Getting to and from the trail can be a logistical obstacle. Most trailheads are only accessible by private vehicle.
Public and private transport services provide access to many but not all “trail towns” near the PCT. From these towns, you’re generally faced with hiring someone locally, finding someone willing to give you a ride, walking or hitchhiking.
Finding transit options
Start with an internet search for the town you’re looking to reach (or leave) and the words “transport” or “bus”. Many counties operate regional transit services. Search the county name and “transport” or “bus”. For example, “Kern County bus” brings you to a page for the county bus service that will get you to Tehachapi and Onyx, CA.
- Search Amtrak and Greyhound’s websites to see which regional hubs and towns they service.
- Some regions have private bus companies. They generally service large towns in the area and you’ll find them by searching the town name and “bus”.
- Use the public transit option on Google Maps (or google.com/transit)
- Try searching the town name or region name and “shuttle”. Various regions on the trail are serviced by private trailhead shuttles. They can often accommodate custom trips.
- If you’re stuck, ask for advice online.
Note that commercial operations on public lands may require permits. Shuttle companies should have the proper permission and insurance in place to bring you to the PCT.
Finding backcountry trailheads
If you’ve ever driven around lost, looking for a trailhead, you know that they’re not always easy to find.
Be sure to bring accurate and quality information along. Dirt roads on public lands necessitate specific National Forest or BLM maps. Road names, conditions and closures change frequently. When in doubt, contact the local land agency or search online for the status of the road before you drive it. Remarkably, sometimes you can search Google Maps for Forest Service roads and their intersections on the PCT. Try searching “Forest Service Road 2N02 and Pacific Crest Trail”. It works. You can even use the “Directions” feature to find driving directions. It’s imperative that you compare the results with paper maps and other sources. Don’t trust online mapping information.
Getting to and from the southern terminus
Bus #894 runs from the El Cajon Transit Center to Campo, CA three times a day. It is a two hour ride and costs about $5. The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System directs you to this Google Transit map for the bus schedule. Use the search function on the map for directions to reaching the El Cajon Transit Center, or hire a taxi. On public transit from the airport, you’ll take a bus to downtown and get on a trolley to the El Cajon Transit Center.
San Diego trail angels
Long-distance hikers are invited to request rides from the San Diego network of volunteer trail angels. These incredibly generous volunteers may be available to pick you up at the airport, bus or train station, host you in their home and drive you to the southern terminus. They generally operate during the spring thru-hiker season. You are their guests. This is not a project of the PCTA volunteer program.
These devoted volunteers coordinate amongst themselves and other trail angels to best meet the large need. Email them well in advance. Follow whatever rules and requests they have. Space may fill up. Contact Barney “Scout” Mann and Sandy “Frodo” Man via their website sandiegopct.com.
The official northern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail is on the US/Canada border next to Manning Park. Unfortunately, it is illegal to enter the United States from Manning Park via the PCT. To reach the terminus for a southbound hike, you have to start on the US side of the border. If you’re ending your hike and you must obtain proper permission to enter Canada. The best option for traveling away from Manning Park is via private vehicle or Greyhound.
On the U.S. side, we recommend accessing the terminus from:
- Harts Pass (accessed via a good quality dirt road) then hike north for ~30 miles. This is the best option.
- Rainy Pass (hwy 20) then hike north for ~60 miles.
- Ross Lake provides access to the PCT via long, but beautiful connector trails. A boat shuttle runs up Ross Lake and can shorten the hike along the Pacific Northwest Trail. Contact local agencies for conditions reports.
- Hike the Pacific Northwest Trail/Devil’s Dome Trail to the PCT at Holman Pass. It is 36.5 miles from Ross Dam to the PCT. This is the recommended option.
- The Lightning Creek Trail to Boundary Trail to the PCT at Castle Pass has not been maintained in many years. Reports indicate thick brush and serious blow down issues.
- Have a friend or family member drive you to the trail.
- Ask on online for a ride. You might get lucky.
- Hire the Classic Mountain Cabby.
- Fly in a private plane to the Lost River Airstrip 12.8 miles from Harts Pass. The Catlin Flying Service is a good charter option.
Greatest use of public transit
From the West:
- From Seattle or Vancouver, take Amtrak or Greyhound to the Skagit Station in Mt. Vernon, WA. From Mt. Vernon, take Skagit Transit bus route 8 or 717 to Concrete (no Sunday service). From Concrete, WA either:
- Hitchhike (read the laws) to Ross Lake and hike the Pacific Northwest Trail to the PCT or take the boat shuttle to Devil’s Junction and hike the Pacific Northwest Trail to the PCT. (1 hour drive from Concrete to Ross Lake)
- Hitchhike to Rainy Pass and walk north. (1.5 hour drive)
- Hitchhike to Mazama, WA and then hitchhike to Harts Pass. (2 hour drive from Concrete to Mazama)
From the East:
- Option #1: Amtrak (or Greyhound?) to Wenatchee and then hire a shuttle service to drive you to Harts Pass. You can also take Link Transit (based around Wenatchee) as far north as Chelan and then hitchhike to Harts Pass. (1.5 hour drive from Chelan to Mazama)
- Option #2: Take Northwestern Trailways from Wenatchee (or Seattle, etc) to Okanogan, then hitch or hire a shuttle to Harts Pass.
- Ross Lake water taxi
- Link Transit – Wenatchee Valley transit, including a bus to Chelan
- Gabby Cabby – private car to regional trailheads
- Catlin Flying Service – private flights to Mazama or Winthrop
- Northwestern Trailways – bus service to Okanogan, WA