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Backpacker Magazine –

The Pacific Crest Trail

The Pacific Crest Trail The PCT Project
Our map correspondent spent 5 months collecting photos and GPS data.
Meet Jack Haskel.

The Best Sections
The Pacific Crest Trail
This long trail runs 2,650 miles from the searing desert of Southern California to the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest. Step by step, it's arguably the most scenic trail in country. But don't take our word for it: Let the maps, points of interest, and photos of each section, from Mexico to Canada, prove it.

 
Pacific Crest Trail: Mexico to Canada
This interactive map is the next best thing to hiking the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail. Check out the trail on seamless topo maps, aerial photos, or fly over the terrain by clicking on theGoogle Earth link.

See more details in one of the 66 trail sections below. Go to:
California  |  Oregon  |  Washington


California
CA Section 1: SOUTHERN TERMINUS to BOULDER OAKS CAMPGROUND
From the US-Mexico border, begin this 21.2-mile leg with a traverse of Hauser Mountain's broad slopes before descending into the lowlands near Lake Morena.
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CA Section 2: I-8 to LAGUNA MEADOWS
Explore the shady ravines of the Laguna Mountains on this 19.2-mile to a cozy meadow campsite under Jeffrey pines.
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CA Section 3: LAGUNA MEADOW to CA 78
Starting on the Laguna Rim, this 25.7-mile leg passes over granite knobs with long views into the undulating desert.
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CA Section 4: CA 78 to WARNER SPRINGS
Best done during the cooler days of spring and fall, this 25.8-mile stretch runs through the shrubby San Felipe Hills of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
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CA Section 5: WARNER SPRINGS to CA 74
Horned lizards are just one of the oddly adapted desert creatures and plants you'll see on the 35-mile leg over Bucksnort Mountain. Pack plenty of water.
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CA Section 6: CA 74 to I-10
This 54.3-mile segment serves up an ecological buffet, passing through all California six life zones from the scrubby desert floor to the frosty spine of the San Jacinto Range.
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CA Section 7: I-10 to BIG BEAR CITY
This 48.9-mile segment offers plenty of crowdfree miles through twisty canyons, past wind farms and into fragrant fir groves.
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CA Section 8: BIG BEAR CITY to CRAB FLATS ROAD
Follow the forested high ridges across the San Bernardino Mountains to creekbeds tangled in sagebrush on this 21.6-mile leg.
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CA Section 9: CRAB FLATS ROAD to CA 138:
Hot springs. Killer views. Lonely campsites. That's just a short hitlist of what unfurls on this 30.4-mile section across the San Bernardino Mountains.
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CA Section 10: CA 138 to I-15
On this 10.5-mile stretch, climb through sandy washes and gullies around Cleghorn Ridge to overlooks of Cajon Canyon and the San Gabriel Mountains.
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CA Section 11: CAJON JUNCTION to CA 2
Walk the scar of the San Andreas Fault then climb the pinyon ridges of the Mojave Desert on this 23.6-mile trek. Don't miss Wrightwood, CA, considered the friendliest hiker town just off the PCT.
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CA Section 12: CA 2 to THREE POINTS
This 25.4-mile leg has a mad list of peaks. Start by climbing 2,000 feet up Mt. Baden-Powell with views unfolding to the Sierra Nevada. Then zigzag the swelling ridges of the San Gabriel Crest.
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CA Section 13: THREE POINTS to AGUA DULCE
Finish off the San Gabriel's by dipping into steep ravines and over ridges covered in spruce on this 41.3-mile stretch that ends beneath the uplifted sandstone cliffs in Vasquez Rocks County Park.
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CA Section 14: AGUA DULCE to ELIZABETH LAKE CANYON
Crest the wind-swept Sierra Pelona on this 25.8-mile leg above the Mojave Desert.
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CA Section 15: ELIZABETH CANYON to HIKERTOWN
