Pacific Crest Trail
|Pacific Crest Trail|
|Length||2,663 mi (4,286 km)|
|Location||California / Oregon / Washington, USA / British Columbia, Canada|
|Designation||National Scenic Trail|
Manning Park, British Columbia
|Elevation change||420,880 ft (128,284 m)|
|Highest point||Forester Pass, 13,153 ft (4,009 m)|
|Lowest point||Cascade Locks, 140 ft (43 m)|
|Trail difficulty||Moderate to Strenuous|
|Months||Late April to Late September|
|Sights||Sierra Nevada (U.S.)
The Pacific Crest Trail (commonly abbreviated as the PCT, and occasionally designated as the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail) is a long-distance hiking and equestrian trail closely aligned with the highest portion of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges, which lie 100 to 150 miles (160 to 240 km) east of the U.S. Pacific coast. The trail's southern terminus is on the U.S. border with Mexico, and its northern terminus on the U.S.–Canada border on the edge of Manning Park in British Columbia, Canada; its corridor through the U.S. is in the states of California, Oregon, and Washington.
The Pacific Crest Trail is 2,663 mi (4,286 km) long and ranges in elevation from just above sea level at the Oregon–Washington border to 13,153 feet (4,009 m) at Forester Pass in the Sierra Nevada. The route passes through 25 national forests and 7 national parks. Its midpoint is in Chester, California (near Mt. Lassen), where the Sierra and Cascade mountain ranges meet.
It was designated a National Scenic Trail in 1968, although it was not officially completed until 1993. The PCT was conceived by Clinton Churchill Clarke in 1932. It received official status under the National Trails System Act of 1968.
The route is mostly through National Forest and protected wilderness. The trail avoids civilization, and covers scenic and pristine mountainous terrain with few roads. It passes through the Laguna, San Jacinto, San Bernardino, San Gabriel, Liebre, Tehachapi, Sierra Nevada, and Klamath ranges in California, and the Cascade Range in California, Oregon, and Washington states.
A parallel route for bicycles, the Pacific Crest Bicycle Trail (PCBT) is a 2,500-mile (4,000 km) route designed closely parallel to the PCT on roads. The PCT and PCBT cross in about 27 places along their routes.
The Pacific Crest Trail was first proposed by Clinton C. Clarke, as a trail running from Mexico to Canada along the crest of the mountains in California, Oregon, and Washington. The original proposal was to link the John Muir Trail, the Tahoe-Yosemite Trail (both in California), the Skyline Trail (in Oregon) and the Cascade Crest Trail (in Washington).
The Pacific Crest Trail System Conference was formed by Clarke to both plan the trail and to lobby the federal government to protect the trail. The conference was founded by Clarke, the Boy Scouts, the YMCA, and Ansel Adams (amongst others). From 1935 through 1938, YMCA groups explored the 2000 miles of potential trail and planned a route, which has been closely followed by the modern PCT route.
In 1968, President Lyndon Johnson defined the PCT and the Appalachian Trail with the National Trails System Act. The PCT was then constructed through cooperation between the federal government and volunteers organized by the Pacific Crest Trail Association. In 1993, the PCT was officially declared finished.
Thru hiking is a term used in referring to hikers who complete long distance trails from end-to-end in a single trip. The Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail, and Continental Divide Trail were the first three long-distance trails in the U.S. Successfully thru-hiking all of these three trails is known as the Triple Crown of Hiking. Thru-hiking is a long commitment, usually taking between four and six months, that requires thorough preparation and dedication. Although the actual number is difficult to calculate, it is estimated that around 180 out of approximately 300 people who attempt a thru-hike complete the entire trail each year. The Pacific Crest Trail Association estimates that it takes most hikers between 6 and 8 months to plan their trip.
The first thing prospective thru hikers have to do before attempting a thru hike is to plan out and sketch out their trip. In general the decision of which route to take needs to be considered. While most hikers travel from the Southern Terminus at the Mexico Border northward to Manning Park, British Columbia, some hikers prefer a southbound route. In a normal weather year, northbound hikes are most practical due to snow and temperature considerations. If snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is high in early June and low in the Northern Cascades, some hikers may choose to 'flip-flop.' Flip-flopping can take many forms but often describes a process whereby a hiker begins at one end (on the PCT, usually the southern end) of the trail and then, at some point, like reaching the Sierra, 'flips' to the end of the trail (Manning Park in B.C.) and hikes southbound to complete the trail. However, it is not currently possible to legally enter the United States from Canada by using the Pacific Crest Trail.
