The diversity of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is unrivaled by any other trail in the country. Here, you'll find the most glaciated and the highest peaks in the Lower 48, along with ice-clad volcanoes and granite batholiths. There are cedars 9 feet in diameter, and cacti only a few inches tall. Waterfalls plunge hundreds of feet, and a plethora of tarns pits alpine basins. There are mountain passes higher than 13,000 feet, and one carved by the Columbia River at 90 feet above sea level. Because of its diversity, few trails rival the PCT for scenery—from temperate-rainforest trees smothered by moss to sunbaked granite mountain walls streaked with lichens, this trail offers some of everything.
Along its 2,665-mile course, the PCT boasts lots of wildlife, loads of solitude, and many miles of challenge. And all of that explains why in 1968, when federal legislation created the National Trail System to help develop and protect long scenic trails, the PCT was among the first designees of the system.
Although the PCT travels through only three states along its border-to-border passage, it bisects 24 national forests, 33 wilderness areas, and five distinct geographic regions, each with its own climate, geology, flora, and fauna.
For best information:
Pacific Crest Trail Association, (916) 349-2109; www.pcta.org.
The Pacific Crest Trail, volumes 1 and 2, by Jeffrey P. Schaffer, Ben Schifrin, Thomas Winnett, and Ruby Johnson Jenkins (Wilderness Press, 800-443-7227; www.wildernesspress.com; $24.95).