Much of this 26.3-mile stretch navigates the slopes of Sawmill Mountain before ending in the desert flats of Hikertown, USA. High point: Views on Leibre Mountain stretch from the Pacific to the Mojave.
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CA Section 16: HIKERTOWN to TEHACHAPI/WILLOW SPRINGS ROAD
This one isn't for tender-footed hikers. Best saved for springtime, it's a hot run for 37 miles across the Mojave Desert peppered with iconic Joshua trees.
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CA Section 17: TEHACHAPI/WILLOW SPRINGS ROAD to LANDERS MEADOW
Climb through the Piute Mountains on this 42.5-mile stretch past dry mining claims and an expanse of sagebrush and yucca.
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CA Section 18: LANDERS MEADOW to WALKER PASS
Begin the long ascent into the Sierras through the pinyon forests and cholla clumps of the Scodie Mountains on this 38.7-mile leg. In spring, wildflowers bring color to the arid gray-green landscape.
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CA Section 19: WALKER PASS to KENNEDY MEADOWS
Go 48.5 miles on the Kern Plateau, a slanted wilderness that connects foxtail pine country to the crumbling granite obelisks of the Sierra foothills.
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CA Section 20: KENNEDY MEADOWS to TUOLUMNE MEADOWS
The highlight reel of this 209-mile section includes three national parks, several high passes with heavenly views, two stunning wilderness areas, and not a single road. Option: Detour up Mt. Whitney, the tallest peak in the Lower 48.
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CA Section 21: TUOLUMNE MEADOWS to SONORA PASS
This 63-mile section travels the remote regions of Yosemite. Our advice: Pack a good camera (the scenery is five stars), extra sunscreen (it's the High Sierra), and water shoes (swift rivers).
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CA Section 22: SONORA PASS to EBBETTS PASS
Curve between sharp ice-hewn boulders on this 27.2-mile stretch surrounded by red volcanic peaks.
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CA Section 23: EBBETTS PASS to CA 88
Pass through an ancient volcanic kiln of rugged knobs and lava streams now-framed with willows, peaceful meadows, and early-summer snow fields in the Mokelumne Wilderness. This is a moderately-challenging 23.6-mile leg.
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CA Section 24: CA 88 to US 50
Start at the headwaters of the Truckee River and get an early glimpse at Lake Tahoe before winding through lush canyons on this 12.5-mile section.
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CA Section 25: US 50 to I-80
Visit two scenic wilderness areas, swim in countless lakes, and traverse above Lake Tahoe's rim on this 56-mile section.
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CA Section 26: I-80 to SIERRA CITY
This 32-mile leg runs from ridge-to-river and offers incredible campsites. Add a wildcard to this adventure by overnighting at a backcountry hut.
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CA Section 27: SIERRA CITY to QUINCY-LAPORTE ROAD
Hike past dozens of alpine lakes and a few notable peaks on this 31.7-mile section. Don't pass by the Sierra Buttes without climbing to the old lookout, the views from the top are some of California's best.
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CA Section 28: QUINCY-LAPORTE ROAD to OROVILLE-QUINCY HIGHWAY
This 29.8-mile leg skirts crumbled lava flows and the churning Middle Fork Feather River, where delightful riverside pools offer ample sunbathing and swimming.
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CA Section 29: OROVILLE-QUINCY HIGHWAY to BELDEN
Travel a scenic 16.3-mile rim route above alpine ponds to one California's most isolated campsites under a canopy of red firs.
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CA Section 30: BELDEN to HUMBOLDT SUMMIT
This 22.4-mile heart-pounding section climbs 5,000 feet and crosses several lovely mountain streams.
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CA Section 31: HUMBOLDT SUMMIT to CA 36
Hit the PCT midpoint and some refreshing creekside pools in the Sierra's last canyon on this 17.9-mile section.
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CA Section 32: CA 36 to DRAKESBAD RESORT
Pick up some steam on this 17.4-mile segment through the puffing geysers and thermal lakes of Lassen Volcanic National Park.
