Hiking - Destination

Pacific Crest Trail: Explore the Longest Hiking Trail in the World

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If you are looking for a relief or shelter away from the concrete chaos of the city or it’s humdrum, then why do you not take a refuge in the wilderness of the popular, PCT or the Pacific Crest Trail. Not only famous hikers like Martin Papendick, Eric Ryback, Christian Thomas Geiger, Reid Gjonnes, Sierra Burror, Teddi Boston and so much more have taken a memorable hike through the trail, the commoners to enjoy the same even if one is a beginner.

Remember the Reese Witherspoon starrer Hollywood movie of 2014, Wild? We are sure you do! And yes, you have guessed it right! Reese Witherspoon shot the movie throughout the Pacific trail to portray the dramatically biographical and survival film based on the true story of Cheryl Strayed. If you are one of those few enthusiasts who knows it for sure to have the stamina to trace the Pacific Crest Trail map from end to end, then you must not wait and start preparing for the exuberant experience ahead. Let’s take you to the awestruck trail of Pacific Crest. 

Know more here:

Pacific Crest Trail: An Overview

pacific crest trail
Walk and discover the surreal beauty of Nature (source)

Where it is Located: California/Washington/Oregon, USA and British Columbia, Canada
Number of Hiking Months: 2-6 months (entire trail)
Total Hiking Distance: 2,650 miles (4,265 kilometers)
Highest Point: 13,153 ft (4,009 m)
Hiking Grade: Moderate-Difficult
Best Season: Late April to Late September
Trail Type: Trail through deserts, dense forest, volcanoes and alpine peaks
Livingit Rank: Enthusiast- Advanced- Elite

About Pacific Crest Trail

Initially, the Pacific Crest Trail was proposed to be established as a single route by Clinton C. Clarke in order to merge together the various trails like John Muir Trail and the Tahoe Yosemite Trail in California along with Cascade Crest trail in Washington as well as the Skyline trail in Oregon. In fact, a Clarke set up the “Pacific Crest Trail System Conference” in order to maintain and preserve the same. Various organizations like YMCA, Boy Scouts, as well as Ansel Adams, actively participated to maintain and protect the trail.

Again, in the year, 1968, the trail was further elongated being merged with the Appalachian Trail along with a pact with the National Trails System Act under the supervision of the contemporary president, Lyndon B Johnson. It was again associated with the Pacific Crest Trail Association and finally was opened to public 1993 onwards. Wondering how long is the pacific crest trail and how to reach there and go about? Well, check below for all details.

11 Interesting Facts about Pacific Crest Trail

  1. The Pacific Crest trail length traverses an extremely long stretch of a trail, covering about 2,663 miles or 4286 km of distance.
  2. One of the striking singularities of the trail is that it runs through three nations, viz. Canada, the U.S.A. and Mexico.
  3. The chief areas that the Pacific Crest Trail runs through are Laguna, San Jacinto, Santa Rosa, San Bernardino, Liebre, San Gabriel, Tehachapi, Klamath and the Sierra Nevada in the ranges of California. It also covers the Cascade Range in Washington, Oregon and California. The Pacific Crest Trail impresses on the boundary of Mexico as well as the U.S.A and eventually, it trespasses those boundaries to reach and stop at British Colombia in Canada.
  4. A brilliant initiative was taken when a parallel route for a cycling route was constructed that stretches for about 4000 km and converges with the main train a twenty-seven different locations. The route for the biking enthusiasts is popularly known as the Pacific Crest Biking Trail or simply PCBT.
  5. Also, the Pacific Crest Trail can be ideally put in use for travellers who are keen on equestrianism as the possibility was paved out and established by the couple, June Mulford and Don Mulford in 1959.
  6. This is one of the lengthiest trails of the world, covering options for hiking in California, the Washington hiking trail, hiking trails near Sacramento, California Hiking Trails and other options for California hiking. It might apparently seem unbelievable to you considering the fact that it takes about four and a half months to five and a half months to begin and complete the trail. However, if you re consider the distance it runs for you would not be remaining surprised anymore. Mostly, efficient, experienced and observant hikers try to cover about twenty-five to thirty-five miles per day so as to complete the trail route before the harsh weather of winter sets in.
  7. The timezone that the trail follows is PST or UST-8.
  8. You need National and State Park permits to trail through the forests.
  9. The southern terminal is Campo in California while the one in the north is Manning Park in British Columbia in Canada.
  10. The highest point in the trail is at Forester Pass at an elevation of  13,153 ft or4,009 metres while the lowest point is at Cascade Locks with a mere elevation of only 140 ft or 43 m. The change in elevation is about 420,880 ft or128, 284 m.
  11. Would you like another fun fact about the trail? Drinking in public is legal and hence you would not have to console yourself for not having to quench your alcoholic thirst.

