Quality PCT maps are essential for anyone who hikes on the trail. Information changes frequently and you should assume that your map isn’t 100% accurate.
Paper trail maps
Due to the extreme length of the Pacific Crest Trail, and the diverse ways that people interact with this treasure, no one map set meets everyone’s needs. Here are our recommendations.
Free, accurate and detailed (1:31,680 scale or 1 inch to the 1/2 mile), Halfmile’s PCT Maps are an excellent choice. Halfmile’s maps include notes on water sources, resupply options, camping, detours and alternates. “Halfmile” is a PCTA donor and volunteer. We work with him to keep these maps up-to-date. New versions are produced yearly.
Beautifully shaded and easy to read, the U.S. Forest Service PCT maps are plasticized and come replete with descriptions and photos of what you will see as you travel the trail. The maps feature recommended hikes, elevation profiles and historical notes. They are great for planning adventures, getting an over-view or for shorter hikes. They sport a 1:63,300 scale (1” to the mile). Some travelers will find them to be a little “zoomed out” for detailed navigating. They were produced in partnership with the PCTA.
Are you curious by nature? You’ll want to carry the guidebooks! Sitting next to detailed turn by turn descriptions of the trail are black and white topographic maps (1:50,000 or 0.8” to the mile). These books enable a richness to your travels on the PCT that maps alone cannot provide. Please read more below.
Other trail maps
There are quite a number of other map options! Please don’t feel limited to these options. Experiment and explore. See what works for you.
Digital mapping and GIS data
At the PCTA offices, we use Google Earth heavily. Short of being in the backcountry, it’s often the best way to experience a section of the trail. Visit the link for tips on how to load the PCT in Google Earth.
The U.S. Forest Service stewards a digital centerline for the PCT. The files below are hosted on the US Forest Service PCT webpage.
Halfmile’s PCT data is also available for Google Earth and GPS.
These books have played an important role in the history of the trail. Read about the making of the first PCT guidebook. To save weight, you can cut your book up and carry only the pertinent sections.
The complete guidebooks
The full Wilderness Press guidebooks are the only comprehensive guide to the Pacific Crest Trail. They are a three volume set: Southern California, Northern California and a joint Oregon/Washington book. The books include a complete set of topographical maps, a turn by turn description of the trail, elevations, mileages, directions to trailheads, permit information and the history and natural history of the trail.
Unfortunately, the guidebooks have not been updated in recent years. Small changes to the location of the trail are not reflected in the books. This does not wholly detract from the value of the guides. When paired with an up-to-date map set, the guidebooks enrich your understanding and experience of the trail.
Day and Section Hike books
The books in the Day and Section Hikes series are excellent for those looking to do shorter trips along the Pacific Crest Trail. Current and well researched, they provide trailhead directions, information on permits and suggestions on how to split this long trail into short section hikes.
Lots of other sources of information exist for the PCT. This page is far from comprehensive.