The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is 2,663 miles long. Yes. It's long. it's also one of the best "thru-hike" trail that takes you through some of the most spectacular sceneries.
First nominated as a National Scenic Trail in 1968 (but was officially finished in 1993), PCT stretches through SEVEN different National Parks and National Forests.
It’s southern end runs from the Mexican border in the United States through California, Oregon and Washington and reaches its northern end at the United States Canadian border at Manning Park.
When is the right time to start hiking?
It depends on the location: Hikers who are Northbound begin in mid-April all through to early May. Hikers who are Southbound begin in late June all through to early July.
it's tempting too start earlier but snow usually covers sections of the trail in spring and in early summer and some parts of the trail might be very difficult to access.
In south California, the trail is usually covered by heavy snow in the initial 200 miles of the border. If you go into the Sierra very early, you will have to deal with challenges of crossing streams covered with snow, in Washington, the steep snowy slopes will turn the PCT travel to mountaineering in early July.
Beginning late also comes with its share of challenges.
South California gets extremely hot and we all know that's not fun. If you are beginning late and you want to cover the entire trail as a thru-hike, you will also have to deal with other difficulties such as winter before the end of the trail or hot weather that requires more endurance.
Do I need permits?
Yes, there are some permits you may be required to have before you embark on your Pacific Crest Trail hike.
It’s important that you apply for your permit at least three weeks before you begin your trip. Still, you can personally walk to the local ranger station and get a permit that will be valid for some weeks.
Does the trail have shelters and can one use them?
Yes. There are some shelters on the trail. They are first come first served.
But do not depend entirely on them as some shelters mentioned in the guide book might not exist!
How many miles do hikers walk per day?
Many hikers walk 12-14 miles per day when they start their hike, then gradually increase their pace to 16-22 miles per day. Eventually, they average 25-30 miles per day on the trail.
How dangerous is it to hike the Pacific Crest Trail?
PCT is a usually a safe place. But it’s important to be cautious especially when visiting towns or when camping or hiking near roads.
Also, don't hike alone. It's always to have a buddy with you.
Hikers might come across bears and poisonous snakes at some point but incidents of injuries are very rare.
Learn to identify and avoid Poison Oak as they do exist on the trail.
During the hot weather, insects such as mosquitoes and ticks are common.
In summer, bees and bee stings are also common.
Before you start your hike, you also need to know how to keep off, identify and treat hypothermia, heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
Since water sources are usually insufficient, diarrhea attack while on the trail can be a serious problem. Therefore, it’s important to carry some anti-diarrhea medication.
How long does it take to thru-hike?
Most likely the whole snow free season, approximately 5 months.
Experienced hikers might complete the PCT thru-hike within two months but that means you will need to go 30 miles per day for a 100 days!
Most hikers don't stay on the trail for more than 6 months. Overstaying on the trail is not recommended.
If it's taking you more than 6 months to hike PCT, take breaks and do section hikes.
How do I communicate with family and friends while on the trail?
However, in areas where there is no cellphone reception, one can carry an emergency locator beacon like a PLB or satellite messenger like a SPOT.
Also, make friends with other hikers and they can carry your message to your friends and family when they get a chance.
Keep your loved ones updated so they do not worry about you all the time!
Where do hikers get water from while on the trail?
Get the Data book before they embark on their PCT hike.
This book tells you where the various water sources are situated and it can help you calculate the time it may take you to get to the next water source.
Stretches of about 15-25 miles with no water are common in the desert areas and also in the Northern side of the trail too.
All water sourced from the trail should be purified with a water filter or chemicals.
PCT is definitely a backpacking trail that requires ultralight gears. Get our ultralight sleeping pad so you can stay light and get a great night of sleep!