From Wikipedia: 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 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 miles long and ranges in elevation from just above sea level at the Oregon-Washington border to 13,153 feet 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 C. Clarke in 1932. It received official status under the National Trails System Act of 1968.

The Route

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 miles 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.

Notable hikers

Before the PCT was planned, Martin Papendick was the first known person to hike across the 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”. Predating the trail by several decades, Papendick necessarily walked a different route than the current PCT, but the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) acknowledges him as the first thru-hiker.

In 1971, Eric Ryback, an 18-year-old student, was popularly credited as the first thru-hiker on the trail. 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.

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 in 197 days, covering an average of 35 to 40 miles per day when not in snow – an overall average of 27 miles per day – wearing an extremely ultra-lightweight pack, which without food, weighed about 8.5 pounds. Williamson then went on to complete a second round trip on November 28, 2006, cutting two weeks off his 2004 time. Williamson also holds the speed-record for the trail, walking solo and without a support team north to south between August 8 and October 11, 2011, in 64 days, 11 hours, 19 minutes, for an average of 41 miles per day.

The youngest person to thru-hike the trail is Sierra Burror, who hiked the trail from April – September 2012 at the age of 9. She completed her hike with her mother, Heather Burror.

Other notable young hikers include Mary Chambers, who hiked the route from April – October 2004 at the age of 10. She completed the trek with her parents, Barbara Egbert and Gary Chambers. 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 the PCT alone in 1994, 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.


About the Pacific Crest Trail — 17 Comments

  1. Hello.

    I thru hiked the Appalachian Trail and Vermont Long trail and would like to hike the PCT. I have a doctorate in clinical psychology….can I be sponsored to do this hike? I have a lot of student debt and its expensive to hike and take time off work etc….



    • Hi Michael,
      Congratulations on your AT and LT thru hikes! Since our focus is on fundraising for mental health research and trail preservation, 100% of the sponsorship money raised by our hikers raised goes to these causes. We do not help fund the hikers themselves. However, there are several good crowdsourcing website that do help people raise money for almost any venture. If you Google “crowdsourcing” you will find them. They are for-profit sites and take a percentage of what you raise, but can be helpful in cases like this. When you make it onto the PCT, send us a note to let us know!

  2. I have thru-hiked the A.T. and was planning for the P.C.T but the drought has cause me to reconsider the trip. If anyone knows the water situation then please reply. I know in South California it is dry but does the drought make it undoable

    • From what I am seeing, the trail angels are doing a good job with the water situation. That being said, you can not fully rely on the angels. But everyone is out and hiking the PCT, and I haven’t heard of any problems. And of course it poured rain at the PCT kickoff. So just try and carry as much water as you can, and you should be fine.

  3. Hello!

    This is the first time I have ever posted on a blog website. Since I saw the movie, “Wild” recently. It certainly inspired me to start thinking about a long distance hiking on Pacific Crest Trail. For this very reason is start planning PCT is to help a group of Deaf Native Americans who lacks resources in their lives as well as on their reservation. I am part Navajo/Apache and white. Unfortunately, I have a very limited experience in long distance hiking except the day hiking. And I am in the 60+ age range though I feel like my body and mind is like a 30-year old man! 🙂 I know this may be very challenging however this does not deter my goal to start doing the PCT. Is there anyone who can offer to guide or join me as co-hiker? Thanks for giving me the chance to write a short message here! –SRT

    • I like your cause. I’ve been a teacher on a Northern NM reservation and it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I’m also thinking about the hike and I know hiking alone might be a bit scary for me just because I don’t have a lot of experience. I’m also doing some soul searching so I wouldn’t want to be hooking up or anything. I might be interested.

    • Hellp Sir, I too am in the 60+ age group, but like you I am blessed with relatively good health at this time. I was a surfer well into my mid 50s’, and quit because I was sure my lack of fear and overconfidence was going to get the better of me. I have long dreamed of wandering through the land outside of the cities and crouds of insensitve poeple. I would like to know how you are doing finding help and possible co-hikers to travel with you. I would not be afraid of traveling alone but I think having a freind to get things started with would help a lot with getting used to what will be a very large lifestile adjustment, at least in the beginning. I hope to heaar from you and maybe we can share some ideas or plans, maybe conntacts. I’m just starting out here myself.

  4. I am ready to thru-hike the PCT in April next year. What are the good good crowdsourcing websites so I can pay for this great cause and adventure?

    Here is my story…I put on Go Fund Me.

    On Thru-Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2016. Working towards finding a cure for Mental Illness , raising money towards finding that cure and furthering research on How Wilderness is Healing.

