Dec 9, 2013 at 2:58 pm #1310795
I have this upcoming summer of 2014 completely off. I have been backpacking for the past 4 years but the longest trip I have been on has been 7 days. There is part of me that wants to do the Pacific Crest Trail. I know there is probably alot of training involved and a lot of outdoor knowledge that I would need to acquire. But I figure if I have the time to do it right now in my life, then why not? Any thoughts?Dec 9, 2013 at 3:23 pm #2052626
@wildtownerLocale: Grand Canyon State
Why not — provided you're truly motivated and committed to the preparation and training. I really believe commitment is the key here, as there will be many occasions where the going will be tough, and only your determination will keep you in the game.
Provided you have the dedication, I don't think you should let a lack of thru-hiking experience stop you. There are plenty of places to get information on the necessary skills, and you have lots of time to practice your technique before April…You know what they say: a thru-hike is just a series of shorter backpacks; one after the other…Dec 9, 2013 at 4:02 pm #2052640
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
It will cost you some time, which you are apparently prepared to spend. It is also going to cost you some money.
–B.G.–Dec 9, 2013 at 4:28 pm #2052647
@wandering_bobLocale: Oregon, USA
"I have this upcoming summer of 2014 completely off." Lucky you! You need to specify the date range encompassed by that in order for readers to give you informed comments.
No matter when you start, three months is just not enough time to hike the whole 2600 miles of the PCT. It would require averaging 29 miles per day for 90 days with no time off. Most thru-hikers start in mid to late April in order to finish before the snow flies up north in mid-October. The rest of my comments assume you start June 01 and end Sept 01.
Large parts of the southernmost 650 miles (Campo to Mojave) can get quite hot and dry by June 1. You might be better off starting at Kennedy Meadows (south) with the bulk of The Herd, and trying for the Canadian border. If it's a low snow year and you know how to navigate safely over snow-buried trail, start at Harts Pass, hike 33 miles north to the border, return to Harts Pass, and continue south for as far as you have time. Finish another year.
Other non-PCT alternates to consider:
Tahoe Rim Trail – 165 mile loop
Colorado Trail – 485 miles (~ 5 weeks at 15 mpd), starting from Denver in mid to late June, depending on the snow conditions. The CT and the CDT are the same trail for 320 miles. After reaching Durango, you could resupply, loop back to the CDT atop the Elk Creek drainage near Silverton, and hike south along the CDT through the south San Juans of CO and on through the high country of northern New Mexico. Alternatively, you could loop back to Frisco/Silverthorne and go north on the CDT into Wyoming.Dec 9, 2013 at 8:09 pm #2052747
Three months is beyond most hikers ability. Its possible, but if you aren't use to doing 30+mile/days right now, I doubt that planning for doing so will work out.
It took me 4.5 months with 4-5months being pretty normal for most hikers with a few taking shorter or longer. If I was to do the trail again, I probably could knock off a week with what I now know. I doubt I would be happy trying to knock off more than that. A heavy snow year would slow you down in the Sierra Nevada adding additional time.
Unless you are obsessed with thru-hiking the PCT, consider chunk hiking it. You could do Mexico to Oregon or Washington or Central California (Kennedy Meadows at beginning of the Sierra Nevada) to Canada and finish another year.
No mater how you do it, if you are interested, I would say go for it. I had only done 6 day trips prior to my hike. When you hike a long trail like the PCT, that is all it is: a series of 4-7 day hikes linked back to back. You go to town every 4-7 days to resupply, clean-up, and eat some real food and then return to the trail to repeat the process. Yogi's PCT handbook is a good start for someone new to Long Distance hiking as it has a planning guide using several people as examples who have varying styles and experience before they started.Dec 11, 2013 at 2:34 am #2053125
@brooklynkayakLocale: Atlantic North East
Get some high elevation hiking in, if your not used to it.
Altitude problems can happen to those that aren't used to it when they hit the really high stuff.Dec 11, 2013 at 10:14 am #2053213
" I know there is probably alot of training involved and a lot of outdoor knowledge that I would need to acquire."
