What is the Pacific Crest Trail

pct mapThe PCT is one of three major long-distance hiking trails in America, along with the Appalachian Trail (from Georgia to Maine along the Appalachian Mountains) and the Continental Divide Trail (from New Mexico to Montana through the Rocky Mountains).  In addition to these three great walks, many often hike shorter famous paths such as the John Muir Trail, Colorado Trail, and Long Trail Trail in several weeks-months.

All of these trails are unique, but the PCT is a class entirely unto itself. It stretches from the US-Mexico border in Campo, California, to Manning Park, British Columbia just beyond the US-Canada border. The trail is approximately 2,650 miles from the desert south of San Diego through the San Jacinto, Sierra Nevada, and Klamath Mountain ranges in California before heading into the volcanic Cascades of Oregon and Washington. 

The PCT climbs nearly 60 major mountain passes, reaching its highest point at Forester Pass (13,153 ft.) while many thru-hikers take the side trail up to Mt. Whitney (14,505 ft.).The trail also descends into 19 major canyons, passes more than 1,000  lakes, traverses 3 national monuments, 7 national parks, 24 national forests and 33 federally mandated wildernesses.

The PCT avoids nearly all roads and cities, traversing predominately wilderness areas. The trail passes through a variety of ecosystems including desert, old-growth forest,  alpine tundra, grassland, and rainforest. Thru-hikers must complete long sections in the desert, ford deep dangerous rivers, and traverse steep snow fields. Also, due to snowfall in the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges, thru-hiking is only possible within a five and a half month time window, requiring a pace of roughly twenty-twenty five miles per day.

For more information on the Pacific Crest Trail, visit the PCTA.

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