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CA Section 33: DRAKESBAD RESORT to OLD STATION POST OFFICE
Head into the remote corner of Lassen Volcanic National Park on this 22.4-mile section past high mountain lakes ringed with conifers and a backdrop of cinder cone volcanoes.
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CA Section 34: OLD STATION POST OFFICE to BURNEY FALLS
This 43.8-mile leg, possibly the longest waterless stretch on the PCT, follows the sweltering contours of Hat Creek Rim before ending at a 129-foot cascade. In early spring, wildflowers are top-notch on the rim.
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CA Section 35: BURNEY FALLS to GRIZZLY PEAK
Scope a raging 129-foot waterfall to start this tough-and-dry 37.5-mile leg through rolling fir-forest basins to an isolated peak that rewards with views of Mount Shasta.
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CA Section 36: GRIZZLY PEAK to CASTLE CRAGS
Drop into shady canyons packed with cedars, firs, and flowing creeks before grinding up Girard Ridge for long-range vistas of snowy Shasta and the wrinkled Castle Crags on this 37.2 mile section.
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CA Section 37: I-5 to GUMBOOT TRAILHEAD
Trek past the lofty spires of Castle Crags to the weathered ridges and lakes near the Trinity Divide on this 21.5-mile stretch. Postcard views of Mount Shasta dominate the horizon.
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CA Section 38: GUMBOOT TRAILHEAD to CA 3
High in the Trinity Alps, this 32.9-mile ridge section views the headwaters of the Trinity River and countless alpine lakes.
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CA Section 39: CA 3 to CARTER MEADOWS SUMMIT
Pass rocky lake basins and deep, glacially scoured canyons on this 18.5-mile leg across the slim ridges of the Scott Mountains.
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CA Section 40: CARTER MEADOWS SUMMIT to ETNA SUMMIT
Stick to the high crest and get bird's-eye views over the headwaters of the Salmon, Scott, and Trinity Rivers during this 18.1-mile section through the less-explored lakes and peaks of the Russian Wilderness.
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CA Section 41: ETNA SUMMIT to SEIDAD VALLEY
Packed with craggy peaks and rugged cirques, this 51.1-mile leg through the Marble Mountains scores five stars in solitude.
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CA Section 42: SEIDAD VALLEY to OREGON BORDER
Few, if any hikers, make it this far north in California, so you'll likely have the trail to yourself. This 32.1-mile leg begins with a steep climb out of the Klamath River Valley and hugs the Siskiyou Crest passing past buttes and deep ravines.
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Oregon
OR Section 1: OREGON BORDER to OR 66
Pass under thick white firs on this 40.8-mile leg in the Siskiyou Mountains. Bonus: Watch the sunrise over Shasta from the Grouse Gap shelter.
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OR Section 2: OR 66 to OR 140
Trek through grassy slopes around Old Baldy into the lava fields of Brown Mountain on this 34.2-miler.
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OR Section 3: OR 140 to OR 62
More than 200 lakes provide primo camping and swimming holes on this 45.3-mile stretch. At the beginning, scale 9,495-ft. Mt. McLoughlin for superb views.
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OR Section 4: OR 62 to OR 138
Crest the breathtaking caldera of Crater Lake on this 22.4-mile trip that ends in the flats of the Pumice Desert.
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OR Section 5: OR 138 to OR 58
Travel past the jagged spire of Mt. Thielsen on this 58-mile leg in the mountain hemlock slopes of Diamond Peak Wilderness.
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OR Section 6: OR 58 to ELK LAKE
Find secluded lakeside campsites beneath towering cliffs on this 40-mile stretch in the Three Sisters Wilderness.
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OR Section 7: ELK LAKE to OR 252
Skirt the glacier-draped Three Sisters on this 26.6-mile trip full of excellent ridgetop campsites, aspen-lined lakes, and fields of black volcanic glass. Tip: Wear durable boots.
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OR Section 8: OR 252 to FR 4220
Editor's Note: Wildfires forced our map contributor to abandon the PCT and jump ahead to the next section. We'll collect details on this 57-mile section in Summer 2007.