Please don't let this dissuade you, or be an excuse not to follow your dreams. The number one obstacle to completing the PCT is motivation. If you want it bad, everything else will fall into place. You don't want to be an idiot out there, but motivation + common sense is 95% of what you need. If you start in late April at the kick off, you can tag along with other hikers if need be.
The PCT likely isn't more challenging from other hikes you've done, aside from being much longer. You can show up in pretty poor shape and walk yourself into shape if you're not in a big hurry. In terms of outdoor knowledge, water crossings are probably the main danger, although you need to exercise good judgement when heading to high elevations (watch for storms) and with wildlife (ie. food storage).Dec 11, 2013 at 10:38 am #2053224
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
If you can't get enough time off to do the complete PCT, with three months off you could see some of the best trails in the country and have a very good time. Not the accomplishment of a through hike, but what a relaxing time in the backcountry. I could see spending a week or two each in the Olympics, Mt Rainer, North Cascades, Glacier, Yellowstone, JMT, etc and having a fantastic summer.Dec 11, 2013 at 10:45 am #2053227
Is it possible? absolutely. Can you do it? maybe. Read through this to get a feel for what is required to get into shape for a fast hike, in this case, about a hundred days in a very high snow year. After reading this ask yourself three questions.
1) Could I do this physically?
2) Am I motivated enough to do this?
3) Would I enjoy it?
If you can't answer all three questions yes, without a shred of uncertainty then you probably aren't prepared to under a 90 day hike.Feb 2, 2014 at 2:58 am #2068871
@dmusasheLocale: Pacific Northwest
I'd say that if you want to do it, just go for it.
You almost certainly won't be able to thru hike the whole thing in 90 days, but who cares? Just remember that the US/Mexico and US/Canada borders are arbitrary. The fact that the trail ends at those places is arbitrary. The whole thing is really arbitrary if you think about it.
Hike the PCT because you want to see the landscape it winds through. Don't worry too much about the exact beginning and end points of your hike.
Many people say that the High Sierra and the North Cascades are two highlights of the PCT. If I was you, I'd try to hit both of those if at all possible.
Bear in mind that you will need a fair amount of money to complete your journey. You'll probably need at least $2000 saved up to pay for all your food and lodging during your 90 days of freedom. It is said that many people underestimate how much money they will need while doing a long distance hike. Do not make this mistake. I can't imagine any long distance trek being much fun after you run out of cheeseburger/hot shower/laundry money.Feb 2, 2014 at 7:42 pm #2069154
@sbhikesLocale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
I've met people for whom the PCT was their very first backpack trip. I met a woman whose very first backpack trip was the CDT. It really doesn't take much more knowledge than what you probably already have. Three months will give you the full thru-hiker experience, even if you can't hike the entire trail. In fact, you would have a much better time if you simply got on the trail wherever the current year's crop of thru-hikers is and hike with them as far as you can get in the time you have. You'll have a great time that way and nobody will think any less of you. They'll insist you are a thru-hiker just like them.Feb 2, 2014 at 7:58 pm #2069168
Twenty miles a day is Very doable. Times 90 days is 1800 miles.
Pick the best 2000 miles and go for it.
Kennedy Meadows to somewhere in Washington? (I'm not a big fan of the desert. YMMV)
edit: oops….even in a low snow year June could be a problem…but you get the idea.Feb 2, 2014 at 9:23 pm #2069197
@tracedefLocale: Southern California
Wow, great advice from everyone!!! Nice.Feb 2, 2014 at 10:19 pm #2069212
Just FYI, very little of the SoCal portion of the PCT is "desert."
And the main thing you need to hike the PCT, or three months of it, is the right attitude. The gear, the training, the whatever, isn't too important. Lighter is better for sure, but just think about it like a bunch of 3-5 day hikes to the next resupply. Get up every day, walk, enjoy, and bed down. Repeat.Feb 3, 2014 at 7:34 am #2069259
@acrosomeLocale: Back in the Front Range
How in the hell did you get an entire summer off? Are you a college student or something?
I hate you.
