13 Very Important Facts About the Pacific Crest Trail
A refreshed and refurbished version of this article can be found here:
As a prospective PCT thru hiker, I have spent a lot of time doing research on the trail. Here is a compilation of the most very basic facts of the PCT!
1. Length of Trail:
2,650 miles is the official length the Pacific Crest Trail Association has assigned. The exact length changes every year but 2,650 is in the general ball park.
2. States Traversed:
California, Oregon, Washington
3. Starting Location:
US/Mexico Border, Campo, CA
4. Ending Location:
US/Canada Border, Monument 78
5. Length of Time Hiking:
4.5 to 5.5 months is the usual length of a PCT thru hike though it can vary greatly. Most hikers hike anywhere from 20 to 30 miles a day in order to be able to complete their hike before winter weather sets in.
6. When To Start:
Starting in late April or early May set you up to walk into the High Sierra as the snows are melting and to make it out before they return. If you stay on track, you can also reach Canada before the worst of the winter weather sets in. The Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off is a great time to start of PCT thru hike. (Update: 2015 was the last year of the PCT Kick Off)
The PCT traverses a large array of terrain and hikers have to be prepared for all manner of situations. Hikers being at the Mexico boarder in the Mojave Desert and then travel into the High Sierras, traversing many mountain passes. This gives way to the lower elevations of Northern California and into the lush temperate rain forests for the Pacific Northwest.
8. Maps/Guide Books:
$3,000 will get you through a penny pinched thru hike of the PCT but the more money you have from there the easier it will be. If you are a fan of large meals and warm beds, tack on a few more thousand to that. If you have bills to pay while hiking or need a reserve left over for after your hike, once again, tack on a few more thousand.
10. Permit Needed:
A long distance hiking permit is needed for the PCT but it is free. Look here for more info.
11. Bear Canister:
Bear canisters are required from Kennedy Meadows through Yosemite National Park. Bear Vault is the most common brand used by PCT thru hikers. Click here for more info on where you must carry a bear canister.
This is totally optional, but when snow is not present, most experienced backpackers have no trouble.
13. Snow Gear:
Heavy duty snow gear like crampons and ice axes are sometimes needed while hiking the PCT. Whether or not you will need them depends on the snow pack the year that you hike. Click here to keep up with PCT snow trends.
A very in depth PCT FAQ can be found here:
And check out our new PCT book, Pacific Crest Trials!
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