The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT) has gained a lot of attention in recent years, thanks to Cheryl Strayed’s bestselling memoir, “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail,” which recounts Strayed’s 1,100-mile PCT adventure. Reese Witherspoon went on to portray Strayed in a blockbuster movie of the same name. “Wild” resonated with a slew of people — 10 times as many people have attempted the hike since the book was released, according to the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA). It’s called the “Wild Effect,” and it has been good for hiking in general. If you are thinking about hiking the PCT, there are a few things you need to know before you embark on your quest.
The PCT, one of America’s original National Scenic Trails, was established by the U.S. Congress in the 1968 National Trails System. The 2,650-mile trail meanders through some of the most scenic terrain in the United States. The southern trailhead is located on the southern California border with Mexico. From there, hikers travel north through California, Oregon and Washington until reaching the Canadian border. This isn’t a nature walk.
According to the 2014 Outdoor Participation Report conducted by the Outdoor Foundation, hiking is the fifth most popular outdoor activity in America, with 34.4 million participants in 2013. However, the PCT isn’t a regular hike, and it isn’t for newbies. The PCTA reports that nearly 50 percent of hikers who attempt the full hike fail. Injuries and/or poor preparation end many hikers’ dreams of completing it. To give you the best shot at finishing the grueling hike, we’ve compiled the following as a starting point for you PCT prep.
The PCTA is a nonprofit focused on keeping the PCT “wild and open” for future generations. It is the go-to organization for people planning a PCT hike. Permits are required to traverse much of the trail and they have information about obtaining those permits and which ones you will need. PCTA issues permits as well. Bookmark their website and return to it frequently.
Recreation.gov has a plethora of information about various outdoor activities. Recreation.gov includes information about reserving space on public lands and other useful features, including maps and weather information.
U.S. Forest Service website is another great online resource. The PCT area of their site shows current travel warnings and alerts. There is also some interesting information in the FAQ section
Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off is a 501(c)3 charitable organization dedicated to “honoring those who strive to attain their goal.” Each April, it holds an event for PCT hikers. While it is intended as a sendoff for hikers before they tackle the trail, many people attend the laid-back gathering a year prior to their hike as part of their hike preparation. Here you will get tips and firsthand accounts from people who have already hiked the trail.
The PCTA advises “light is right” when it comes to the gear you should carry. Buy quality gear, including warm clothing and the appropriate rainwear. Other essentials include:
- Navigation aids, including maps and a compass
- Sun protection
- First aid supplies
- Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/starter)
- Repair kit and tools
- Food and water
- Shelter (tent/tarp)