Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)

Spanning 2,650 miles from the U.S. border with Mexico to the border with Canada, this trail ranges from burning desert to often-snowy alpine terrain. Already popular, the Pacific Crest Trail gained even more hikers with the 2012 release of the memoir Wild by Cheryl Strayed.

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Distance: 2,650 miles

States: California, Oregon and Washington

Year Established: 1968

Best Times of Year to Visit: Year-round

On the north side of Rock Pass as the trail traverses to Woody Pass. Photo by: Andy Porter.

Notable Spots Along Trail:

  • The Mojave Desert, home to Death Valley, the hottest, driest place in North America, is marked by Joshua trees, sandy scrubland and basin-and-range topography.
  • Just off the trail in the Sierra Nevada stands Mount Whitney, the highest summit in the contiguous United States at 14,505 feet of elevation.
  • The Columbia River is the fourth largest river in the U.S. by volume. The PCT crosses the Columbia River Gorge on the Oregon-Washington border.

Fun Facts, According to the Pacific Crest Trail Association:

  • The PCT climbs nearly 60 major mountain passes.
  • As the crow flies, the distance between Mexico and Canada is just over 1,000 miles. The PCT is two and a half times that.
  • The PCT passes the three deepest lakes in the nation: Lake Tahoe (1,645 feet), Crater Lake (1,932 feet) and Lake Chelan (1,486 feet).

Instead of camping at Thousand Island Lake, I opted to take a short side trip on the JMT to Banner Lake for the night. Witnessing the Milky Way rising over Banner Peak made the trip well worth it. Photo by: Addison Klinke.

Trail Uses: Hiking, running, horseback riding, birding, photography, fishing, picnicking, skiing and snowshoeing. 

Administering Agency: U.S. Forest Service

Nonprofit Partner: Pacific Crest Trail Association

Permitting Information: Many areas along the PCT require a permit, including Yosemite, Crater Lake and North Cascades national parks. More information.

REI Stewardship: The co-op has invested more than $259,000 in the PCT since 2004.

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Learn more about all of our national scenic trails.