Marking the way from Mexico to Canada.

Marking the way from Mexico to Canada.

Where can I get maps for the Pacific Crest Trail?

Visit our maps page.

Is water readily available and do I need to treat it?

There are long waterless stretches and paying close attention to water issues is critical. Backcountry water should be treated or filtered. Read about this on our page about PCT water issues.

Do I need a permit?

Thirty-three places on the Pacific Crest Trail have permit systems in place. Representing about a third of the trail, these are special places, typically designated Wilderness, where a permit helps to protect the area and ensure you have an enjoyable experience. Complete information is available on our PCT permit page.

Is the PCT well signed and marked?

The trail is generally well marked to the standard that it’s supposed to be signed to. This is a wilderness trail and signage is kept to a minimum. Signs should be present at all trail junctions and road crossings. Beyond that, there are rare “reassurance markers”. You may travel for miles between seeing a PCT symbol. That’s generally by design. Unfortunately, some signs are also stolen or destroyed. You should have maps along and be able to navigate through unsigned sections. We wrote an in-depth article about PCT signage in the Summer 2013 Communicator magazine.

Does the PCT close?

Yes and no. The trail does not close for the winter. It just gets blanketed in snow and becomes the realm of backcountry skiers. While it’s not practical to hike some of the trail during the winter, it’s not officially closed. Learn more about when to find good hiking conditions. It does close temporarily for things like forest fires and broken bridges. These closure orders are put in place by the local land agencies and we list them on our trail closures page.

Are there check-in points along the trail? How do the trail registers work?

On the PCT, your safety is your own responsibility. While there are permits, no officials are actively monitoring or keeping track of your location. You should provide your itinerary to family or friends and check in with them frequently.

Trail registers up and down the trail are mostly an informal system of notebook logs. Besides a few purposely placed visitor use monitoring registers, they’re generally not placed for the explicit purpose of tracking trail users. We recommend signing them but know that they are not a part of a system that’s expressly designed for determining your location should you go missing. Please do not rely on them for that purpose. They’re a fun way to record and share your thoughts and a great way to communicate with those behind you. Still, they could be used if you go missing, so it’s a good idea to sign them.

Where can I find partners for the PCT?

You’re dreaming of the trail and you don’t want to go alone. Check out our guide for finding a hiking partner. Online, you may have luck finding partners on the PCT social media channels. In person, attending events, volunteering and just spending time on the trail are great ways to connect with like-minded outdoors people. If you’re a thru-hiker, most people recommend starting the trail solo and finding partners among your fellow hikers.

How do I find a ride to the trail?

Transportation logistics can be a major headache. We have extensive advice on our PCT transportation page.

What’s the length of the Pacific Crest Trail?

We say that the Pacific Crest Trail is 2,650 miles long. Is it? Probably not, but no one knows for sure. The trail’s tread (the footpath itself as opposed to the wider trail corridor) moves every year, sometimes adding or subtracting miles at a time. Various places on the internet declare more specific lengths. Take them with a grain of salt. The PCT has never been mapped with tools that would provide a truly accurate distance for the trail. What data sets that do exist were generally gathered with consumer level tools and do not take in to account the various changes that happen every season. Years ago, PCTA decided to settle on a number. We can’t re-print t-shirts and remake trail signs every season as the tread moves. The Pacific Crest Trail is around 2,650 miles and that’s accurate to within 10 or so miles.

Where should I leave “trail magic” caches? How can I become a trail angel?

Please do not leave caches of food or drinks out on the Pacific Crest Trail. Head on over to our guidance about trail magic and advice for trail angels to learn how to be low impact. We’ll talk you through all you need to know if you’re thinking of becoming a trail angel.

An example of what not to do.

A (staged) example of what not to do.

What is TR. NO. 2000?

Prior to the PCT’s designation as a National Scenic Trail in 1968, a traveler along the Pacific Crest Trail System might have been walking from Forest Service trail number 101, to State Park Trail number 6902, and so on. These trails became connected, along with a fair dose of new construction and road walks, to make what we now know as one continuous route. Subsequently, there was a push to standardize trail marking from Canada to Mexico. Every trail has to be assigned a number for agency records, and it was determined there ought to be a consistent logic in the numbering of national scenic trails. Hence the Appalachian Trail, in cross-agency nomenclature, became trail number 1000, and the PCT number 2000.