    As a child of a parent with a mother who was diagnosed with Schizophrenia and helping her throughout my childhood to facilitate her understand her depression and psychosis, I struggled to keep my mother alive. As a result of my early struggles, I grew up with a passion and dedication to help others who are afflicted with this devastating disease.  As part of my personal journey, I became a mental health professional, started a website for the British Columbia Government with the Ministry of Children and Families.
    to bring further awareness to the community about how to deal with people with severe and persistent mental illness. In the website, you can watch a video of me on the home page describing my early struggles to get the professional help that my mother needed to stay alive.  What helped me stay alive and well, was my constant contact with Nature. Nature became my dear friend where I could find comfort and  solace in many of my troubles.  In my thesis (in the website above and listed in a link below), I give a unique personal account of how Wilderness was Healing for me and through my renewed strength by being in contact with Nature, I helped my mother stay alive through her bouts with severe depression and psychosis.

    I am planning to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail in April 2016 to both raise awareness for helping find a cure for persistent and severe mental illness, continue my own research along the way by giving out qualitative questionnaires with the goal to publish my own research and give talks on how Wilderness is Healing.  Along the way, I  planning to  sponsor  the non profit organization “Hike for Mental Health”. as I thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail in April 2016.
    However, they do not cover any of the cost to thru-hike the PCT. The monies I get for sponsoring HIKE for Mental Health, goes towards research. So I need funding for gear, food, and writing materials to continue my own research.

    (Taken from their website.) “HIKE for Mental Health is an all-volunteer organization. All contributions to this hike support our mission causes. Eighty percent will fund scientific research into causes, treatments and cures for PTSD, schizophrenia, bipolar spectrum disorders, depression, and other major mental illnesses that afflict 1 in 4 American families. The remaining twenty percent maintains the wilderness trails on which we hike through nonprofit trail maintenance organizations.”

    As a child with parent who is diagnosed with Schizophrenia and helping her through my childhood, I have become sensitized towards helping those persons afflicted with mental illness. As a child growing up, dealing with my mother who has schizophrenia, I found the Wilderness to be a very Special place where I find solace in my own healing.  Growing up as a child, none of my friends and many adults did not know how to help me. I grew up essentially in isolation while desperately reaching out to find ways I could get the help my mother needed by contacting on my own hospitals, psychiatrists, psychologists, anyone who I thought might be able to help my struggling mother.  The solace that Nature provided gave me the peace of mind to gather my strength to deal with myself and my mother as she went in and out of psychosis.  My deep appreciation for Nature and what Nature has given me since I was young is truly beyond words. I spent many years walking wilderness paths, camping and thinking about how I could help my mother and myself. For all that exists in Nature and all I have seen, I am forever in debt. My innumerable encounters with Nature has not only been life defining, but has also provided me with ineffable joy. Nature has also been a place I could project my fears, anger, anguish, and utter sorrow. 

    As I went on to further my education I wrote a thesis on Wilderness as Healing. You can find that thesis in the website above under “Research” and you can pull my dissertation in this following link:

    I want to continue this research through qualitative work thru hiking the Pacific Crest Trail to continue to discover what is it about Nature that saved my life, and helps heal others who identify with Nature’s healing powers. 

    In 1997 thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail  and did a study on “The Leisure Experience of Hiking the Appalachian Trail”.   Since maturing, furthering my skills in writing and through my advanced studies in finding out what mental illness is from an academic point of view, I want to continue the research I started in my thesis, publish this thesis and give talks and spread the word about how to better help those afflicted by severe and persistent mental illness through medication and therapy.   I want to hike the Pacific Crest Trail but I do not have the funds to hike this trail in its entirety. I am asking for funding so I can both raise awareness through the “HIKE for Mental Health” organization and continue my own research on how Wilderness is Healing.  

    I hope people will donate monies towards my accomplishing this goal to spread the word about Mental Illness by walking from South to North along the Western United States from Mexico to Canada.
    and help to contribute towards finding a cure for severe and persistent mental illness and also continue my research into how Wilderness is Healing. 


  5. I hiked the PCT when I was 14 with a group of youths an youth counselors in 1994, we only did 111 miles in eleven days. But the group of kids ranged from portola ca to so ca. I don’t remember the staff members that took us. But it was some mental health challenge my foster mom in beckworth ca signed me up for. We came out on hwy 70 an old mining camp but was a resort by the time we walked out of the trail. Can you help me find out if there were any papers published on me an these youths for this hike in 1994?

  6. Hi! I am trying to see how I can get more involved in this great cause! I am an LMSW working in an outpatient setting with children and families in Buffalo NY. I thru hiked the AT last year and am planning a PCT NOBO spring of 2018! I heard about you guys during my last thru hike, and want to touch base as I am planning this hike!

  7. Hello,

    I’d like to join some people who are the hiking the PCT. Also, my son wants to hike with a group. Anyone sponsoring a hike soon? Did a part of the PCT around Lake Tahoe National Forest 2 years ago and enjoyed it.

  8. Hello,

    Would like to know if anyone is hiking the PTC this summer or early fall. My son and I are interested in joining a group.
    My son has had experience hiking a section of the PCT around Lake Tahoe area and would like to do more at any section of the PTC.

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