Pacific Crest Trail Map to Your Rescue

Modern maps are extremely convenient to be used and learning to comprehend them is just a piece of gooey cake. Carrying of good quality paper maps would ensure you a fuss-free journey. You may also put GPS to use, however that is optional. There are several guidebooks on this trail where you can find Pacific Crest Trail map and start your journey as described. However shown below is the route that you should take for PCT:

pacific crest trail map
Map your way to the longest hike

Best Season to Visit Pacific Crest Trail

The ideal time to be hiking in the Pacific Crest Trail would be sometime in April, May so that you are able to reach the domain of the Canadian boundaries before the winter sets in to disturb your plan. Since the entire trail takes about 5-6 months (depending upon your speed and stamina) most hikers hike throughout the season.

Generally, hikers start from South to West, starting the Mexican region in April, Southern California in end of May, Central, Northern California and Oregon in mid-June and Washington in September. 

Rules to Follow while Hiking the PCT

As per the instructions of the “Pacific Crests Trail Association”, one must keep the following basic rules and regulations in mind:

  • You must carry with yourself a proper first aid kit in order to attend to your minor health problems while you are on the hike.
  • Next, it is imperative, as per their instructions that you do not leave behind any residue of the trace of your presence through any dishonorable act, not only to preserve the natural glory but also for other hikers to enjoy.
  • Be absolutely well informed about the various uses, applications, and danger implication regarding the fire. Be it lighting up a campfire, or being alert about a naturally started fire, you have to be well equipped and prepared.
  • You would find numerous sources of water across the trail, however, to remain in the safer zone, it is advisable that you carry water purifying tablets, water filtration to rescue you from any waterborne malady.
  • Pets are strictly prohibited during the hike.

How to Reach

The starting point of your hike is Campo, California. It is a small town, near the Mexico border. You can reach here by flight or self-drive car to reach this point. 

Once you reach Campo, your journey on Pacific Coast trail begins. From here you cross three different states- California, Oregon, Washington.

Did you know? 
Richard Watson is the first man to hike Pacific Crest Trail from South to North

how to reach PCT
Find your way to PCT (source)

Detailed Itinerary to Pacific Crest Trail

We have broadly classified the Pacific coast trail into-

  • Southern California
  • Central California
  • Northern California
  • Northern California
  • Oregon
  • Washington

Southern California

Start from Campo and cross through the Lake Morena County Park, and reach the Laguna Mountains. Your path is decorated with only lush, wild greenery and rich fauna. Lakes, Passes, State Park are the gems you walk through during your journey. After reaching the Tehachapi Mountains, you enter the scenic Sierra Nevada, marking the beginning of Central California! Your Southern California hiking ends at Walker Pass.

Walker pass
End point of Southern California trail (source)

Central California

This is the hike in Pacific crest trail that you will enjoy the most. From 8 famous passes above 11,000 ft to volcanic rock formation, the hiking in California is the best. You even cross the Forester Pass which is the highest point of the Pacific Coast Trail. Do keep a check on the Pacific Coast map so that you don't lose your way to the Northern California.

forester pass
Highest Elevation of Pacific Crest Trail (source)

Northern California

Cascades, Big Bend, rustic volcanic paths along with wild animals are the challenges of the Northen California hiking trails. The trail covers Lassen Volcanic National Park, Southern Cascade Range and even summits such as Mount Lassen, Mount Shasta. After this, there are hiking trails near Sacramento River where you can resupply water and move ahead to the mountains connected with coastal range. As you walk further, you reach the Siskiyou Mountains welcoming you to next state on the Pacific coast trail- Oregon. 

