Why Isn’t the Pacific Coast Trail On Your “Bucket List”

Why Isn’t the Pacific Coast Trail On Your “Bucket List”

Pacific Coast Trail

Photo Compliments of Ryan McBride

The Pacific Coast Trail, the PCT, begins in Campo, California at the US/Mexico Border and ends in Manning Park, British Columbia covering a distance of 2,600 mile. If you go end-to-end you cross some of the most gorgeous landscapes in California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia…This is a life changing event. The trail is a long-distance hiking 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 Pacific Crest Trail is actually 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. The midpoint is in Chester, California (near Mt. Lassen), where the Sierra and Cascade Mountain ranges meet.

History of the Pacific Coast Trail

The PCT was designated a National Scenic Trail in 1968, although it was not officially completed until 1993. The PCT was conceived by Clinton Churchill Clarke in 1932 and received official status under the National Trails System Act of 1968.

Pacific Coast Trail Route

Pacific Coast Trail

Photo Compliments of Nietnagle

The route is mostly through National Forest and protected wilderness. The trail avoids civilization (mostly), 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.

It is estimated that around 180 out of approximately 300 people who attempt a thru-hike complete the entire trail each year. The Pacific Crest Trail Association estimates the average distance covered each day is 20 miles and the trail is 2,663 in length so you can estimate it will take roughly 135 days or 4 to 5 months to hike end-to-end.

Notable Locations on the Pacific Coast Trail

The following notable locations are found along or adjacent to the route of the Pacific Crest Trail. They are listed from south to north to correspond with the itinerary typically followed by thru-hikers to take advantage of the best seasonal weather conditions…Again; the scenery on this hike is jaw dropping beautiful.

California Highlights

  • Campo, California, (Mexico – U.S. border)
  • Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
  • Cleveland National Forest
  • Mount San Jacinto State Park
  • Big Bear Lake
  • Cajon Pass
  • Angeles National Forest
  • Vasquez Rocks
  • Agua Dulce, California
  • Walker Pass
  • Owens Peak Wilderness
  • South Sierra Wilderness
  • Golden Trout Wilderness
  • Kings Canyon National Park
  • Forester Pass (highest point on the trail)
  • John Muir Wilderness
  • Ansel Adams Wilderness
  • Devils Postpile National Monument
  • Yosemite National Park
  • Tuolumne Meadows
  • Sonora Pass, Ebbetts Pass, Carson Pass
  • Desolation Wilderness
  • Lassen National Forest
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park
  • McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park
  • Shasta-Trinity National Forest
  • Castle Crags Wilderness
  • Klamath Mountains
  • Trinity Alps Wilderness
  • Russian Wilderness
  • Marble Mountain Wilderness

Oregon Highlights

  • Crater Lake National Park
  • Mount Jefferson and Mount Jefferson Wilderness
  • Three Sisters
  • Santiam Pass
  • Mount Hood Wilderness
  • Bridge of the Gods
  • Cascade–Siskiyou National Monument
  • Rogue River National Forest
  • Winema National Forest
  • Sky Lakes Wilderness
  • Crater Lake National Park
  • Umpqua National Forest
  • Mount Thielsen
  • Willamette National Forest
  • Deschutes National Forest
  • Diamond Peak Wilderness
  • Waldo Lake
  • Three Sisters Wilderness
  • Dee Wright Observatory
  • McKenzie Pass
  • Mount Washington Wilderness
  • Mount Jefferson Wilderness
  • Mount Hood National Forest
  • Olallie Scenic Area
  • Warm Springs Indian Reservation
  • Timberline Lodge
  • Mount Hood Wilderness
  • Lolo Pass
  • Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
  • Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness
  • Cascade Locks (lowest point on the trail)
  • Bridge of the Gods (Point at which you cross the Columbia River)

Washington Highlights

  • Mount Adams
  • Mount Daniel in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness
  • Adams Glacier
  • Glacier Peak Wilderness
  • Cascade Pass-North Cascades National Park
  • Old Snowy in the Goat Rocks Wilderness
  • Gifford Pinchot National Forest
  • Indian Heaven Wilderness
  • Mount Rainier National Park
  • Chinook Pass
  • Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
  • Norse Peak Wilderness
  • Alpine Lakes Wilderness
  • Henry M. Jackson Wilderness
  • Snoqualmie Pass
  • Stevens Pass
  • Lake Chelan National Recreation Area
  • North Cascades National Park
  • Okanogan National Forest
  • Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail
  • Boundary Monument 78 (Canada – United States border)

British Columbia, Canada Highlights

  • E.C. Manning Provincial Park

Additional Pacific Crest Trail Information

This is the best, most thorough video I have seen on the PCT…It will help you make your decision. If this is a goal there are resources-a wealth of information on the specifics you need for your planning.

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail – Basic Information Video

Photo Search for the Pacific Coast Trail

Google – PCT Photos

Flickr – PCT Photos

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  1. Wow, that’s quite the trail! The change in scenery must be quite impressive.

  2. On my bucket list! I will be on the west coast this winter, but not for hiking the trails. I will plan that for summer.
    Donna recently posted..Conowingo Dam – A Pollution GateMy Profile

  3. Looks like an amazing trail.
    ladyfi recently posted..Travel lightMy Profile

  4. Hi Charlie – it is encouraging to see so much beautiful wilderness still left. Also fascinating, how the terrain changes from South to North. Have you done this hike?
    Annette N. recently posted..Warmth: January’s DeceptionMy Profile

  5. I don’t have a bucket list but all those rocks have cranked up my rock envy. We just don’t have rocks in the landscape in Florida.

    • I grew up in Illinois where the highest elevation was 1,000 feet and there were no boulders, that didn’t come for me until much later. I have been on parts of the Pacific Coast Trail; it is one of those things you do once in your life and it leaves an impression that lasts a lifetime…

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