From the Mexican border to the Canadian border, there is a line of mountains rising along the east side of the states of California, Oregon, and Washington. and these mountains had numerous hiking trails, truck trails, and roads. Someone named Clinton C. Clarke came up with the idea of linking trails such that one could theoretically hike from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. and thus was the genesis of the Pacific Crest Trail. The trail was completed in 1993.
(Pacific Crest Trail overview map, courtesy U.S. Forest Service)
The trail runs about 2,660 miles, from the border near Campo, California to the boundary of Manning Park in British Columbia. Elevations range from near sea level along the banks of the Columbia river to Forester Pass at 13,153 feet. The trail passes through many places like Kings Canyon National park , Yosemite National Park, and the Mount Hood Wilderness.
There are of course plenty of trailheads, and day hikers often make use of the trail. But there are also section hikers who would hike an entire section (such as the section through the San Jacinto Mountains) or even the entire trail from Campo to Manning Park.
Section hikes can take up to a week (depending on the length of the section) and a thru hike, from south to north, can take up to six months, depending on a hiker’s physical condition.
But what would it take to do a thru hike all the way?
One thing to remember is that you obviously can not carry all of the supplies you would consume. It would be too much, even if all of your equipment and tools are ultralight. And extra weight means a slower hike, which could mean you might not make it to the end before the first winter snowfall.
It is very imperative to remember the resupply points, where you can purchase or retrieve supplies. You will occasionally pass near some resort areas like Lake Tahoe and Diamond Lake, where there will be plenty of opportunities for resupply (as well as lodging that includes a bed). Most resupply points are small villages where selections are limited. One popular alternative is mailing supply packages to post offices near the trail, so that you may pick them up when you arrive. Some businesses may hold packages for hikers; you will of course have to inquire with them for details.
Study your map for campsites. You will likely spend almost all of your evenings sleeping in campsites. Weather can ghet unpredictable, so you will need at least a tarp to protect yourself.
Thru hiking the Pacific Crest Trail will take you through bear country. And one thing bears love is food. These are animals that would break into an SUV just for some yummy snacks. Bear proof containers were developed so that campers and thru hikers can store their food, whether trail mix, granola bars, and freeze-dried blueberries without waking up and finding it inside a bear’s stomach. Several parks, such as Yosemite National Park, require food to be transported in bear proof containers.
In addition to the ten essentials, you will need additional items. One, you will need a credit card with a high credit limit, so you can purchase supplies when you reach towns. Another thing you would need are repair tools and supplies to repair your gear in case something happens like a boot sole coming loose or a backpack strap breaking when you are over a day’s hike from the nearest store. It certainly would be cheaper and more convenient than having to have a helicopter deliver spare parts.
The basic tips are plan ahead (like months in advance), pack light, and check the weather frequently.
(Photo courtesy National Park Service)
NOTE: The Pacific Crest Trail Association has more information.