pacific crest trail-northern california
Majestic yet Calm

Oregon

After the challenging California hiking trails, there is a treat for you! The Pacific Crest Trail Oregon is an east and shortest hike. Your path is surrounded by rich forests giving way to volcanoes, lakes and making the entire trail route mesmeric. Your journey of Pacific crest trail Oregon starts from Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and ends at the Mt Hood National Forest. The wilderness will engulf you with its beauty!

pacific crest trail-oregon
Unspoilt beauty in Oregon

Washington

After the shortest hike in Oregon, it's time for another treat to eyes and soul! The Pacific Crest Trail Washington is a delight. It starts at the Bridge of Gods and ends at the Manning Park near the Canadian border (Monument 78). Your trail goes through various forests, wilderness, high passes. The highlight of this hike is North Cascade Range which is rugged terrain and has stunning peaks such as Glacier Peak, Henry M. Jackson. You will reach this part of Pacific trail by September, so you can witness a riot of colors ranging from yellow to deep red! 

Pacific Crest Trail
Mount Adams in Washington

How to Prepare for the Pacific Crest Trail

Now that you know how long is the Pacific Crest Trail, it’s time to update yourself with some handy tips. Like any other trail trekking or hiking, this one too demands a preparation that has been thought ahead much before you start for it. In fact, owing to the vast stretch of distance it covers and naturally the physical effort and fitness it demands, you cannot but take a pledge to prepare yourself beforehand.

  • Plan your hiking at the very first place before you begin to work on your physical fitness.
  • Train yourself rigorous for a very long period intensively in cardiovascular training and interval training.
  • You must keep in mind that PCT demands a lot of time investment and physically intensive working procedure, thus, it is extremely imperative that you visit your trainer before you plan for the trail.
  • Ensure to have enough water and protein-rich food to have a perfectly built body to endure all sorts of hardships.
  • Try and understand that the terrain is multifaceted; somewhere it is wide and easy to hike while in some places it is too risky for your precious lives. Read and learn about those risky points before you hit the trail. 

Places Not to Miss During the Pacific Crest Trail

The chief places to enjoy and experience are as follows:

California 

While you are in California, make a checklist of series of places like

  • Campo, California, which is near the trail's southern terminus close to the Mexico–United States border
  • Anza-Borrego Desert State Park 
  • Cleveland National Forest 
  • Mount San Jacinto State Park
  • Big Bear Lake
  • Cajon Pass
  • Angeles National Forest 
  • Vasquez Rocks etc.

Oregon

Having visited the places mentioned above, look out for the following places while you are in Oregon:

  • Crater Lake National Park 
  • Crater Lake
  • Umpqua National Forest 
  • Mount Thielsen
  • Willamette National Forest and Deschutes National Forest 
  • Diamond Peak Wilderness
  • Waldo Lake
  • Three Sisters Wilderness
  • Dee Wright Observatory and McKenzie Pass 
  • Mount Washington Wilderness
  • Mount Jefferson Wilderness, etc

Washington

Visit the following in Washington:

  • Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest 
  • Norse Peak Wilderness
  • Alpine Lakes Wilderness
  • Kendall Katwalk
  • Henry M. Jackson Wilderness
  • Glacier Peak Wilderness
  • Glacier Peak
  • Snoqualmie Pass
  • Stevens Pass

British Columbia 

Make the most of your trail journey in Canada, by visiting the northern terminus of the trail which is at the E.C. Manning Provincial Park.

Summing Up

‘Preserving, protecting, and promoting’ the PCT, the association has been carrying out an impressive working program for the beautification and further development of this unique trail. From all parts of the world as well as from the nooks and corners or the USA and Canada, people rush to make this wonderful experience of a lifetime to happen. The Pacific Crest trail is seclusion from your busy life where you can take refuge and be embalmed in the lap of nature, away from the din and bustle of your ultra busy urban lifestyle.

Again, do not lose heart if you cannot cover the entire trail, try and visit it in small parts. Be hopeful and get lost in the realm of the magical and inscrutable lap of nature.

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