That said, if I had enough time off to do it I'd do the CDT. In a heartbeat. I'd want to do the CDT because it seems the most wild, and I'd never know if I could get the time off to do another thru-hike so I'd want to hike the big one. It's just the one that I want to see the most. If your dream is the PCT, go for it. If you've done 7-day hikes you sort of know what you are in for. By which I mean- thats almost how long you go between the longest PCT resupplies, isn't it? The problems come from people who've only ever done weekenders trying to hit the AT or the PCT…
That said, if you have doubts about such a long hike as your first thru then, as others have mentioned, consider the Colorado Trail, which you can do in 6 weeks if you try but 2 months is much more enjoyable. (The PNWT is another shorter option but since it CROSSES mountain ranges it can take nearly as long as the PCT. If you REALLY moved you could do it in three months.) I plan to thru-hike the CT between my retirement from the Army and starting whatever post-retirement job I get. At this point, the thought of making that through-hike some day is what keeps me going…
PNWT:Feb 6, 2014 at 1:49 pm #2070652
@drongobirdLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
Don't forget there are hundreds of options for multi-week or multi-month hikes in the UK and Europe. I'm not suggesting any of them would suit you better than the PCT, but nobody else has mentioned it yet as something else to consider. GR10, or HRP come to mind as being about the right length.
Or, you could choose a leg of any of the long long distance EU routes.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_long-distance_pathsFeb 7, 2014 at 8:44 pm #2071048
@b14Locale: Siskiyou Mtns
the whole summer off?! I hate you too!
May the trail rise to meet you…Mar 11, 2014 at 12:57 pm #2081859
Do it before you never have the time to do so.. a whole summer off? Man I wish I had something like that now. Also, post your journey so I can live vicariously through youSep 4, 2014 at 2:43 pm #2132734
@tbradncLocale: Erwin, TN
I just finished a PCT thru… 119 days and a continuous footpath between Mexico and Canada with the exception of the closure just before Idyllwild and had the time of my life. I think you're picking an awesome trail to spend some time on!
90 days is… ambitious… Remember how averages work because you won't be hiking every day. I took 14 zeros and at least as many days I was done hiking before noon. 25-35 mile days were the norm for most of the hike.
Picking a piece to skip would be really, really hard because the entire trail is amazing. My favorite part of the trail was the desert and the Cascades.Sep 4, 2014 at 2:52 pm #2132742
@sbhikesLocale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Glad to see someone else liked the desert. So many people hate it. I love the desert section, too. It's just so interesting and varied, the energy and excitement among the hikers is high, the weather is great, no bugs.Sep 4, 2014 at 3:23 pm #2132752
Maybe it's nitpicking, but there isn't much "desert" on the PCT, right? I recall maybe the corner of Anza Borrego SP, and the far west corner of the Mojave in the Antelope Valley along the aqueduct. Seems like the rest is just arid southern California scrub and chaparral, plus all the higher mountains of course.Sep 4, 2014 at 4:50 pm #2132769
@brooklynkayakLocale: Atlantic North East
I have to agree about desert hiking, my favourite as well. Of course carrying all that water can be a drag in some sections.Sep 4, 2014 at 6:20 pm #2132790
@tbradncLocale: Erwin, TN
Not trying to hijack the OP's thread but I've lived in the southeastern USA all my life and thought the desert (or very arid desert-like if that's more accurate) would be all sand and cactus. I was really surprised at how cold it got at night, that it would snow from time to time (I started April 21), and how much life there is.
The long water carries were a drag at times because I didn't rely on caches but there were some long food carries as well (KM to VVR being my longest, by choice).
OP: Go for it!Sep 5, 2014 at 5:01 pm #2133069
@farwalkerLocale: On a trail
It's mountains, desert, mountains , desert, mountains, desert….uh well you get the picture…the first 700 miles is a constant water carry any how, and even afterwards in Oregon some water carries, but nothing like the deserts. Just count on food and water being your "heavies" and go as light as possible on everything else and your body will thank you later on towards Canada. Just make sure you can survive spring snowstorms, we had three doozies this year (Idyllwild, Big Bear and Wrightwood) in comfort and safely. I saw MANY "stupid light" suffer terribly from cold and wet conditions this year.Sep 18, 2014 at 12:30 pm #2136025
Or crew on a tall ship.
Or build a 12th century castle.
but do something with a whole summer off. Cheers!
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