Best time to visit California

Pacific Crest Trail in California

From Mexico to Canada or reverse, a crest of mountains follows along the western states of the USA, washed by the Pacific waters—it's one of the world's most scenic natural corridors

Best time: May–September

Pacific Crest Trail
Pacific Crest Trail
Pacific Crest Trail
Pacific Crest Trail

How long do you think it could take you to thru-hike the distance of 4,279 kilometres? And if a large part of the lengthy route is lying at serious elevations overrunning 4,000 meters above sea level? That's all about Pacific Crest Trail that stretches from the US and Mexico border through three westernmost America states of California, Oregon, and Washington to borderline with Canada.

The northward hike is more popular. It begins at California's Campo and the ultimate point is located close to the edge of Manning Park, in British Columbia. The trail lies far from civilisation, it's largely mountainous, with a few roads, highly demanding, yet also rewardingly scenic—it passes through 25 national forests and seven national parks. California's part is the largest and it runs across the Laguna, Santa Rosa, San Jacinto, San Bernardino, San Gabriel, Liebre, Tehachapi, Sierra Nevada, Klamath ranges, and a bit of the Cascade Range, that is mostly stretched over Oregon and up till the northernmost Washington.

The reverse (southward) route is also chosen by many. Regardless of which direction you choose, the timing is quite a problem. The optimal period necessary to thru-hike the entire route is 6 to 8 months provided that you daily cover about 32 kilometres, as an average hiker. However, there is one main obstacle—the season is too short for such a moderate tempo—you have to start the hike when the snow has mostly melted and avalanches pose no threat any longer, that's the month of May. If you chose the northward hike, it's important to leave the North Cascades by mid-September, if you don't fancy snowstorms, avalanches, or hypothermia.

The trail was initiated by Clinton Churchill Clarke in 1932. But the first thru-hiker who made a single both-way trip along the Pacific Crest was Scott Williamson. In November 2004, he hiked the total of 8,530 kilometres at an average pace of 43 kilometres per day for 197 days, but he managed to do that only on his fourth attempt.

Practical info

When is the best time to hike Pacific Crest Trail?

Thru-hiking the entire Pacific Crest Trail typically requires six to eight months, with an average daily coverage of around 32 kilometers. Hikers should begin when the snow has melted, usually in May. If you choose to hike northward, ensure that you depart the North Cascades by mid-September to avoid hazardous winter weather. Show more

How long does it take to hike the entire route?

On average, hikers need six to eight months to cover the whole Pacific Crest Trail, with a recommended daily coverage of approximately 32 kilometers. Starting the journey in May is optimal since the snow will have melted. It is crucial to leave the North Cascades before mid-September if you choose to hike northward to avoid winter weather complications. Show more

What are the main obstacles hikers face on Pacific Crest Trail?

The Pacific Crest Trail boasts challenging obstacles, including heavy snow, cold weather, avalanches, and unexpected storms. The route passes through remote and mountainous terrain, with limited access to roads. Hikers must traverse 4,279 kilometers while passing through 25 national forests and seven national parks. Along the journey, one will likely encounter various wildlife. Show more

Where does Pacific Crest Trail start and end?

The Pacific Crest Trail spans through three western American states: California, Oregon, and Washington. Beginning at Campo in California, the route ends near the edge of British Columbia's Manning Park, Canada. Hikers on this 4,279-kilometer stretch may also choose to start from Canada and finish in Mexico, the opposite of the traditional northward hike. Show more

What is the trail's length and the average daily coverage for a hiker?

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail's full length covers 4,279 kilometers and passes through 25 national forests and seven national parks, which takes an average of six to eight months for hikers traveling approximately 32 kilometers per day. While moderate, this pace is difficult to maintain given the short period of favorable conditions annually; hikers should begin in May after the snow has largely melted. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin