A Pacific Crest Trail planning guide. A way to get an overview of this wonderful trail without being bogged down with lots of info!
Updated Jan 2022.
The Pacific Crest Trail
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is the Appalachian Trail’s more isolated, lonelier western counterpart. For almost 2700 miles the PCT travels from Mexico to Canada. From a high point of 13200 feet in the High Sierras to a low point of nearly sea level at the Columbia River it is a trail of extremes. A thru-hiker on the PCT will go from deserts to snowfields. Will see glaciers, old-growth forests, and volcanoes. It will also be an adventure that will not be forgotten.
This handout will help you prepare for the basics of a journey for this trail. But, as always, you should consult with other resources before heading out on an extended trek in the mountains.
WITH THE MASSIVE FIRE DAMAGE IN RECENT YEARS, BE SURE TO CHECK OUT THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL ASSOC PAGE FOR THE MOST RECENT INFO ABOUT REROUTES OR CLOSURES! https://www.pcta.org/discover-the-trail/closures/
The Pacific Crest Trail at a glance
- Administered by the Pacific Crest Trail Association
- Almost 2700 miles in length
- Travels through three states (California, Oregon, Washington)
- Goes through all but one of the ecosystems in North America
- Starts at the Mexican border near Campo, CA, and runs 12km into Manning Park, BC, Canada
Appalachian vs. Pacific Crest Trail
- The PCT is open to both hikers and horses
- More gradually graded, easier tread
- Almost no shelters
- Goes through more extreme environments
- Longer days and miles between re-supplies
- Due to the easier tread way and more gradual grade, tend to do more miles per day on the PCT than the AT
- Narrower window of hiking. Can’t start much earlier than mid-late April or you will hit much snow in the High Sierras. Finish much past October 1st (or even around), and you will more than likely have a snowstorm in the Cascades. Reverse problems for south bounding (PCT SOBOs typically start in June)
- Fewer people attempting to thru-hike the PCT per year than the AT
- Higher completion rate of the PCT due to more experienced hikers on the PCT overall (though, that is changing rapidly)
- Typically, if you did the AT in 6 mos, you will finish the PCT in 5 mos. If you did the AT in 5 mos, you will finish the PCT in 4 mos
- Or to put it another way, you tend to do five miles per day more on your hiking days on the PCT than the AT. A person who averaged 15-20 MPD hiking on the AT will typically average 20-25 MPD on the PCT.
- If you were already in good shape when you did the AT, used to longer hiking days and used light gear, probably won’t notice much difference. Most ATers typically spend more time both in camp and towns vs a PCT hike as well.
- Miles per day typically goes up after the High Sierra
- Fewer towns..but the town stops tend to be more expensive. Call it a wash vs the AT.
- An average thru-hike costs ~$1200 per month.
Major concerns for PCT thru-hikers
Most aspiring thru-hikers of the PCT have a few key concerns. Typically they involve desert hiking (sun exposure, heat, water situation), travel through the High Sierras (ice axe use, bear canister regulations, snowfield travel), and re-supply.
This section will touch upon those concerns.
1) Desert Hiking
Hiking in the desert is something new for most PCT thru-hikers. Water can be scarce, the heat is intense, the feet often swell up and it is an environment alien to those used to the “Long Green Tunnel” of the AT. In brief, in the desert section of the PCT:
- Water is critical. Pay attention to your resources! I highlighted all the water sources in bright yellow. I found one liter of water for every five miles of hiking was how much I drank. YMMV.
- In recent years, trail angels have been putting out water caches. While almost always there and they are a welcome gift from the trail community, DO NOT COUNT ON THEM. These caches are stashed by the generosity of volunteers. If something happens and they cannot stash water, then you may be in trouble. Think of these water caches as “gravy” and take 2 liters at the most from them. Water cache info will be available via online or other sources. But, again, think of this as extra water and DO NOT COUNT ON THE CACHE ALWAYS BEING AVAILABLE
- On a similar note, a resource is available called the PCT WATER REPORT. I held off initially listing it as too many people are relying on caches. Additionally, the caches themselves are becoming a contentious issue (just read the notes in the report!) Plus other resources already list the non-cached water resources. OTOH, there is some good info in there. So here it is. I’ll just repeat again DO NOT COUNT ON THE CACHE ALWAYS BEING AVAILABLE. And on a similar vein, these caches are done by the generosity of others. They ain’t your Momma. Don’t abuse the water supply, don’t leave trash behind, pick up after yourself and don’t kvetch if the cache is empty. Hell, my rather ah, “colorful” Mom would have given me a backhand if I pulled some of the crap some hikers do. 😉 I’ll also do a little bit of editorializing and say I don’t think caches are “needed” on the PCT (or the CDT). OK. Off my soap box. 😉
- The traditional approach that works for many while hiking in the desert is an early start, a siesta, hike to early evening, eat dinner, hike a bit into the night.
- Though it is easier to do big miles, take it easy at first. All those “easy mile” days can be deceiving. Feet tend to swell up in the heat and all those big 25-30 mile days from the start can be murder on the feet
- Sun exposure is a major concern. Sunglasses and sun protection are a must! Wear sunscreen and/or a large hat, long sleeves and long pants.
- Note that there really is a difference between a dry, Western heat and a humid Eastern heat. Different strategies may be required. In general, humid heat makes me personally feel more sluggish but dry heat (with little shade esp as on the PCT) leaves me feeling more dehydrated. Your experience may be different.
2) High Sierra Hiking
As with the desert, traveling in the High Sierras has a set of issues unique for most AT veterans. Crossing snow fields, dealing with bears on a regular basis, and using an ice axe are all issues typically new for most people who have done the AT. In brief, the High Sierra issues are:
- Going over the high passes (and the snow fields typically on the passes when thru-hikers come through) are best done in late morning or early afternoon. The snow is slushier and less icy. Makes for safer and easier travel.
- Many thru-hikers bring an ice axe. Typically, a thru-hiker will pick up an ice axe at Kennedy Meadows and mail it back at Tuolumne Meadows. If you do bring an ice axe, know how to use it. Otherwise it is just a piece of equipment you are bringing for no reason. Take a class, practice or at the very least read how to use it. A classic on mountaineering (with ice axe use illustrated well) is MOUNTAINEERING: FREEDOM OF THE HILLS. If you don’t have access to mountains for ice axe practice, a large snow bank will work for practicing self-arrest techniques
- Bear canisters and there use is controversial at times. Having said that, as far as can be determined; bear canisters are required in Yosemite National Park and in the Ansel Adams wilderness. Other areas (Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Parks) have bear lockers at popular campsites. Stealth camping is used by many thru-hikers in bear country. A thru-hiker will cook dinner, hike an additional two-three miles and camp in a spot that gets little to no use. Look at the various guidebooks for current bear regs. (As a side note, there is a bear canister loan program that has been posted on various hiker bulletin boards in recent years.) Note that Bear Vault had a program geared for PCT hikers in the past. One company even has Bearikade discount rental available for PCT (and JMT) hikers. As of August 2016, they are now required for overnight use in Lassen National Park.
- ” Triple Crown Outfitters in Kennedy Meadows south has partnered with Kennedy Meadows Resort (west of Sonora Pass) and rents bear canisters.
Southbounders pick up at KM Resort, return to Triple Crown Outfitters. You can reserve a canister now while rentals are on sale in December. https://triplecrownoutfitters.com/produ…/bear-canisters-2/ “
- ” Triple Crown Outfitters in Kennedy Meadows south has partnered with Kennedy Meadows Resort (west of Sonora Pass) and rents bear canisters.
- As with desert hiking, sun protection is a must! The UV radiation is intense at high elevations. Also, wearing sunglasses is esp. important to prevent snow blindness on the snow fields
- Using some sort of lip balm (i.e. ChapStick) is very useful in the colder, drier and intense UV radiation of the High Sierra
- Speaking of altitude, most thru-hikers have adopted to altitude by the time they have hit the High Sierras.