Now, what about the question of abbreviations? The signage manual states that abbreviations are to be avoided if possible; however, “TR.” is a Forest Service-approved abbreviation for trail, and “NO.” for number. After considering all this, new directional signs naming the PCT should say PACIFIC CREST TR. NO. 2000.

What is Monument 78?

The Pacific Crest Trail ends at the Northern Terminus monument about two feet south of Boundary Monument 78 on the US/Canada border. The International Boundary Commission informs us that it was the 78th Boundary Monument from the Pacific along the line of the 49th Parallel. Many monuments have since been added in between the original monuments to increase visibility along the border. Most of the boundary work in the area was done between 1901 and 1905. These monuments mark the exact line of the international boundary.

How many miles is the Sierra segment of the Pacific Crest Trail?

The geologic Sierra segment of the PCT is 748.5 miles long, running from where you enter the “Sierran Tail” near Tylerhorse Canyon (mile 540.5) to the headwaters of Chips Creek north of Belden (mile 1298). There are also cultural definitions of the Sierra. In casual terms, many people think they enter the Sierra around Walker Pass and leave it around Belden. The high peaks of the Sierra run from about Kennedy Meadows South to about Sierra City.

How many people hike or ride their horses on the Pacific Crest Trail?

We really don’t know. For more, check out our visitor use statistics page.

Can I use a hiking cart on the Pacific Crest Trail? How about a wheelchair?

Wheeled carts are not allowed on much of the trail. They are not prohibited on the PCT specifically but they are prohibited in designated wilderness areas and may be prohibited in the rest of the national park land that is not wilderness. Of the 2,650 miles of PCT, 54% of the trail that is on federal land is located in designated wilderness. A wheeled cart would not be permitted in those 48 federally designated wilderness areas, even for people with disabilities.

In order to protect the primitive and undeveloped qualities of wilderness, motorized equipment, and mechanized transportation are not allowed within wilderness. PCTA does not make these rules, we’re just trying to answer your questions about the federal regulations on the matter.

Although motorized and mechanized transport are generally prohibited in wilderness, wheelchair use in a wilderness area by an individual whose disability requires its use is permitted. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA Title V Section 508c, as amended in 2008) defines a wheelchair as “a device designed solely for use by a mobility-impaired person for locomotion, that is suitable for use in an indoor pedestrian area.” “Designed solely for use by a mobility-impaired person” means that the original design and manufacture of the device was only for the purpose of mobility by a person who has a limitation on their ability to walk. “Suitable for indoor pedestrian use” means the device would be suitable and allowed to be used inside a church, an office building, etc. A wheelchair or mobility device that meets both parts of this definition is allowed anywhere foot travel is allowed including in federally designated wilderness areas. A wheeled cart is not a wheelchair, not used for locomotion, not suitable for indoor use and it is not specifically designed for a person with a disability and therefore is not allowed in designated wilderness areas.

Since specific regulations may vary by location, if you have more questions about this topic, we encourage you to contact the agency that manages the area that you’d like to travel in.

Can I use marijuana on the Pacific Crest Trail?

While marijuana laws are changing in California, Oregon, and Washington, you’ll be on federally managed public land most of the time while you’re on the Pacific Crest Trail. State laws that allow recreational marijuana use, do not over-ride federal laws that continue to identify marijuana as a Schedule I illegal drug and prohibit its use.

Possession of marijuana or use of any amount of marijuana is still prohibited on all federal land and at all federal facilities. For instance, on U.S. Forest Service land, violations are punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization or imprisonment for up to six months, or both. (16 U.S.C. 551, 18 U.S.C. 3559 and 3571)

Elsewhere, please remember that smoking anything can cause wildfires or detract from other peoples’ experiences.

Beware that you might encounter dangerous individuals growing illegal marijuana on public land. Learn what to do if you encounter a grow site.

A note about personal safety

The freedom to enjoy the Pacific Crest Trail comes with the responsibility to be informed, prepared and alert to our surroundings. Read more on our page about safety, crime and wilderness travel.

On trail angels: these generally wonderfully kind-hearted souls exist up and down the PCT. They are self-appointed volunteers and are not affiliated with our organization or the U.S. Forest Service. Anyone can call themselves a trail angel and offer a ride or a bed. PCT hikers and riders should use caution and good judgment when coming in contact with new people.

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