic hills, then crossing a long expanse of dry forest on the way into Crater Lake National Park.
A very tempting deviation from the PCT to camp beside forest lakes, for a change in scenery and reliable water in late summer.
An alternative that skips some of the “Oregon Desert” expanse of the PCT, where water is scarce for nearly 20 miles.
Miles 1820.9-1847.8 of the northbound PCT: Weaving through the volcanic landscape of Crater Lake National Park, but bypassing the namesake attraction itself.
A popular detour from the PCT in Crater Lake National Park, tracing the edge of the caldera for astounding views over the lake.
Miles 1847.8-1890.7 of the northbound PCT: Beginning OR Section D in the Mount Thielsen Wilderness, and cresting the highest point of the PCT in Oregon and Washington.
Miles 1890.7-1907.9 of the northbound PCT: Continuing Oregon Section D around the base of Diamond Peak, through a wilderness of deep woods and hidden lakes.
Miles 1907.9-1952.6 of the northbound PCT: Traveling expansive old-growth forest on a land of ancient volcanism, entering the Three Sisters Wilderness.
Miles 1952.6-1983.8 of the northbound PCT: Out of the woods and into a mosaic of black and green, crossing volcanic plateaus and lava flows at the feet of the Three Sisters.
Miles 1983.8-2000.9 of the northbound PCT: Crossing plains of hardened lava plus a patchwork of forest near the base of Mount Washington, and surpassing Mile 2000 of the walk from Mexico to Canada.
Miles 2000.9-2045.6 of the northbound PCT: Traversing the rugged slopes of Mount Jefferson and other volcanoes, through a wilderness shaped by ancient glaciers and recent wildfires.
Miles 2045.6-2091.7 of the northbound PCT: Moving along the Cascade Crest from the shadow of Mount Jefferson to the foot of Mount Hood, the highest of Oregon’s volcanoes.
Miles 2091.7-2114.2 of the northbound PCT: Climbing on the flanks of Mount Hood, to sweeping views over Oregon and up to the mountain’s icy crown.
Miles 2114.2-2146.9 of the northbound PCT: Finishing the state of Oregon with a winding ridge walk, then a grueling descent to the Columbia River at the Washington border, and the lowest elevation on the PCT.
A popular trail beside jaw-dropping waterfalls, recently reopened following a fire.
Miles 2146.9-2228.9 of the northbound PCT: Starting the trek into Washington with a prolonged climb from the Columbia River, then a rolling meander through forested hills to the foot of Mount Adams.
Miles 2228.9-2251 of the northbound PCT: Wandering at the foot of Mount Adams, through a patchwork of forest and meadows crossed by glacier-fed streams.
Miles 2251-2294.9 of the northbound PCT: Through the jaw-dropping landscape of the Goat Rocks, where the trail traces a skyline ridge with views of Mount Rainier.
Miles 2294.9-2323.5 of the northbound PCT: Approaching Mount Rainier among montane forest and volcanic ridges dotted with lakes.
Leaving Mount Rainier on a lofty mountain crest, then traveling miles of forest mosaic on a long series of hills to reach Snoqualmie Pass.
Miles 2393.2-2464.1 of the northbound PCT: Stunning views along a series of big ups and downs, between high mountain lakes and lush valley forest in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
Miles 2464.1-2571.9 of the northbound PCT: A long expanse through the Glacier Peak Wilderness, centered on Washington's most isolated stratovolcano.
Miles 2571.9-2591.1 of the northbound PCT: Through a lush river valley in North Cascades National Park.
Miles 2591.1-2622 of the northbound PCT: The last of the big elevation swings in the North Cascades, featuring high ridges with larch trees and a sheltered valley with abundant creeks.
Miles 2622-2652.6 of the northbound PCT: The homestretch to Canada, along the Cascade Crest among golden larches and victorious views.
Miles 2652.6-2661.4 of the northbound PCT: The final leg of the journey for those crossing into Canada.