- If you are an East Coast-based hiker, using mail drops exclusively can be expensive
- It is possible to “buy as you go” if you are not picky and do not mind hitching further out
- A popular hybrid is a combination of “buying as you go” and sending mail drops ahead to spots that do not have a large re-supply selection. For example, many thru-hikers will buy their food in Ashland, OR and mail it ahead to such places as Crater Lake.
- The Trek’s article on PCT resupply is useful.
- Also, new commercial enterprises are mailing out food, gear, and other sundries to hikers. Quite a few may be found via a Google search such as, but not limited to, Trail Supply Co, Outdoor Herbivore, Zero Day Resupply, and Sonora Pass Resupply . They regularly post on forums and Facebook advertising their services. Some hikers are using Amazon Pantry Service or the Walmart equivalent, too.
- A larger period of time between re-supplies. Typically, you will re-supply every 5-7 days on the PCT versus the average of every 3-5 days on the AT
- Drift (or Bounce) Boxes come in handy for the PCT. If you do not have a person to do mail drops from home, the drift box is valuable for containing memory cards, batteries, map sections, and other items you use but not on a regular basis
- White Gas (Coleman Fuel) is avail in most resupply areas if you using this type of stove esp during burn bans. Old school for those who don’t want to futz with canister resupply
- Denatured alcohol (and HEET) is found fairly easily in most towns. Some hostels are stock denatured alcohol for thru-hikers
- Fuel canisters are popular in use. Various towns stock them. Please see RESOURCES (below) for further info on possible town services and supplies.
Cost of a Thru-Hike
As mentioned, an average thru-hike costs about $1200 a month once on the trail as of 2022. The average price of rent, taking inflation into account, seems remarkably consistent with this figure over the years. If you take a longer hike, you will need more food, have a greater chance of running into more weather issues, probably incur more town costs and may need to replace more gear.
A good, rough equation for overall expenses is this idea:
COST OF GEAR TO START + TRANSPORTATION TO TRAIL + (MONTHS ON TRAIL * 1200) + TRANSPORTATION FROM TRAIL. = ROUGH COST ESTIMATE
The cost of your initial gear and transportation to and from the trail will differ from hiker to hiker. Do you already have the gear? Or is this your first long hike and buying all new lightweight gear? Do you live in Seattle with (relatively) easy and cheap transport up and down from either termini or are you coming from Boston and need to get some expensive flights to and from each terminus (or a long ass bus ride!)
I feel pretty comfortable with the $1200/mo figure once on the trail. This figure includes food, town stops, and some typical gear replacements (shoes and socks come immediately to mind).
These numbers are for a middle-of-the-road hike. People who want more luxurious accommodations vs hostels take side trips with car rentals (Hey! Let’s check out the brew pubs in Portland for a few days), expensive restaurant meals vs a burger and beer, etc. will spend more.
Though different, the Triple Crown trails end up having similar costs.
Other people do avoid some of these costs by having family members ship food/finance part of the hike, do “work for stays” at some hostels (more common on the AT versus other trails), depend on hiker boxes or depend on the charity of others. “Jester” wrote a detailed account of his 2015 expenses as well that is perhaps more realistic. A more recent 2019 set of statistics shows ~$3500 for just over 4 months with almost all “nero” days. And the yearly Halfway Anywhere shows similar prices for the PCT.
More thrifty hikers, esp those with experience and know the PCT well and/or are disciplined, might be able to go more frugal at ~$800/mo. (And, as always, I am sure there are exceptions. )
“Jester” poses some good questions to ask yourself as we’ll concerning a budget, too.
- The PCT is where lightweight backpacking seems to work well. Most nights I slept under the stars. I only had to set up my tarp seven times in a little over four months.
- On the same theme, the easier tread of the PCT makes hiking in light shoes very feasible. Most PCT thru-hiker I know hiked in trail runners. You will want to make sure the shoes are well ventilated for the desert section. Make sure the shoes have enough wiggle room as well. My feet grew half a size in the desert section!
