Conquering the Pacific Crest Trail
The Pacific Crest Trail offers more than 2,650 miles of hiking through three states.
The trail that runs from Canada to Mexico through Washington, Oregon and California, is a popular destination for thru-hikers – super humans who set out to hike 2,650 miles in one trip. It takes most skilled hikers about five months to complete the trip, roughly the entire snow-free season. Most northbound thru-hikers start in mid-April through early May, while southbound trail blazers generally start in late June through early July. Sore feet come with a pretty price tag, too. The trip costs anywhere from $4,000-$8,000+ and takes months of training and planning.
If the idea of eating out of a can and digging a hole to use the restroom for half of the year doesn’t sound appealing, the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) also offers plenty of day, weekend and week-long trips.
Lovers of high-alpine landscapes must head to the 77-mile stretch of the trail from Yosemite National Park’s Tuolumne Meadows – one of the largest high-elevation meadows in the Sierra Nevada – northward to Sonora Pass. You can backpack the whole stretch in about a week with a car shuttle. The Tioga Road is the only access by car to this hiking site and usually opens around late May or early June, after nearly a month or two of clearing snow-packed roads. Easy hikes like Soda Springs and Parsons Lodge are better suited for day-trippers or families. Begin at Lembert Dome parking area and walk about 1.5 miles round-trip along a gravel road. Dog Lake and Lembert Dome are more strenuous, but the open meadows and surrounding peaks are worth the extra effort.
The Kendall Katwalk trail – just east of Seattle – combines the thrill of narrow trails and steeply sloped rock face with lengthy straight sections. Experience the whole package, from fields of wildflowers to snow-capped mountains and pick-from-the-bush blueberries. Set out from the PCT main parking lot for the 12-mile roundtrip from Snoqualmie Pass to Katwalk. You’ll either be completely satisfied or inspired to hike an extra 2,500+ miles.
Crater Lake in Southern Oregon makes a brief appearance in the movie “Wild.” The PCT cuts right through Crater Lake National Park, but a short detour from the main trail will lead to the most spectacular views. The main viewing area is accessible by car and connects to the Sinnott Memorial Overlook. The water is intensely blue, and you’ll need hours to take it all in.
So, you can channel your inner Reese or avoid the blisters and sore back and check out these “short” yet unforgettable treks.