The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)

Thru-hiking the Pacific Crest TrailCamping in the Sierras on the Pacific Crest trailBackpacking on the Pacific Crest Trail in the Sierras

Some hikers claim the Pacific Crest Trail ( to be the most scenic long-distance hiking trail in the world.

“Zigzagging its way from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington, the PCT boasts the greatest elevation changes of any of America’s National Scenic Trails, allowing it to pass through six out of seven of North America’s ecozones including high and low desert, old-growth forest and arctic-alpine country. Indeed, the PCT is a trail of diversity and extremes. From scorching desert valleys in Southern California to rain forests in the Pacific Northwest, the PCT offers hikers and equestrians a unique, varied experience.”

That description, from the PCT website above, is true; it’s a grand and beautiful hike. But it will take planning and a bit of luck to thru-hike it successfully. For planning and actually doing the hike, I recommend five paperback books. The first book, Pacific Crest Trail Data Bookby Wilderness Press, is indispensable. It lists landmarks, mileage, elevations, facilities from south to north for the entire 2,663 miles. The second is Yogi’s PCT Handbook, by Jackie McDonnell ( It provides detailed information from an experienced thru-hiker, and it will help you prepare your thru-hike—required permits, resupply points, packing, gear, weather, etc.

Three other books, all from Wilderness Press, are: PCT–Mexican Border to Tuolumne Meadows, PCT–Tuolumne Meadows to the Oregon Border, PCT–California Border to the Canadian Border. To reduce pack weight, I removed only the pages I needed to reach the next supply point. This may seem like a lot of books, but you can browse these books as you plan your hike and then focus on important sections later. Familiarize yourself with the PCT website, keep checking snow conditions, and you’ll do fine.

2 thoughts on “The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)

  1. Looks like mountain lion country. Do you carry anything with you–mace, pepper spray? Also looks like a long way to the next 7/11. Are there restocking places along the way?


    • Last year, for the first time, I carried bear spray (can’t think of the name). Yes, the PCT data book lists accessible towns for resupply, laundry, etc. You have to walk out to a servicable road and hitch, but the natives living near trails are used to hikers and rides to towns aren’t that difficult.


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