- Again, light weight hiking has taken off very much so on the PCT more so versus the more traditional AT. Part of the reason is that after hauling a heavy-ass Osprey pack for 2200 miles, most AT veterans never want to do that again! (For any easily offended AT veterans, this statement is called “hyperbole”. 😉 )
- The PCT will not be a repeat of your AT experience. Esp. after the High Sierra you will see fewer thru-hikers. The town culture is not as established. And you will have a journey that you will not forget
The PCT and dogs generally don’t mix. More extremes in the environment, more restrictions in some of the California state parks and NPS units along with a less of a dog-friendly infrastructure to get dogs around those places (unlike the AT with its kennel a and shuttle services for hiker’s dogs near the NPS units and Baxter State Park). A legal thru-hike with a dog on the PCT is rather difficult.
If you love your dog, you probably don’t want to take it on the PCT for months on end. The AT is very dog-friendly overall for a fit, active, well-behaved dog with a considerate owner (And that is debatable as many dogs don’t seem to have attentive owners! 😉 ) . Some dogs do the PCT and even the CDT, but that is the very big exception to the rule.
Section hiking with a dog and cherry-picking the places and seasons would work better regarding logistics and your dog’s health. Go to the desert when it is cool. Hike the national park units on your own and not have to worry about shuttling and kenneling options. Etc.
And please do not get a fake service dog patch. You are only making it more difficult for those with a legitimate need for a service animal.
The PCTA has an excellent overview of the challenges faced by responsible dog owners who wish to hike the PCT.
The PCTA requests that this info is read before filling out ALL the permits.: http://www.pcta.org/discover-the-trail/permits/
Please note, there are significant changes in the PCT permit system starting in 2015. “Only” 50 people a day may start from the southern terminus. Please see this page for more information http://www.pcta.org/2015/improvements-southern-california-aim-protect-visitor-experiences-pct-environment-27304/
The direct links for the permits are being left in for the PCT users’ convenience.
Anyone hiking 500 miles or more on a single trip of the PCT can get a permit for the PCT. This permit eliminates the need to get separate permits for all the national parks, wilderness areas, etc. you will be passing through. For PCTA members, the permit is free.
You can get a permit by going to :https://www.pcta.org/discover-the-trail/permits/long-distance-permit-application/
Starting in 2020, you will also need a permit for southbounding.
If you flip-flop in the Sierra:
“Travel in the Southern Sierra (Kennedy Meadows South to Sonora Pass) must be continuous with no skips or changes in direction. If you exit the Southern Sierra to do more than resupply or wish to re-enter at a different trailhead, perhaps after hiking elsewhere, you must obtain a new permit from the local land management agency if you wish to hike in the Southern Sierra. Your PCT long-distance permit will no longer be valid for travel through the Southern Sierra as your travel is no longer continuous.”
Additionally, at this same permit site linked above, you can get a Whitney Zone permit for hiking Mt. Whitney. As the highest point in the Lower 48, it is a side trip most PCT hikers cannot pass up. With the appropriate permit, you do not need to reserve a day to hike Whitney (though an estimated day of arrival is requested when filling out the permit). It cost $15 for this permit. Only needed if exiting via Whitney Portal.
And if you miss out on the permit lottery from the PCTA? Triple Crown Outfitters put together an excellent document for cobbling together the permits you need to legally hike the PCT without the PCTA permit. The short answer is it’s doable, legal, but requires a good amount of legwork on your part.
There is also a special use area in the Three Sisters Wilderness called the Obsidian Limited Entry Area that needs an additional permit for camping. It is only one mile long, so it should not have an effect on most PCTers. Note that no additional permit is needed to hike this mile.
If you finish the PCT and Manning Park in British Columbia, you will need a permit to enter Canada as you will not be entering an official border checkpoint. This form can be found here.
This permit is free from the Canadian government.
Please be aware, If you are denied entry by the Canadian government for a misdemeanor or felony, you’ll need to take an alternate route that does not cross the Canadian border. See the guidebooks, maps and/or PCT forums for details. Alternatively, you can be ‘rehabilitated’ for $155 and filling out the appropriate paperwork. If it has been ten years or more since your DUI, you may be allowed in without needing to pay the fee. BUT APPLY FIRST, AND DON’T ASSUME!!!!!!
