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 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.
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.