The Pacific Crest Trail is one of three long-distance hiking trails comprising what is known as the “Triple Crown”. Having completed the Appalachian Trail already, that left the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail on our bucket list. The natural progression for most hikers is to start with the Appalachian Trail as a sort of introduction to thru-hiking. Once completing that, and assuming that you actually enjoy tormenting your body for months on end, the next step is the Pacific Crest Trail.
The PCT is also pretty well established but a little less known than the AT. While somewhere around 2,000 people attempt an AT thru-hike on any given year, perhaps 300 will attempt one on the PCT. This is expected to be a record number year so the number could be much higher.
The final installment of the trio is the Continental Divide Trail. This trail is rugged and requires more trailblazing than the first two trails. By the time you hike the CDT, most hikers have plenty of experience in the backcountry.
It also helps if they can outrun bears. Or at least the person that they’re hiking with.
The PCT is designated for use by both hikers and equestrians (wait… why are we WALKING this again?!). To accommodate use on horseback, it is said that the grade of the trail is much more gradual than what is found on the Appalachian Trail. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy but hikers can generally complete more miles per day than on the AT.
While hiking the PCT, we will hike approximately 2,650 miles and pass through California, Oregon and Washington. California is by far the longest section ringing in around 1,700 miles. Starting near Campo in Southern California, the trail will be dry and hot. Primarily desert, we (Rob) will have to carry a lot of water and soak up any shade that we can. Lucky for me, I was born with hair for an umbrella.
Most hikers will hike early in the morning, take a siesta during the hottest part of the day, and then hike into the evening. When we arrive in Central California, we will climb into the High Sierra’s and hit Mount Whitney as well as Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. These are considered by many as some of the most scenic and rugged sections of the trail.
Northern California will be much more lush and green that previous sections of the trail (aka the medical marijuana business is booming here… hopefully we don’t take a wrong turn into the wrong person’s backyard). We’ll also get to hike through Lassen Volcanic National Park and enter the Southern Cascades.
While hiking the 450+ miles through Oregon, we will traverse over evidence of Oregon’s volcanic history, visit Crater Lake and drop into the Columbia River Gorge. Oregon is said to be some of the easiest hiking on the trail.
Washington will be our final state on this journey. While hiking the 500 or so miles through this state, we should experience a lot of rain and will hike through the Northern Cascades. Our goal is to reach this point by the middle of September and hopefully beat out the big snowfall.
For a better map, visit Half Mile’s PCT Overview maps here.
After completing the Appalachian Trail, we felt more lost than anything else. Blame it on the post-trail depression that notoriously affects thru-hikers or on the harsh Michigan winters, but we had many ambitions and ideas that were difficult to find again. On the PCT, we are hoping to rekindle that clarity, direction and drive. With a broken compass, we are hoping that getting lost will point us in the right direction.
Assuming we don’t get eaten first…