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resources for parents/loved ones of a PCT thru-hiker

Updated: Jan 4, 2019

So, someone you know and love has decided to embark on the adventure of a lifetime - hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

After I told my parents about my desire to hike the trail, they peppered me with the common questions thru-hikers get - most of which I've answered here. But as I got closer to applying for my thru-hiking permit, I realized they wanted and needed more information about logistics.

So, I compiled this list of articles and videos to cover topics like hiker lingo, resupply strategy, maps/navigation, having a safety plan, and more. Because often times, learning about something unknown can make it less scary.

Most of these resources are from past thru-hikers and the Pacific Crest Trail Association - I've found them to be the best source of helpful info about this.

Read/skim/watch as much as you want. 

First, here's a little glossary of "Hiker Terms" and lingo

in case you run across weird acronyms or terms you don't know, this covers most of it

Trail/Terrain Overview


watch this 3 min. video to see the amazing views

Halfmile Maps /Navigation

Free downloadable maps of the PCT (the overview ones should be perfect for you to get an idea, and they also indicate nearby towns)

I plan to print the detailed Halfmile paper maps for the Sierra section, but mostly I'll be using the Guthooks & Halfmile PCT Apps on my phone, with my GPS Inreach messenger as a backup.

Ask your hiker what they plan to use for navigation.

Basics of Resupply along the PCT

There are several different resupply methods - some hikers mail all their stuff in boxes, some just resupply in towns along the trail, and most do a hybrid of both.

Resupply Addresses/Town Info

If your hiker has asked you to send a box, here's some lists of resupply addresses for you to have on hand. Always double check the addresses and hours for accuracy, as these may change

Plan Your Hike As The Crow Flies Town Guide - This one is really detailed but a bit messier - looks like it's updated frequently for accuracy.

Halfway Anywhere PCT resources

This is a blog by a thru-hiker who started surveying other hikers for data on their gear, resupply stops, pack base weight. His other articles about the experience were super helpful too.

*heads up that he sometimes uses colorful language, if you're bothered by that. I'd still consider his content a must-read, and his writing style is pretty dang hilarious too.

All the nerdy stats you want, including demographic breakdown, number of town stops, most popular gear on the trail, pack weight, most popular towns to mail a box to, and number of days on trail.

Safety Info

Creating a Plan (in case of emergency) 

Deaths on the PCT (a rare occurrence)

This video explains reasons why I'm not carrying a gun on the trail (video)

About the Permit Process

Hikers who are thru-hiking the whole trail need a long distance hiking permit. 50 permits are available per day for hikers wanting to start at the Mexican border. The permit is free, but with the recent popularity of the trail, it's getting more competitive. The application for the first 35 daily permits becomes available sometime in November prior to thru-hike season. PCTA Permits

PCT Documentaries/Vlogs

Do More With Less (1hr 26min) - the trail as told by hikers  

Homemade Wanderlust (YouTube Channel)

Dixie filmed her entire hike in short 10-20 min episode videos. Here's an episode where she talks a bit about food and you can get a feel for the start of the trail.

She also compiled her vlogs into a documentary of her hike. It's a full length movie (1hr 56min) but it's encouraging to see her experience as a single woman hiking solo.

Another good doc that's a little shorter

Away With Ingrid (Youtube Channel)

Her videos got me started on this crazy journey... pretty sure I watched most of them in one night. She hiked in 2014 so some of the info/gear she used is a little out of date. Her videos break down the logistics into a quick crash course on how someone (especially a solo female) hikes the PCT.

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