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OR Section 9: BREITENBUSH LAKE to TIMOTHY LAKE
Knobby buttes dominate this 31.4-mile trip through a landscape of glistening lakes offering big views of Mount Jefferson.
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OR Section 10: TIMOTHY LAKE to TIMBERLINE LODGE
Giant stands of Douglas fir and lodgepole pine dominate this 23-mile leg which finishes on the airy slopes of Mount Hood.
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OR Section 11: TIMBERLINE LODGE to CASCADE LOCKS
Swift creeks, several waterfalls, and long photogenic views near Mt. Hood highlight this 41-mile segment.
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Washington
WA Section 1: CASCADE LOCKS to STABLER
Climb out of the Columbia River Gorge onto view-filled ridges on this 28.6-mile leg stocked with creeks and campsites.
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WA Section 2: STABLER to BIG MOSQUITO LAKE
Backpack through big huckleberry fields, visit an old Indian racetrack, and check out a hardened lava flow on this 33.7-mile leg that passes through Indian Heaven Wilderness.
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WA Section 3: BIG MOSQUITO LAKE to SHEEP LAKE
In-your-face glacier views of Mt. Adams dominate most of this 45.2-mile leg through beautiful subalpine meadows to the shores of a lovely ridgetop lake.
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WA Section 4: SHEEP LAKE to WHITE PASS
Get high into the snowy contours of Goat Rocks Wilderness on this 22.2-mile leg. Bring an ice axe and lightweight crampons for the Packwood Glacier.
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WA Section 5: WHITE PASS to CHINOOK PASS
This 25.6-mile leg traverses meadows dotted with lakes to the Cascade Crest for pin-up views of Mts. St. Helens and Rainier. Anderson Lake, just inside Rainier National Park, makes for a stellar final camp.
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WA Section 6: CHINOOK PASS to TACOMA PASS
Sticking to a craggy ridge over countless passes and peaks, this 37.4-mile leg features full-circle vistas over the central Cascades.
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WA Section 7: TACOMA PASS to SNOQUALMIE PASS
Hike through a patchwork of woodlands and lakes on this 25.3-mile stretch stocked with blueberries and long-range Rainier views.
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WA Section 8: SNOQUALMIE PASS to STEVENS PASS
It's you and the mountain goats on this 56.7-mile stretch along the crest of Alpine Lakes Wilderness to colorful meadows exploding with paintbrush and tiger lilies.
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WA Section 9: STEVENS PASS to KENNEDY RIDGE
This 40.4-mile leg serves up plenty of challenge and isolation: bottomless canyons, long talus slopes, and raging creeks add an extra edge to the overall beauty.
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WA Section 10: KENNEDY RIDGE to HIGH BRIDGE RANGER STATION
Climb the rugged topography around Glacier Peak then cross two passes on this 42.1-mile rollercoaster leg into Agnes Creek.
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WA Section 11: HIGH BRIDGE RANGER STATION to RAINY PASS
Wind along the roaring banks of a steep 1,000-foot gorge on this 18-mile stretch in North Cascades National Park.
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WA Section 12: RAINY PASS to HARTS PASS
This 25.6-mile ridge-to-river leg runs under a glacier-carved outcrop and its centerpiece, the 8,366-foot Golden Horn.
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WA Section 13: HARTS PASS to CANADA
The last 34-mile leg of the PCT might be one of the grandest, and possibly the least-traveled. In the remote Pasatayen Wilderness, hikers are the minority compared to the prized wildlife populations (grizzlies, gray wolves, lynx).
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READERS COMMENTS

jessie's girl
Sep 06, 2010

was wondering the exact same thing

Matt W.
Jun 30, 2010

Good Article, but I have a question for Backpacker Magazine. why are there only three trails in the long trails section? There are so many more trails that should be included in the list...The Continental Divide Trail, The North Country Trail, The Ice Age Trail, the Florida Trail, and probably many more.

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