I really would not try to get into Canada without the proper paperwork. If you take an alternate route due to snow, keep that in mind too. :O
On a related note, getting back into the US.means you will need a passport or what I call the “passport lite” (a card for entrance into the US from Mexico or Canada only).
Many thru-hikers will mail themselves their passport to Stehekin.
Non-US hikers will need to do additional research. Non-US hikers have had their queries answered on various forums. This page from the PCTA should be a useful starting point.
Other Legal Considerations: If you go Southbound, you can no longer legally enter from Manning Park, BC, Canada. The US Govt is very serious about this restriction. Fines of $10,000 have been given to hikers. Please read this info from the PCTA site for more info.
Some earlier text that is descriptive:
The PCTA strongly urges all hikers using the backcountry to obtain a California fire permit. The permit covers use of campfires and stoves in ALL Park Service, Forest Service, BLM and State Lands within the state of California. Permits can be obtained at any US forest service, National Park service, BLM, or California Division of Forestry office. They are free and valid for one year. The purpose of the permit is to ensure that people using the back country have all the proper information about safe use of fire in the backcountry. These permits should be acquired before the start of your hike or ride.
Get the California Campfire Permit here
Speaking of fires, land agencies are getting strict with the types of stoves being used in the increasingly fire-prone West. In brief, a stove without an on/off valve is often not allowed. No alcohol or Esbit stoves or campfires basically.Please see this doc I wrote earlier for more information. Please pay attention to the stove bans. Really.
Courtesy of Jester…
Often hand in hand with these stove bans are frequent trail closures due to wildfires. Road walk alternates are available to get around these trail closures.
The PCTA will regularly update its website for any trail closures and conditions and sometimes stove bans. A good rule of thumb is that if there are trail closures on the PCT in the vicinity of where you are hiking, an alcohol stove may not be a good idea or even legal.
North Bound vs South Bound
Though approx 90% of all thru-hikers do go north bound, going south bound (SoBo) does have some appeal in addition to unique challenges. A typical SoBo journey starts in July.
In brief, the pros of a SoBo journey are:
- More of a remote and wild feeling experience esp as the PCT gains popularity
- Cooler weather in the desert
- Longer weather window
- Less rain in the Pacific Northwest
The cons of a SoBo journey are:
- Harder logistical challenges as you can not legally start from Manning Park, BC
- Possible navigation issues at the start of the trail due to the snow pack from winter
- Water resources scarce down south
- Less support overall (may be a plus for the right type of hiker! 😉 )
If a SoBo journey on the PCT sounds intriguing, you should check out this excellent and new site dedicated to south bounding on the PCT: https://www.pctsouthbound.com/
Some other useful SoBo sites include:
The first place to get any info about the PCT is from the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA). At their web site you can join the association, order guide books, videos, and other merchandise: www.pcta.org The PCTA has an excellent thru-hike overview as well.
The most popular on-trail resources for the PCT currently are:
- Far Out (Guthook’s) PCT Guide
- Yogi’s PCT Handbook
- NatGeo Maps (“Half-Mile” worked on these maps, and phased out his maps)
- PCT WATER REPORT
- Postholer maps and databook
Additionally, pre-hike, many people use Craig’s PCT Planner.
Not quite as popular yet, but As The Crow Flies puts out a free and no-frills town guide for the Dragnet fan (Just the facts Ma’am). More people seem to be using it. A PDF version is available.
See below for information on the resources in more detail. As mentioned the resources above are used the most on the PCT.
Additionally, there are some other resources listed below that may be of interest if used less frequently by most PCT hikers in most cases.
Wilderness Press publishes guidebooks to hike the PCT and are all available from the Pacific Crest Trail Association. These books are best for informational purposes about geology, history, and general area pre and perhaps post-hike. Few people use this resource anymore except as a general reference.
The guide books to get are:
The Pacific Crest Trail: Southern California
The Pacific Crest Trail: Northern California
The Pacific Crest Trail: Oregon and Washington
These three books have the trail maps and descriptions needed for each state. Alas, they have no immediate plans for updating these books
If you want a traditional guidebook sans detailed maps, The Pacific Crest Trail by Brian Johnson is .available on Amazon.
