The PCT in a nutshell
The objective here is to present you with the key information that defines the Pacific Crest Trail. You can see this page as a fact sheet, a way for people who are not familiar at all with the trail to get the outlines of this thru-hike at a glance. Of course the information provided here remains very superficial, and you’ll need to browse the rest of this website (as well as other resources!) tout really know what the PCT is all about…
- Conceived in 1932 and officially designated a National Scenic Trail in 1968, the PCT crosses the United States on a north-south axis, passing through California, Oregon and the State of Washington.
- Southern Terminus is in California, right at the Mexican border. Northern Terminus is in Washington, right at the Canadian border.
- 2.652 miles (4.270 km)
- Total elevation gain ranges from 420.000 ft (128 km) to 490.000 ft (149 km) depending on sources. 420.000 ft (Wikipedia) would translate into 158 ft/mile (30 m/km) smoothed over the whole trail’s distance.
By way of comparison:
- GR20 (Corsica) : 320 ft/mile (61 m/km)
- GR10 (Transpyrenees) : 280 ft/mile (53 m/km)
- Camino Frances: 74 ft/mile (14 m/km)
This makes the PCT a relatively easy trail to hike, at least in theory. 158 ft/mile is an average figure, and the different sections will have, in reality, very different elevation profiles: Oregon is virtually flat for a straight 400 miles, while the High Sierra and the Cascade Mountains in Washington are pure Alpine sections with very steep daily elevation gains and losses. Nevertheless, one finds out that it IS actually quite easy, as the roller-coaster of the High Sierra is reached after more than 700 miles, and by then the body is well trained.
- For seasonality reasons, the vast majority (90%) of aspiring thru-hikers walk northbound (or NOBO), that is from South to North.
- 5.000 thru-hiking permits were delivered in 2018, to hikers originating from all 50 American States and from 52 foreign countries:
- 4.500 northbound (NOBO)
- 500 southbound (SOBO)
- 6 for horses
- 4.500 northbound (NOBO)
- Highest point (excluding Mount Whitney, which is not offcially on the PCT, and which ascent is optional): Forester Pass, at 13.200 ft (4.009 m)
- 4 to 6 months of daily hiking depending on individual pace. A normal hiker will typically complete the thru-hike in just below 5 months.
- Once you have reached your cruising pace, you can expect to hike an average of 17-18 miles per day if you’re a normal hiker. The Sierra would be 14-16 miles a day. Oregon is an effortless 26-28 miles a day, and it can be (much) more if you’re a fast hiker.
- The typical food carry is 3-4 days. Exceptionally there are 1-day food carries, and the High Sierra can be done in one single leg of 12 days, which would be the longest carry (but that’s optional, there are ways to exit the Sierra).
- Sleeping is autonomous. Mountain refuges as can be found in the Alps or B&B’s as can be found on the Camino for example do not exist on the PCT (except when sleeping at Trail Angels‘).
- Budget from Europe is approximately 8.500€ including all the necessary gear, and depends on lodging choices when in town.