the pacific crest trail

2,650 miles of beauty from Mexico to Canada

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Passing through California, Oregon, and Washington, the PCT follows the mountain ranges of the west through some of the most beautiful scenery that America has to offer.

quick facts

SOUTHERN TERMINUS

  • Most thru-hikers travel northbound from Mexico to Canada, hiking for 5-6 months to complete the trail

  • Southern Terminus: Campo, CA (at the Mexican border)

  • Northern Terminus: Manning Provincial Park, British Columbia

  • Highest Point: Forester Pass, 13,153 ft (4,009 m)

  • Lowest Point: Cascade Locks, 140 ft (43 m)

  • Elevation Change: 420,880 ft (128,284 m)

  • Crosses 26 National Forests, 7 National Parks, 5 State Parks and 4 National Monuments

NORTHERN TERMINUS

SOUTHERN TERMINUS

the desert

Typically referred to as "the desert section," the section of trail in SoCal travels through both desert mountains and basins. These include Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the San Jacinto Mountains, the San Bernardino and San Gabriel Ranges, the Mojave Desert, and the Tehachapi Mountains. Reaching Kennedy Meadows is a huge milestone for thru-hikers, signifying the end of the desert and the entrance to the epic Sierra.

Major landmarks:

Mt. San Jacinto, Mt. Baden-Powell

 

Challenges of this section:

carrying enough water between sections, keeping cool during the day, sun exposure

the sierra nevada

The Sierra Nevada Range is perhaps the most highly anticipated - and feared - portions of the PCT. This famous section of trail passes by the base of Mt. Whitney, and most hikers choose to take the 8 mile side trail to summit the highest mountain in the contiguous US. Passing through Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite National Parks, the trail traverses several remote and breathtaking mountain passes. This section is a wonderland of meadows, streams, and alpine lakes.

Major landmarks:

Mt. Whitney, Forester Pass (13,153 ft.)

Challenges of this section:

snow travel/snow melt, river crossings, post-holing in the snow, significant elevation change

northern california

As the mountains give way to forests, most hikers are able to significantly up their daily mileage when reaching Northern California, a.k.a. NorCal. For some hikers, this section can be mentally challenging - the honeymoon phase of the hike is over, and the adrenaline of the Sierra Nevada is gone. Will you continue to carry on? This section also goes through the dry Hat Creek Rim, and passes through Castle Crags State Park and the Trinity Alps Wilderness.

Major landmarks:

Mt. Lassen, Mt. Shasta, Midpoint of the P.C.T., Oregon State Line!

Challenges of this section:

the mental game, motivation, wildfires may require detours depending on the year/timing

oregon

Finally crossing into a new state brings new energy, and the flatter and easier terrain of this section of trail can be a boost. A trail alternate passes right by the rim of beautiful Crater Lake. The trail turns to lava rock as it passes by many of Oregon's treasured peaks. Finally the trail drops significantly down into the Columbia River Gorge, and the Bridge of the Gods is the gateway to the final state: Washington.

Major landmarks:

Crater Lake, Three Sisters, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Hood

Challenges of this section:

mosquitos, motivation, wildfires may require detours depending on the year/timing

washington

Ascending from the gorge, incredible stretches of trail pass Mt. Adams and lead to the Goat Rocks Wilderness, where you can walk the "Knife's Edge" (pictured). Surrounded by the lush alpine beauty of the Cascades in autumn, some other highlights include Mt. Rainier, Lake Chelan, and the Glacier Peak Wilderness. But the beauty can also be brutal, as the cold moves in. Canada awaits. Upon arrival at the border, and 8-mile trail leads to Manning Park, BC. Now to figure out what to do next... 

Major landmarks:

Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, Goat Rocks Wilderness, Glacier Peak Wilderness, North Cascades National Park

Challenges of this section:

cold and rain, reaching Canada before the snow comes, mentally processing that the end of the hike is coming

Huge thanks to Karen Wang, who took these incredible PCT photos. Northern Terminus photo by Michael Anger. Check out their stuff!

Learn more about the trail and the people who protect it at pcta.org

©2020 stephanie seitz

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