If you love nature, consider yourself an adrenalin junkie and your idea of a dream holiday is more action-based (a lot more action-based) than sipping Mai Tais on a beach, then taking five months to traverse the insanely beautiful – not to mention insanely daunting – task of the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail will be your adventure of a lifetime.
If you decide to embark on this unforgettable trip, it’s safe to say you’ll be the most interesting person in the room for years to come. You’ll experience hardship, isolation and complete and total immersion in one of the finest landscapes that the world has to offer. It’s an experience that’s available to an elite and dedicated few and we’re going to show you how to get the most of this incredible journey.
What Can’t You Miss? You’ll be crossing through three countries – from the Mexican border through California, Oregon and Washington and into the Canadian frontier – so you’ll see more than you can possibly imagine. It’s hard to have a definitive list of what you can’t miss, because it’s all pretty much unforgettable, but here are a few of the best of the best sights along the Pacific Crest. We’ve organized the stops in order from south to north (the traditional path taken).
Get Prepared in Campo California It is the southern starting point for the Pacific Crest Trail and it’s where the majority of hikers start their journey. Campo is an incredibly tiny place and is famous for its Railway Museum, which is worth going to even if just for the irony – you’ll be taking the next 2,700 miles on foot. Grab a hearty meal here, as it’ll be the last time you sit at a table for a long time.
Take It All In on Forester Pass If you’re a thru-hiker planning on taking on the whole trail then this will be the highest point on your journey. It’s a stunning mountain pass that puts you nearly 14,000 ft above the Kern River that flows below. On a clear day (and around here most days are clear days) you’ll be able to see for hundreds of miles and maybe take a moment to ponder Jack Kerouac’s closing passage of On the Road as you admire the “unbelievable bulge over to the west coast” while “dreaming in the immensity of it.” It’s a place to reflect and contemplate life.
Walk in the Footsteps of John Muir If you’re considering taking on the PCT challenge it’s safe to assume you know who John Muir is but just in case you’re not, he’s best known as “The Father of National Parks”. Not just American parks but beautiful natural sites worldwide owe a great deal to Muir, who fell in love with California’s wilderness and convinced Theodore Roosevelt to create the first National Park. On your journey you’ll get to walk in this great man’s footsteps, through the John Muir wilderness, marveling at the beauty that he fought so hard to preserve.
Say Goodbye to California as You Walk Through Castle Crags Wilderness As you leave the Golden State make sure to take in the majestic Castle Crags and the iconic Castle Dome. The area is best known for the tensions between the Gold Rush miners and indigenous native Indians who fought in the 1855 Battle of Castle Crags. The area is rich in both Native American history and natural beauty.
Get Ready to Go Rogue River in the Siskiyou National Forest The trek along the Rogue River through the Siskiyou National Forest is a stunning welcome to Oregon. The beautiful stretch of land is a great place to take a dip and, if you have allotted the time on your trip for some R&R, take in some of the amazing local surroundings Oregon has to offer.
Make the Acquaintance of Three Sisters These are the kind of sisters Cinderella would have dreaded. The North, Middle & South sisters are three stunning dormant volcanoes that are surrounded by cut glacier plains and lava trails. Make sure to swing by the Proxy Falls and the Collier Glacier, which is the biggest glacier in Oregon.
Walk in the Footsteps of Gods There is so much more to do and see in Oregon, but the trail is long and our word count is short, so this is one of the best boxes to tick as you prepare to head into Washington. The Bridge of Gods crosses the Columbia River and separates Oregon from Washington. It’s a stunning piece of man-made engineering, something that will be a rarity on your trip, and is aptly named for its majesty and rich Native American mythology. This is the lowest elevation at which you’ll be on the trail.
Meet Mount Adams Head On Despite the fact that this majestic volcano has not erupted in over 1000 years, it is not considered extinct; remember this as you walk along its western flank. Mount Adams have an amazing amount of Native American legends regarding it and we’d highly recommend reading about them as you prepare for your journey. God knows you’ll need something new to talk about with your hiking companions.
Say Bye to the USA in Okanogan National Forest You’re almost there as by this point you’ve already trudged over 2000 miles and the Okanogan National Forest is a stunning reminder of why you embarked on this journey in the first place. Located at the tip of the United States, this National Forest is a beautiful head of hair resting atop the country. Make sure to take a breather at the top of Maple Pass and contemplate just how far you’ve come.
This is the End, Beautiful Friend – E.C. Manning Provincial Park You’ve made it, from the top of Mexico all the way to Canada. This is the finale of your epic journey and it’s a fittingly picturesque place for it all to finish. Surrounded by rushing rivers and flat (finally flat!) land, it’s the end of a once-in-a-lifetime journey and the perfect place to have that well-deserved beer.
Where You’ll Stay?
There are a few hotels that you can stay in along the trail but the majority of your journey will take you deep into the wilderness. This hike isn’t for the disorganized and you’ll need to book everything in advance; sure, there are some places where you can just pitch a tent but the majority of the places you visit will have regulations. You’ll also have to contact the regulators of individual states for camping permits. You can find out everything you need to know about camping here. Make sure to check out Trail Angels; this is a group of people that can support you on your journey, from providing a place to sleep to emergency supplies.
What about Food?
You won’t have a lot of opportunities to stop by a fast food joint as you take on the PCR so after your first few weeks on the road, food will start to occupy the majority of your daily thoughts. You’ll need to be incredibly well organized with your food supply. First and foremost remember that you’ll be eating more than usual as hiking is extremely strenuous work. This means you’ll need to be eating between 3,000–6,000 calories a day! The food to bring needs to be lightweight to ensure that you can bring as much as possible. Here’s a great list of some of the best foods to bring.
There are places where you can store food and also order it in advance to be picked up at a given checkpoint; some of the best are.
Amazon Prime Pantry
Sonora Pass Resupply
Zero Day Resupply
Tips & Culture
Plan This is critical. You’ll need to plan every step of your journey in advance and most thru-hikers spend around six months planning their trip.
Budget An average thru-hike costs between $4000 – $8000
When to start If you’re starting in the south, you should leave between May 1st – 15th and aim to arrive in Canada before October.
Make sure you have your permits You’ll need to apply for these in advance and they’ll save you a lot of hassle on your journey. Make sure you’re permit-prepared.
Pack – The PCR Association has put together some handy guides on how to prepare and what to pack on your journey.
Take a moment to volunteer In the spirit of John Muir, this might be the time to think about what you can give back to the world. This stunning piece of natural wonderment is maintained by a small workforce and a lot of volunteers. If you’re planning on tackling the whole trail, why not volunteer and add a little altruism to your epic journey. It’ll help maintain the stunning hike for generations to come.
What’s the Must See Moment?
Literally every single second of the journey, from start to finish. It may seem like an impossible journey and a distant dream but if you want to take on the epic adventure of the Pacific Crest Trail, make sure to add it to your BUCKiTLIST and share it with your friends. You’ll also find other inspirational hikes that users have gone on and tips on how to make sure that this feat is worth every second.