Trail Angels- Making Magic and Our Dreams a Reality

Hikers: Do you need a ride from a road intersection to the nearest grocery store? Perhaps you’re freshly clean and need to get back to the trailhead? Is it a hot day, and you’d do anything for a cold drink or some yummy snacks in the shade? Are you out of water, hoping someone has stowed a cache of water jugs? Or, is it just time for a rest and you’re hoping someone will take you in, offer a shower, a meal, and use of a laundry machine in exchange for a few great trail tales. 

Just call an Angel.

A Trail Angel.

There’s hundreds of them, like an army of do-gooders all along the trail doing whatever they can to help your thru-hike be the very best it can be! 


Before starting on the PCT, I had read about this phenomena of kindness but I didn’t really have the capacity to understand the extent of the Trail Angel’s network. In reality, each trailside town has dedicated Facebook groups and chats to organize shuttle services, water drops and Trail Magic at especially difficult places along the trail. 

Trail Magic is the best. 

I came to a crossroad and some wonderful man was sitting in the back of a pickup next to a cooler filled with icy Gatorade, sodas and beer. He also had twinkies and Little Debbie Snack Cakes. His name was Magic Man. He’s retired and he spends his entire summer pulling his trailer to different campsites along the PCT just so he can provide a little magic to those of us out here living our dream. He wears a worn purple sweatshirt stating “Making Magic Happen”, and he has stickers that he passes out to decorate our hiking poles. It’s his way to add a little incentive; if I keep trekking, I’ll get another sticker. 

Another day I was soaking up the shade in a picnic area and a man in a Sprinter van drove up to fill my water bottles and hand out some cold sodas. He’s a local and he explained that he was going to start the trail the following week. He wanted to do a little paying it forward. He left, to go find more hikers, and not ten minutes later a woman drove up and started unloading tables, chairs, platters of food and a bunch of yoga mats and stretching apparatuses. Her name is Annette and she is from San Diego and she drives to this park two days each summer to feed the hungry hikers. She had cold drinks but she also had sandwiches, chips, cookies and platters of fresh fruit and vegetables. I stayed a while. A long while. After such a carb and protein rich diet, fruit and vegetables are the real magic! 

One time, I came to a crossroads and needed to get to town where I had made a reservation at a bunkhouse. Suddenly Mini arrived in front of me, in her Mini Cooper of course. She drives up from San Diego every weekend just to shuttle hikers from this crossroad into the nearby town. Back and forth, all day long. Incredible commitment and generosity.

Many of these Angels give willingly for free, but it’s good trail etiquette to ask if they accept donations. Some request a fee for long transfers or overnight stays. Others are appreciative of our insistence and accept a small amount towards their gas or grocery costs. Many ask that we make a donation to the groups putting out big money to supply water bottles at the desert cashes. A lot of Angels just ask that we pay kindness forward, somewhere else down the trail of life. 

These Angels weren’t Angels at all, until they gave a ride to Lisa and I and we explained how appreciative we were to have their help. They had never “Angeled” before but only stopped because we were two women standing along the highway. After learning about this cultural phenomenon, they vowed to start picking up and helping out more hikers in the future!

Sometimes, Angels don’t just spontaneously appear in front of us. Some leave their phone number on Facebook pages. Local businesses often post lists in their front windows with numbers to call for various needs. Other Angels may staple a note to a fence post or road intersection in case of an emergency. They’re always on the lookout and they talk among themselves so they know who might need some help down the trail. They may even contact the hikers. This is how I met Laura and her husband Matt.

Laura and Matt dedicate much of their springtime helping out solo female hikers such as myself, Martina and Double Take

Laura, being a self-professed Mother Hen, scours the FB posts (and the streets of Idyllwild) to find single women hikers to support. Soon after I started my hike, she reached out to me to offer her home for a rest. I thought for a while about this, hesitant of a scam. But then I rationalized that I travel around the world to meet and integrate with locals of different cultures, why shouldn’t I be doing that in my own country? Yes, the PCT is an incredible endurance challenge through the wildernesses of the Pacific Coast, but to miss the towns and the culture of the people who make up these places along the route would be a missed opportunity along this journey.

So, I responded with a yes, and her loving embrace was exactly what I needed when I arrived to Idyllwild the first time for a rest, and then again when I had to return with my injury. She and Matt went above and beyond allowing me to stay in their home for over a week while I recovered. I am so grateful for their kindness and their positive energy.

Laura, Matt and Morgan, the mobile PCT Physical Therapist taking good care of me in Idyllwild


The town of Julian keeps a shuttle list- just put your name on it and a group of drivers relay hikers back and forth from town to trailhead each hour. My friend Rick and I caught a ride with the “Professor”.

Sometimes someone announces on our hiking GPS app that they are providing “Trail Magic” at this particular mile mark on this particular day. Of course, we all try to get there. One day, the organizers of a 50k trail race were using the PCT as their course.

So the reward for having to step aside frequently for the runners, the hikers also got well-fed at the aid station. That was some great Trail Magic and a very fun day with my Canadian hiking friends, Bounce and Chipper. 

Every time I meet a Trail Angel I ask them “Why?”. They all say the same thing. They love the energy along the trail, the interesting people, the youthful spirit, and the crazy stories. Some have hiked a lot before, some can’t even imagine a journey like this. But they all love living vicariously through us, and feeling a little bit responsible for helping us achieve our dream. 

Steve, trail name Hamburger Helper, drives quite a distance and then hikes in about three miles every week to Eagle Rock, just to give candy and cold drinks to the hikers. I arrived just as he handed out the last of his stash, but he and I spent a lovely afternoon walking into Warner Springs together. Now he’s virtually following and cheering me down the trail!


Mark and Denise have recently jumped on the bandwagon to be Trail Angels in Idyllwild. I stayed with them for about five days while recovering from my injury and in this time they hosted four other international hikers as well. We drank a lot of their wine and thoroughly enjoyed their beautiful home and hospitality!

After a few more days, my ankle still needed some time to heal so their friend Sheenie jumped in and offered me accommodations for the rest of the week.

Again and again on this journey, I’m reminded how metaphorical the PCT is to life. I’m so grateful to all of these Trail Angels who helped me heal and get back on my journey! On the trail and off, there’s so much goodness in the world! 

Affiliate Disclosure

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.

Comments 2

  • Professor Jellybean : May 25th

    Becky, thanks for this wonderful post highlighting the work of so many Trail Angels. The smiles in the photos are infectious! Joy is found in serving others! 🙂

  • William Farrell : May 26th

    Trail Angels are awesome.
    I have both been and benefitted from its cadre. Apples at Mile 276. Espresso at Sonora Pass. Doughnuts at cascade Locks. Hot shower and dry porch at Trout Lake. Not to mention multiple rides from trailhead into town.


What Do You Think?