Hikers also have to determine their resupply points. Resupply points are towns or post offices where hikers replenish food and other supplies such as cooking fuel. Hikers can ship packages to themselves at the U.S. Post Offices along the trail, resupply at general and grocery stores along the trail, or any combination of the two. The final major logistical step is to create an approximate schedule for completion. Thru hikers have to make sure they complete enough miles every day to reach the opposite end of the trail before weather conditions make sections impassable. Deep snow pack in the Sierra Nevada can prevent an early start. The timing is a balance between not getting to the Sierra too soon nor the Northern Cascades too late. Most hikers cover about 20 miles (32 km) per day.
In order to reduce their hiking time, and thereby increase their chances of completing the trail, many hikers try to substantially reduce their pack weight. Since the creation of the Pacific Crest Trail there has been a large movement by hikers away from large heavy packs with a lot of gear. There are three general classifications for hikers: Traditional, Lightweight, and Ultralight. Over the past few years the number of traditional hikers has dropped considerably. The Pacific Crest Trail Association cites Ray Jardine’s book Beyond Backpacking as a great resource for hikers during the planning process. Beyond Backpacking is a “how-to” book for ultralight hikers. In this book Jardine explains how to trim every extra ounce from one’s pack weight by doing everything from cutting extra straps off your pack to eating only food that does not have to be cooked.
On October 16, 1970, Eric Ryback completed the first PCT thru-hike. His personal congratulations came by telegram from no less than Edward P. Cliff, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service.  Eric Ryback, an 18-year-old student, is credited, recognized, and has been honored by the Pacific Crest Trail Associated as the official first thru-hiker of the entire trail. Ryback completed the Appalachian Trail in 1969 (as a 16-year-old); the Pacific Crest Trail in 1970; and a route approximating today’s Continental Divide Trail in 1972.  Ryback's 1971 book The High Adventure of Eric Ryback: Canada to Mexico on Foot focused public attention on the PCT. Ryback carried an 80-pound pack on his 1970 thru-hike. He had only five resupply packages on the entire trip, and was loaded with 40 pounds of food at the start of each leg. He often ran out of food and foraged or went hungry. Ryback also helped the Forest Service lay out future plans for the PCT.
Before the PCT was planned, Martin Papendick was the first known person to hike across three states of the PCT in 1952. After being one of the first to finish the Appalachian trail in 1951, Papendick hiked between July 4 and December 1, 1952, from British Columbia to the Mexican border over the crests of the mountains along the Pacific Coast, a feat he reported in a periodical under the title "Pacific Crest Trails".
The first person to hike the PCT from south to north was Richard Watson, who completed the trail on September 1, 1972. Watson was often credited as the first PCT thru-hiker, because Papendick was generally unknown, and Ryback may have accepted rides. The first woman to complete the PCT was Mary Carstens, who finished the journey later in 1972 accompanied by Jeff Smukler.
The first person to thru-hike the entire PCT both ways in a single continuous round-trip was Scott Williamson, who completed the "yo-yo" circuit on his fourth attempt in November 2004. Williamson traveled a total of 5,300 miles (8,530 km) in 197 days, covering an average of 35 to 40 miles (56 to 64 km) per day when not in snow – an overall average of 27 miles (43 km) per day – wearing an extremely ultra-lightweight pack, which "without food, weighed about 8.5 pounds (3.9 kg)". Williamson then went on to complete a second round trip on November 28, 2006, cutting two weeks off his 2004 time.
The youngest person to thru-hike the trail is Sierra Burror, who hiked the trail from April through September 2012 at the age of 9. She completed her hike with her mother, Heather Burror. The youngest boy to thru-hike the trail is not known.
Other notable young hikers include Reed Gjonnes and Mary Chambers. Reed Gjonnes, who hiked the trail in 2011 at age 11, went on to complete the Triple Crown of Hiking, becoming the youngest person ever to do so.  Mary Chambers hiked the route with her parents in 2004 at age 10. A book about their experiences on the trail Zero Days was published in January 2008 by Wilderness Press.