Coupled with NatGeo Maps (“Half-Mile” work on these maps, and phased out his maps) , a PCT hiker could have an excellent alternative to the Wilderness Press guides if someone wants a more traditional guidebook.
Pacific Crest Trail Data Book
Very similar to the AT Data Book. Has mileage guide, water info, elevations, etc. Another useful book. Other resources have mainly replaced this book.
Postholer.com has an online version of a PCT databook as well, and a new set of map books. Scott also has an excellent planning utility based on his databook. Postholer also has a neat little, and free, databook app that also has the weather and makes it easy to post journal entries on the Postholer site. For Android only at this time.
Yogi’s PCT Handbook
The PCT equivalent of the ALDHA Companion. Much info about re-supply areas, desert hiking, what shoes to bring, etc. Much input from past PCT Thru-hikers. Yogi has thru-hiked the PCT three times herself! Yogi also runs a special where she will print out Halfmile’s maps.
http://www.pcthandbook.com (Full Disclosure: I helped contribute to this book as well as the CDT handbook. I receive no compensation other than helping out a dear friend in addition to fellow hikers)
Pocket PCT http://hikethru.com/pocket-pct The Pocket PCT is a lightweight (3.8 oz), pocket-sized (4.25 x 6.88 inches), affordable, and easy to use elevation guide for Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers, section hikers, day hikers and anyone in between. Basically, this is a a quick “at a glance guide” to places along the PCT.
Smart Phone and Tablet apps Many PCTers with tablets and smartphones now. Various apps are now made to have maps, update journals, mark waypoints, etc. for the PCT. Caveat: Electronic tools are helpful, but should not be your only source of info. All electronic devices are prone to failure.
Avail apps currently are:
Farout (Guthook’s) PCT Guide: Another guide in smart app form for the PCT. For iOS and Android.
Offline Maps: Offline Maps done by Noam Gal for the AT,PCT, and CDT that makes use other Backcountry Navigator app.
Gaia GPS features the entire trail via the NatGeo layer.
Mobile device reception: On a related note, check out Halfmile’s page for mobile device reception (cell and WiFi)
Additionally, these maps and resources are available that have been used and enjoyed by other PCTers..if some not used as frequently in some cases.
Tom Harrison Maps for the JMT
A very detailed set of maps for the JMT portion of the PCT. In a heavy snow year, some people have found these maps more useful than the PCT maps in the various guide and map books. These maps can also be ordered from the PCTA.
The full set of maps for the PCT. Put out by “Erik the Black”, these maps are primarily full color topos with very streamlined info of the above resources. Initial reports are that some hikers very much like the streamlined info; others like more verbose info and want more details. At $200, they can be an expensive purchase vs. the other maps. As always, YMMV. They can be ordered from http://www.pctatlas.com/
As the Crow Flies has a free PCT town guide
NatGeo Maps (“Half-Mile” worked on these maps, and phased out his maps)
PostHoler.Com Maps: Postholer.com has put out a collhttps://www.amazon.com/John-Muir-Trail-Map-Pack-Harrison/dp/1877689343ection of PCT maps as well. http://postholer.com/mapbooks/#pocket
Additional planning sources include:
PCTA.ORG Some more info about thru-hiking the PCT can also be found on the PCTA website:
http://www.pcta.org/discover-the-trail/long-distance-hiking/thruhiker-faq/ The PCTA has a Facebook page as well.
The PCT Planner
A great little program for figuring out your mileage between re-supply points
The Trek’s PCT page contains much info, articles, and updates from PCT hikers.
Though focused on Eastern hiking, there are PCT, CDT and other Western trail hikers in this org as well.
ALDHA-West ALDHA’s sister organization that focuses primarily on Western trails, including the PCT
Whiteblaze.net Though AT focused, the OTHER TRAILS, including the PCT, section may be useful. www.whiteblaze.net
Facebook: Facebook has various Class of 20xx PCT groups to now join. Good for sharing information and staying in touch fellow with “class” members. Not good for getting questions answered due to usual online ah, intense discussion. The main PCTA Facebook group is best for overall PCT info.
