Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)


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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.

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.

Read More:

Learn more about all of our national scenic trails.

To connect with other PCT hikers, ask questions or share your experiences, visit the Pacific Crest Trail Hikers’ group in our digital community, Conversations.