An autobiographical account of a woman hiking a portion of the PCT alone in 1995, at age 26, was written by Cheryl Strayed. Her memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail was published in 2012 and reached #1 on the New York Times Best Sellers list.
The oldest person to thru-hike the trail is not known.
On August 7, 2013, Heather Anish Anderson set a new unsupported speed record completing the entire PCT in 60 days, 17 hours, 12 minutes.
Don and June Mulford made the first verifiable equestrian Thru-Ride of the PCT in 1959. In that year the Pacific Crest Trail stretched a poorly marked 2,400 miles from Mexico to Canada. More concept than footpath, the trail was an oft-broken, high-ridge track disappearing regularly from map and terrain. On April 19, 1959, on an empty scrub sage plain seven miles east of Tijuana, with four horses, Don and June Mulford began their journey north to the Washington/Canadian border. The Mulfords went to Hollywood for three months immediately after the ride and were featured on network television. June's old press book yields a half-dozen TV-Guide pages, and she recalls, "Art Linkletter was such a nice man. We appeared on his 'House Party' show and he had coffee with us afterward." "High Road to Danger," a syndicated TV show, made an episode on their ride. Even after returning home to the Northwest, there was continued TV coverage. A January 1961 TV Guide records their appearance on Portland's KOIN Red Dunning Show. The Mulfords even made a 90-minute movie and showed it around 12 western states for 10 years.
The Murray family – Barry, Bernice, Barry Jr. and Bennette – completed the trek on horseback on October 7, 1970.
The following notable locations are found along or adjacent to the route of the Pacific Crest Trail. They are listed from south to north to correspond with the itinerary typically followed by thru-hikers to take advantage of the best seasonal weather conditions. The numbers in parentheses correspond to the numbers on the PCT overview map above.
- Campo, California, near the trail's southern terminus at the Mexico – United States border
- Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (41)
- Cleveland National Forest (40)
- Mount San Jacinto State Park
- Big Bear Lake
- Cajon Pass
- Angeles National Forest (35)
- Vasquez Rocks
- Agua Dulce, California
- Walker Pass
- Owens Peak Wilderness (34)
- South Sierra Wilderness (34)
- Golden Trout Wilderness (34)
- Kings Canyon National Park (33)
- Forester Pass, highest point on the trail
- John Muir Wilderness (31)
- Ansel Adams Wilderness (30)
- Yosemite National Park (29)
- Sonora Pass, Ebbetts Pass, Carson Pass
- Desolation Wilderness
- Lassen National Forest (22)
- McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park (21)
- Shasta-Trinity National Forest (19)
- Klamath Mountains
- Cascade–Siskiyou National Monument (17)
- Rogue River National Forest (16) and Winema National Forest (14)
- Crater Lake National Park (15)
- Umpqua National Forest (13)
- Willamette National Forest (11) and Deschutes National Forest (12)
- Mount Hood National Forest (9)
- Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area (8)
- Gifford Pinchot National Forest (7)
- Mount Rainier National Park (6)
- Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (5)
- Snoqualmie Pass
- Stevens Pass
- Lake Chelan National Recreation Area
- North Cascades National Park (2)
- Okanogan National Forest (3)
- Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail
- Boundary Monument 78, at the Canada – United States border
British Columbia, Canada
- E.C. Manning Provincial Park, the northern terminus of the trail (1)
(links to map & photo sources)
|United States – Mexico border|
|Forester Pass||highest point|
|Oregon – California border|
|Columbia River||lowest point|
|Canada – United States border|
- Go, Benedict; Pacific Crest Trail Association (2005). Pacific Crest Trail Data Book. Wilderness Press. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-89997-369-2.
- Parks, Scott (2011-04-06). "Postholer.com Pacific Crest Trail Data Book". Retrieved 2011-04-18.
- "Pacific Crest Trail – Central California Online Map and Guide". USFS. 2005-04-26. Archived from the original on 2006-05-25. Retrieved 2006-09-23.
- "Forester Pass". Geographic Names Information System, U.S. Geological Survey.
