The Pacific Crest Trail: An Annotated Bibliography

Guides and Reference Works: The Essentials
By Daniel R. Smith
  |  Gorp.com
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The Pacific Crest Trail winds it way for 2,658 miles through California,Oregon and Washington.

Beginning at the Mexican border, the trail passes through the sky islands and desert valleys of southern California, climbs into the majestic granite pinnacles of the Sierra Nevadas, swings briefly west into the Klamath Mountains, then follows the string of Cascadian volcanoes north to Canada.

It passes through more than two-dozen national forests, seven national parks and 33 wildernesses before reaching its northern terminus at the border of Manning Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada.

Naturally, all those miles have inspired more than few books. Some detail the trail's history, others offer advice on its best hikes, and a few tell what it's like to tackle the entire trail.

What follows is a select, annotated bibliography of practical, informative and inspirational readings devoted to the Pacific Crest Trail.

There are four publications that are"mandatory reading" for anyone planning a long distance hike on all or any long stretch of the PCT. They are:

The Pacific Crest Trail Vol I: California
By Jefferey P.Schaffer, et al.
(Berkeley: Wilderness Press, 1996.)

The Pacific Crest Trail Vol II: Oregon and Washington
By Jefferey P.Schaffer, et al.
(Berkeley: Wilderness Press, 1990.)

This two-volume work is the most important reference tool for anyone planning a long-distance hike on the PCT. The trail route is clearly drawn on 1:50,000 scale maps. Also included are descriptions of the official route and occasional suggestions for possible alternate routes.

The author includes copious information about geology, national and social history as well as environmental issues. In Volume I this material is separated from the route description. In Volume II, it is integrated with the route description, which can be distracting.

The Wilderness Press guidebooks should be supplemented with the following reference works:

Pacific Crest Trail Town Guide
By Leslie Croot
Sacramento: Pacific Crest Trail Association, 1998.

This helpful booklet provides up to date information about most of the resupply points available to hikers from Mexico to Canada. Lists of accommodations, restaurants, banks, ATM machines, grocery stores etc. are included. Also contains maps of the more popular resupply points and descriptions of how to leave and return to the PCT route.

Pacific Crest Trail Data Book
By Ben Go
Sacramento: Pacific Crest Trail Association, 1997.

This booklet provides a list of distance points along the PCT from Mexico to Canada. The listing includes cumulative mileage, elevation at each reference point and also indicates which guidebook map to refer to for each distance point. The work greatly simplifies the job of calculating daily mileage, daily elevation changes and distance between water sources and resupplies.

The Pacific Crest Trail Handbook
By Ray Jardine
LaPine Oregon: Adventurelore Press, 1997.

This is the most comprehensive planning guide available for long-distance PCT hikers. Includes Jardine's sometimes controversial advise on virtually all aspects of health, hygiene, physical fitness and safety necessary to prepare for and complete a PCT thru hike. Provides schedules and itineraries for thru hikers ranging from 4 to 5 1/2months. Book places major emphasis on Jardine's philosophy of traveling ultra-light.

For Further Reading:

25 Hikes Along The Pacific Crest Trail
By Don and Lolly Skillman
Stackpole Press, 1994.

Provides a listing and description of the best shorter distance hikes along the PCT, focusing on trips of between one and five days.

Finally, a classic in the literature of the PCT:

The Pacific Crest Trailway
By Clinton C. Clarke
Pasadena: The Pacific Crest Trail System Conference, 1945.

This hard-to-locate and long out-of-print work is a must for anyone who is interested in the pioneer effort to create a Pacific Crest Trail. Clarke was one of the early activists who envisioned connecting existing trails to establish a continuous footway from Mexico to Canada. Provides fascinating insights into the genesis of the PCT.


Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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