Classic Treks: The Pacific Crest Trail

When it comes to long distance hiking, the U.S. is blessed with several great trails, the most famous of which is the Appalachian Trail, which covers more than 2,175 miles, running from Maine to Georgia. For many, the AT is the standard for long distance hiking anywhere in the world, but others prefer the lesser known, and longer, Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from the Mexican border to the Canadian border through the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges.

First designated as a national scenic trail back in 1968, the PCT stretches 2,650 miles in length, passing through California, Oregon, and Washington in the process. The trail mainly stays in deep wooded areas, rarely passing close to civilization, and across its length, it enters six unique ecosystems, including high and low deserts, old-growth forests, and arctic-alpine regions as well. The trail wanders through some iconic landscapes too, including the Mojave Desert and Yosemite National Park, while passing within the shadows of Mt. Whitney, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Rainier.

Each year, roughly 300 people attempt to thru-hike the entire length of the Pacific Crest Trail, which requires anywhere from four to six months to complete. About half are actually successful in their bids. Many more hikers cover smaller segments of the scenic and challenging route, which ranges in altitude from sea level to 13,153 feet at its highest point.

What many people don’t know, is that the PCT is actually an equestrian trail in addition to hiking. Its entire length is accessible on horseback, and many riders make long distance mounted journeys each year as well, preferring to explore the remote regions of the country while in the saddle instead of on foot.

Regardless of how you decide to explore it, the Pacific Crest Trail is one of the top long distance hikes anywhere in the world. It offers diverse scenery and remote trekking that is very different than what is found on the Appalachian Trail, or just about any other major hike. Those qualities set the PCT apart and should put it high on the list of any backpacker.