Reddit PCT Forum: A fairly active sub-Reddit is avail for the PCT http://www.reddit.com/r/PacificCrestTrail
A site with journals, forums and a regularly updated snow percentage level along the PCT.
Postholer also has a very detailed FAQ on various PCT topics. While my doc is a good place to start planning, this FAQ, along with Yogi’s book, gives many more details http://postholer.com/faq.php
Finally, Postholer has an online databook as well.
The Hiking Life: Excellent planning page on an excellent site. I lost quite a bit of time just reading over Cam Honan’s website about his many travels! http://www.thehikinglife.com/2010/10/pacific-crest-trail-caorwa-usa-2007/
How to Hike The Pacific Crest Trail Video by Lynn Wheldon
A bit dry at times, but has some good info on such topics as re-supply, crossing passes, desert travel, etc. All the people on the video are PCT thru-hikers. Has been updated. Can be purchased from the PCTA website. www.lwgear.com
The Pacific Crest Trail: A Hiker’s Companion by Karen Berger and Dan Smith
Though a bit older, this book serves as a nice overview of the trail. Not specific info per se, but gives a flavor of what you will be hiking
through. It also makes a good present to give someone who may be curious about what a thru-hike of the PCT involves. It can also be purchased from the PCTA web site.
Books, videos and on-line journals
Of course, planning for the hike can be exciting. But some times it is inspiring to read other hikers stories or online journals:
Journey on the Crest by Cindy Ross
A PCT classic. A candid and heartfelt account of Cindy Ross’ journey on the PCT. Many beautiful hand-drawn sketches.
Along the Pacific Crest Trail. by Bart Smith (photos), Karen Berger and Dan Smith (text)
A book that will make you say “WOW”. Read this book to get inspired to do the PCT! Give it to your family when they ask “Why?”
A Blistered Kind of Love, One Couple’s Trial by Trail., Angela Ballard and Duffy Ballard.
An account of a couple’s journey on the PCT. Have not read it myself, but has received many favorable reviews.
Books for Hikers – Books (and videos) avail. about the PCT. A great resource for other trails, too!
oh..then, there’s THAT BOOK and THAT MOVIE too. 😉
The Walk Series by Scott “Squatch” Herriott A series of funny and heartfelt documentaries about our crazy little tribe
Walking the West: A well-done video about a PCT thru-hike. The lo-res version can be downloaded directly. Also avail for on-line streaming in two parts on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5AXhlHoNxo8
Wizards of the PCT: A rather funny, documentary by Shane “Jester” O’Donnell
Tell It On the Mountain: Simply put, I love this documentary. It captures the experience of the PCT quite well.
YouTube’s selection of PCT-focused videos is extensive. “Homemade Wanderlust“ and “Darwin on the Trail“ are the two most popular.
A popular website for all kinds of on-line hiking journals, including ones for the PCT.
Best of luck on your PCT journey! If you have any additional questions about this document or the PCT in general, please feel free to contact me.
How does the PCT Guide from Brian Johnson compare to Yogi’s guide? I’m planning to use halfmile’s maps, and then I’m looking for a guide with info on stuff to do, trail angels, resupply stops, tips etc. I’m not super concerned with detailed elevation profiles, navigation etc.
Would you carry either on the actual trail? Or just read before hand?
Yogi’s guide is updated annually and is really keyed into the logistics and information you want to know. Brian’s guide was published in 2010 and, while good, is more of a thorough overview. If it was me I’d take the Half Mile maps and the appropriate sections of Yogi’s guide.
I’ve looked at the Postholer.com online Pacific Crest Trail Data Book and Halfmile’s PCT Maps – there seems to be some pretty major differences in the mileage figures between the two sources for the same locations. Do you know why? Thanks.
They use different datum from what I understand.
Good thread with more info:
I would consider the Pacific Crest Trail Water Report an absolute necessity on the first 600 miles NOBO. Print an updated copy just prior to starting your hike to have the latest info.
I purposely did not list it as I do not think caches are mandatory for doing the PCT. Plus caches have been a source of major contention in recent years. Maps, Guthook’s apps, the databook and similar resources already have the known water sources outside of caches.
