Pacific Crest Trail Overview
|Trekking through Yosemite National Park, California (Paul Bradbury/Digital Vision/Getty)|
The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail is the Appalachian Trail's rugged, loner sister. Designated at the same time as the AT, the Pacific Crest crosses more challenging terrain at higher altitudesthrough the Sonoran and Mojave deserts and then over the spectacular shoulders of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges from Mexico to Canada. It can be days between water sources in the tough Sonoran and Mojave deserts. In the High Sierras, the trail crosses 200 miles of unbroken wilderness. Then through the Cascade Range of northern California, Oregon, and Washington, the trail explores a string of wildernesses in volcanic landscape. Trail thru-hikers find themselves racing to beat the winter storms as they near the Canadian border.
Inspired in the 1930s by the idea of a long-distance mountain trail, citizen activists worked with the Forest Service to establish the trail. It passes through 24 national forests, seven national parks, and 33 wildernesses.
The trail starts out as a desert trail at the California/Mexican border and soon moves into the Cleveland National Forest and then, in succession, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the San Bernardino National Forest, and the Angeles National Forest. The Pacific Crest leaves the desert and enters the foothills of the Sierra Mountains outside the Sequoia National Forest and passes through Sequoia into Inyo National Forest before entering Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks. By this time, the trail is in the High Sierra range and treks through the wildernesses in Sierra National Forest before exploring the remote glories of eastern Yosemite National Park.
After leaving Yosemite, the trail passes through another string of national forests: Stanislaus, Eldorado, and Tahoe. It climbs down and out of the Sierra in Plumas National Forest and climbs into the Cascade Range in Lassen National Forest before leading into Lassen Volcanic National Park and back into the national forest. Out of the forest the trail traipses through the glories of Shasta-Trinity National Forest and Klamath National Forest.
At the Oregon border, the trail ventures into the Rogue River National Forest and then traverses the length of Crater Lake National Park. The trail leaves the park and enters Umpqua National Forest, then a bit of Deschutes National Forest before tracking the length of the Willamette National Forest and Mount Hood National Forest.
The trail crosses into Washington State at its lowest point (literally, not figuratively) by the Bridge of the Gods in Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The PCT then shoots up through the Gifford Pinchot National Forest before playing with the boundaries of Mount Rainier National Park. Then it's up through the Wenatchee National Forest and the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest before girdling the magnificent North Cascades National Park Complex. The final stretch to the Canadian border passes through the Okanogan National Forest.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication