Pacific Crest Trail Map (Interactive) | State-By-State Breakdown 101 - Greenbelly Meals

Pacific Crest Trail Map


An interactive map of the Pacific Crest Trail complete with a state-by-state breakdown (length, highest elevation and highlights). Printable PDF version available.

To Print PDF: Step 1) Expand to full screen view (click box in top right hand corner of map). Step 2) Zoom in to your desired map section view. Step 3) Click on the three white vertical dots and then "Print Map" from that drop down menu.



Pacific Crest Trail Map

The Pacific Crest Trail stretching 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada.



CALIFORNIA


California map Pacific Crest Trail


SOUTHERN SECTION

Approx Length: 648 miles (0 to 648)

Highest Point: 9,030 ft (San Jacinto mountains)

Overview and Why it is Awesome: 

This section starts at the southern terminus of the PCT at the outlying town of Campo, California near the Mexican border. This part of the PCT winds its way through the hot and arid desert where you hit your first significant climbing in the San Jacinto mountains. Most of the trail is desert scrub and cacti with forests at the higher elevations.

The highlight of this section is the Mojave desert, which is the driest desert in North America. The landscape is other-worldly with long flat stretches of desert that are dotted with Joshua trees and surrounded by steep mountains. The Mojave desert ends at Tehachapi Mountains which is the gateway to the Sierra Nevadas.

The desert section part of the PCT is difficult because of hot and dry conditions during the day and near freezing temperatures at night. To avoid the blazing temps and blistering sun, hikers will find shade to take a siesta during the day and hike their miles in the morning and evening. Water also is scarce with hikers having to carry at least 2 to 4-liters to make it through the long, dry stretches. Even though its the desert, Animals are abundant. You'll see snakes, lizards, scorpions, and rodents on the trail. There's also the occasional coyote or cougar.

pacific crest trail section desert californiaPhoto Credit: brianandearth.com

CENTRAL SECTION

Approx Length: 504 miles (649 to 1,153)

Highest Point: 13,153 ft (Forester Pass)

Overview and Why it is Awesome: 

There is a reason why John Muir was so fond of the Sierra Nevadas - the scenery in the range is among the most beautiful in the world. This section starts at Walker Pass, where the landscape transitions from dry desert scrub to lush meadows and conifer forests. Eventually, the trail enters a glaciated landscape marked with steep peaks, deep canyons, and water-filled basins.

The PCT and John Muir Trail merge just after Mount Whitney and share the same footpath until they separate in Yosemite. Mount Whitney is not part of the PCT, but most hikers take an extra day to hike California's highest peak. The highest part of the PCT, Forrester pass (13,153 feet), immediately follows Whitney giving PCT hikers back-to-back days of big elevation. Once the trail hits Yosemite, it mellows out staying mostly below the alpine zone. This section ends in the Granite Chief Wilderness, just outside Lake Tahoe.

As compared to the desert, temperatures are moderate, and water is more plentiful in the Sierra Nevadas. This section has its own challenges, though. There are bugs, a lot of them, and they love feasting on thru-hikers. There also are water crossings which can be difficult depending on the seasonal snow or rainfall. Speaking of snow, you will likely run into some snow in this section so pack crampons or microspikes and an ice axe.

pacific crest trail section california sierra nevadasCredit: Frank Johnson via spokesman.com

NORTHERN SECTION

Approx Length: 567 miles (1,153 to 1,720)

Highest Point: 7,600 ft (Unnamed peak in Shasta-Trinity National Forest area)

Overview and Why it is Awesome: 

Northern California has been known to lack the wow factor of the glacier-carved peaks in the Sierra Nevadas, but it has its own charms. This section has a little bit of everything - dry parts reminiscent of the southern California desert, craggy peaks similar (but not as steep) to the Sierras, lush forests and meadows fueled by nutrient-rich volcanic soils and ample rain.