- Sources disagree on Forester Pass's elevation. The Forest Service claims 13,180 feet (4,017 m) while the USGS says 13,153 feet (4,009 m), but topographic maps showing indicate a little less than 13,123 feet (4,000 m).
- "Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail". USFS. Archived from the original on 2010-01-16.
- "Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail." Parks Directory of the United States. 2004 ed.
- "Pacific Crest Trail midpoint". Wikimapia.
- "History of the Pacific Crest Trail". Archived from the original on 2010-01-22. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
- Berger, Karen (2001). Hiking the Triple Crown: How to Hike America's Longest Trails : Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail. Seattle: Mountaineers Press. ISBN 0-89886-760-6.
- "FAQs". Pacific Crest Trail Association. Retrieved 2006-12-19.
- Wilson, Kimberly (2010-07-02). "Mind the border: Feds warn Pacific Crest Trail hikers crossing from Canada to U.S.". The Oregonian.
- "Pacific Crest Trail Resupply Points". PlanYourHike.com. Retrieved 2010-03-01.
- Jardine, Ray (2000). Beyond Backpacking: Ray Jardine's Guide to Lightweight Hiking. LaPine, OR: AventureLore. ISBN 0-9632359-3-1.
- "Fun Facts". Pacific Crest Trail Association.
- "Muir Trail Story".
- Schifrin, Ben; Schaffer, Jeffrey P; Jenkins, Ruby Johnson (2003). The Pacific Crest Trail: Southern California. Wilderness Press. p. 5. ISBN 0-89997-316-7.
- Papendick, Martin. "Pacific Crest Trails". Appalachia (Appalachian Mountain Club, 1953). XXVIII: 374–376.
- "Hiker Completes First Round-Trip of Pacific Crest Trail". Outside Magazine. November 18, 2004. Archived from the original on 2004-12-04. Retrieved 2009-09-14.
- "A solo accomplishment is appreciated by many". San Diego Union-Tribune. 2006-12-02. Retrieved 2006-12-02.
- Nine-Year-Old Monkey Completes the PCT An Interview with Monkey Burror, Heather (March 29 & 30, 2014) "Adventures on the Pacific Crest Trail" Inyo Register p. 15. See also Heather and Sierra's PCT Thru Hike Journal
- Ore. girl, 13, youngest to claim hiking Triple Crown
- Zero Days. Wilderness Press. ISBN 0-89997-438-4.
- Taylor, Ihsan. "Best Sellers - The New York Times". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 2012-03-06.
- "Interview with John Craig". RadioNZ. In this interview, John was stated as being the oldest person to walk the trail but this was as a result of miscommunication. In 2010, White Beard walked the trail at 70 but he may not be the oldest.
- "Pacific Crest Trail (CA, OR, WA)". Fastest Known Time.
- "PCT speed record is shattered twice". Pacific Crest Trail Association.
- "Vegan Hiker Sets New Record On Pacific Crest Trail". Oregon Public Broadcasting.
- "Man, woman set records on Pacific Crest Trail". Seattle Times.
- Meadows, Mel (1959-09-06). Seattle Post Intelligencer.
- Mann, Barney (2009-09-25). Portland Oregonian.
- Mann, Barney (December 2009). PCTA Communicator.
- Life Magazine, September 3, 1971
- "40 Mile Loop map" (PDF). 40-Mile Loop Land Trust. Retrieved 2008-07-10.
- "Cazadero Trail". Metro (Oregon). Retrieved August 16, 2013.
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Pacific Crest Trail.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Pacific Crest Trail.|
- Pacific Crest Trail Association – Non-profit that maintains and promotes the trail, and provides advice to hikers
- Postholer.Com – An extensive source of PCT information, journals, Google trail maps, printed maps, data book and more.
- PlanYourHike.Com – A website dedicated to helping hikers plan their Pacific Crest Trail thru hikes.
- Trailjournals.com – PCT Photos & 1,000+ Pacific Crest Trail Journals
- Pacific Crest Trail: A Ride to Remember Documentary produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting
- Islands In The Sky: Tales From The Pacific Crest Trail – KCET Covers the PCT
- BLM, Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail – BLM's Summary of the PCT