A Day In The Life
A day in the life of a solo thru hiker on the Pacific Crest Trail
Something I love about thru-hiking is how personal everything is. Everyone has complete and total freedom to do as they please during the day, which is such a beautiful reality. No restraints, no commitment, you don’t know the time or the date, no pressure- just you, and your will to make it to the terminus.
With this all being said…this post is about how most of my days looked out there on trail, which can differ greatly from any other hiker out there! Hopefully this can give any future hikers a solid glimpse into the day to day rhythms of hiking.
Throughout the course of trail my body began to wake me up with the sun, which was actually so wonderful. I want to continue this natural rhythm of waking and sleeping being dictated by the sun into my normal life!
I would then pack up all my stuff, which only took about 10 minutes by the end of trail (this used to take close to an hour at the beginning of the thru hike). Often I would just eat a bar/something quick towards the end of the trail for breakfast to get going with my day, but at the beginning/in the sierras (where it was cold) I would cook some oatmeal packets.
I LOVE getting a good start on my morning and try to crush as many miles as I could when I was fresh and recovered from my sleep. It’s so satisfying to have 20+ miles done by the time I stopped for lunch and have less in the afternoon when I was more tired and sluggish. The lighting is also so stunning in the morning, and catching the sunrise is always a treat.
Often my stops would be only for filtering water, catching my breath if there was a gnarly climb, or taking off some layers as I began to warm up in the morning.
I found it easier to just eat and walk and pack all my snacks in my hip belts; trekking poles in one hand and a protein bar in the other.
The morning in a nutshell was walk, drink water, eat, and maybe listen to some chill acoustic music (shoutout to Caamp for making the forest miles feel so magical).
I would often take my first sit down break in the later afternoon once I wanted some lunch. I LOVE stopping near a lake for a lunch break so I can filter water and enjoy the beauty and watch all the little butterflies flutter around. This obviously wasn’t always an option, and sometimes this break would be in the middle of a burn scar. You certainly will get all the different terrain and views with thru hiking.
Lunch break is also a great time to dry out any equipment that might have gotten wet at night from rain or tent condensation. I also would take my shoes and socks off at this point to give them a little break! Feet are pretty important out here and it’s important that we take good care of them.
The amount of pictures I take in a day is absolutely absurd… my camera roll is nearly all PCT now. From beautiful views, delicate plants, or shocking amounts of dirt that I find caked on my ankles… there’s always something to try to document. It’s an amazing experience being out here and I don’t ever want to forget those small moments, and taking pictures is a great way to not forget.
In the afternoons I found it was really nice to tune out and listen to an audio book or a podcast. I think it is a great opportunity when hiking alone to do some learning with books or informative podcasts… but it’s also nice to listen to fun fiction books! I would say Backpacker Radio was absolutely my most frequent podcast that I would play- it is funny, entertaining, and some episodes are close to three hours which makes those miles fly by!
Far Out is the incredible app that shows all the trail data. From elevation profiles, to the “red line” of the trail, water sources, designated campsites, and comments- it’s a one stop shop to all the information I could ever need. I try to limit my usage on Far Out because it can be detrimental to my mindset, and towards the end of the trail in particular I tried to use paper maps as much as possible. Relying on an electronic device alone is risky, because lots could happen to it. Checking the app too much creates those thoughts of “How much longer until camp?” or “How much more of this climb is left?” and that is NOT what I want to be focusing on throughout my day even though it is so tempting. I want to ENJOY and not wish away the experience.
As I approach camp at the end of the day I would often find it was pretty late and I was always so ready for relaxation and my warm dinner. When I would do 30-35 mile days I would often hike until 19:00-20:00 at night but when my mileage was less it would be earlier.
I would often try to be as quite as possible if it was late because I started to pass by tents around 17:00 and some hikers fall asleep pretty early. If it’s late I felt that there is an unspoken courtesy to set up off to the side if there’s other tents and to try to not make a ruckus. I find it very interesting the common courtesies that I began to pick up on with the group campsite dynamics.
I would set up my tent, throw all my gear inside, get my warm layers on, and then start boiling water for dinner! I would delete pictures I didn’t need anymore and journal as I cooked and ate my dinner (which 99% of the trail was ramen, idahoan potatoes, or both together making a ramen bomb). Journaling was something I did every day which was often a pretty difficult discipline to do at the end of an exhausting day, but I am thankful I did because I already love looking back at those memories, thoughts, and drawings.
I would then stretch (this happened…sometimes… if I was feeling real ambitious), take my contacts out, brush my teeth, and pass out. I sleep really well out here so falling asleep typically was no problem (thankfully)!
Most of my day is just spent thinking, wondering, contemplating, and (usually) enjoying the scenery around me. These rhythms change and aren’t linear but this post is a pretty solid example of what my normal day looks like as a solo thru hiker!
So there’s a day in the life of a thru hiker on the PCT!!!!
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.