EDIT: OTOH, I should make people aware of the resource. Added with a very big caveat.
The water report should also be looked at for planning I feel for the general feel of whats happening due to the drought continuing. I would look at last years 2014 oct nov dec reports to see what’s been happening to the water sources on the trail. I’ve also asked that LAWP for example interface with the report. Its helpful for example to know when the acqueduct source is shut down…then there is the next to useless springs like at Golden Oak since the BLM or the allotee is not up to repairing what is broken on the trail..
As a novice in California looking to hike 20 miles on a more gentle part of the trail – where would you recommend this novice to start? Thanks.
California is a large state…where in CA? If in the Bay Area, Desolation Wildersness has many scenic hikes that are beautiful if not overly difficult. I am not in the CA area, so do not have as good sense of geography as others may have. I suspect his book, and similar, may help too. https://www.wildernesspress.com/product.php?productid=17061
i would like to hike from Seattle to Manning park……when would be the best time and how far is it.
That’s a question beyond the scope of this article. I suggest using this article to do some research on possible hiking routes that may work for you:
Want to hike the PCT for a few days only in N. Ca or S. Oregon this summer (July or August). Partner is my sister and we both are in our 60’s. My camping days are over. Can you give ideas about stretches that will allow us to hike during day and stay in motel at night? Have a few of these on the AT and wondering if this is doable on PCT. Have already become acquainted with Callahan’s.
A lot more difficult on the PCT than the AT esp outside of Southern California.
May want to pick up Yogi’s Handbook along with other databook guides for that type of info.
My name is Rachel aka Blackwater. I’m planning on hiking the PCT next year. And I was wondering if you could answer some questions about your hike on the PCT after you’ve finished. I totally understand if your busy and don’t have time to do this. We are all busy people and we all have busy lives. But if you do have the time, that would be great. Please just let me know and I’ll email the questions. Thanks for your time. Hope you have a blast on PCT this year.
I am planning on doing the hike in 2017. Everything falls into place and I’ve been looking forward to the challenge since last year.
Please pass along any information you get.
Also, good is this “Class of 2016” webinar just done yesterday from PCTA. Contains some good starting info in general, including current closures, and as far as is known so far, about fire and snow pack situations. https://youtu.be/p1Kgn8Q_JBw
Fire bans and wildfires were a major, major issue out here in PNW and NoCal last season. Good wet winter so far bodes well that we may have a more normal summer. But expect fire bans to be imposed at any time.
Thanks for the great website. I thru hiked the CT Summer 2015, thanks in large part to your wonderful on line guidance. I’m planning on doing the PCT in 4-6 month-longish section hikes, trying to capture the best time of year for each section. If you were thinking of doing desert, Sierras, NoCal, Oregon and Washington as separate section hikes, what time of year would you do them and would you NOBO or SOBO each section? Any websites that you know of that give advice on section hiking the entire PCT? Thanks again.
I am always partial to the fall in general. Good weather, less people and I really enjoy being out there at that time of the year.
Assuming four equal chunks of roughly ~650 miles +/-, you can probably do those chunks in 5-6 weeks depending on your hiking pace. This tool is great for that type of planning https://www.pctplanner.com/plan.php
This hike has transportation options for sections. http://hikethepct.com/info.html
I want to do a 30 day hike. I’m a novice and wondered where would be a good place to start. Any ideas?
Before tackling a 30-day hike, I’d get in some easy overnight trips first. A local MeetUp group, outing club, or school organization, is a fantastic way to meet new people and find trips suited for beginners. Once you get your trail legs and have your gear dialed in, then I’d think of longer jaunts. Have fun!
[…] every possible water cache and even carry their own water over long distances. Triple Crown hiker Paul Mags highly recommends that hikers do not count on water caches being available, but rather that they […]
Thanks for this detailed guide! Please note: the cost of “Rehabilitation” for crossing the Canadian border with a DUI is now $155 (a client just referenced your article which says $200, so I wanted to let you know so you can update). Thanks.
Nice to know some things become less expensive with time. Thanks!