The PCT travels through Lassen Volcanic National Park, which is an area of active underground volcanic activity. Underground water is heated by molten lava underneath the park producing pools of boiling water and bubbling mud called fumaroles. The biggest of these hot springs is Boiling Spring Lake, one of the largest hot springs in the world.

Wildfire smoke makes its appearance in this section of the trail sometime making it difficult to breathe. No matter the circumstances hiker get a small boost in this section when they hit the midpoint marker, a small stone monument at mile 1320.7. As you come to the end of the trail in California, the jagged peaks of California give way to the rounded mountains of the Oregon Cascades, and the mighty Mount Shasta dominates the horizon.

Lassen Volcanic National Park - Pacific Crest Trail MapCredit: hikeoregon.net



OREGON


Oregon map Pacific Trail Crest

Length: 430 miles (1,720 to 2,150)

Highest Point: 7,560 ft (Unnamed saddle)

Overview and Why it is Awesome: 

The Cascade mountains in Oregon are the shortest and easiest section of the PCT to hike. Oregon is known for its coniferous forests, beautiful meadows, and the volcanoes that make up the landscape. The grades are more mellow than California, and the resupply points are numerous. The trail is basically a hike through a series of volcanic mountains which culminates at Mount Hood, Oregon's largest and most active volcano. The PCT skirts along the side of Mount Hood providing a close-up look at the basalt cliffs and many glaciers that make up this majestic peak.

Crater Lake is another must-see section of the trail. Formed when the volcano Mount Mazama collapsed, it is the deepest lake in the US and the ninth deepest in the world. The PCT travels six miles along the rim of the lake providing outstanding views when the weather is clear.

Wildfires are frequent in this area, and parts of the trail often are closed. These closures can be frustrating to hikers, especially purists who want to hike every inch of the path. These closures are not conveniently placed at trailheads or road crossings, they often are in the middle of the trail. Hikers have to hike out to the closed section and back if they want to cover the entire length of the PCT. With the wildfires also comes smoke that'll sting your eyes and irritate your lungs.

The trial in this section has long dry stretches in between creeks and lakes. If you are headed northbound, you can start to experience cooler temperatures that'll encourage you to pick up your pace so you won't encounter snow in your third and final state Washington!

pacific crest trail section oregon sistersCredit: andyporterimages.com


WASHINGTON


Washington map Pacific Crest Trail

Length: 500 miles (2,150 to 2,650)

Highest Point: 7,126 ft (Lakeview Ridge)

Overview and Why it is Awesome: 

Washington begins with the crossing of the Bridges of the Gods from Cascade Locks, Oregon (140 ft), the lowest point on the PCT, to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The trail follows the spine of the Cascades until it reaches Canada's Manning Park.

After bombing through Oregon, hikers must contend with the steep peaks and deep canyons in the mountains of the northern Cascades. If they didn't know better, they might think they were back in the roller coaster trails of the Sierra Nevadas. The PCT skirts many lakes and travels around both Mount Adams and Mount Rainier before heading deeper into the wilderness.

The highlight of this wilderness section is Glacier Peak and its surrounding wilderness area. There are few places as spectacular as Glacier Peak, a 10,000-foot snow-capped volcano nestled deep in the Northern Cascades. Far from civilizations, Glacier Peak is memorable for its densely forested valleys and a seemingly endless stream of sawtoothed peaks.

Washington is the wettest state on the trail, positioned in a storm track that dumps rain or snow year-round. Hikers should be prepared to hike through the snow, sleet or rain depending on the season. Wildlife is abundant in the wild and rugged Cascades -- expect to see mountain goats, lynx, black bear, and deer. There are even a few grizzlies that prowl the northern Cascades.

pacific crest trail section washingtonCredit: Björn Gissa via Wikimedia Commons



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By Kelly Hodgkins: Kelly is a full-time backpacking guru. She can be found on New Hampshire and Maine trails, leading group backpacking trips, trail running or alpine skiing.
About Greenbelly: After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Chris Cage created Greenbelly to provide fast, filling and balanced meals to backpackers. Chris also wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail.



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