Some things are so inevitable there’s no sense disputing them: death, taxes, and the unrivaled beauty of the Sierra. Following the John Muir Trail much of the way, the PCT rambles through dozens of scenes suitable for framing—13,000—and 14,000-foot granite skyscrapers, canyons a mile deep, and thousands of lakes in beds of polished rock. You’ll walk the longest strip of roadless trail in the nation and bump into civilization just twice. The best campsite is…virtually anywhere, though an enduringly classic spot to pitch nylon is Vidette Meadow, below the soaring Kearsarge Pinnacles. If you absolutely can’t spare more than a week, knock off the 76 miles from Tuolumne Meadows to Sonora Pass; here, the PCT ventures beyond the popular JMT into remote northern Yosemite and the Emigrant Wilderness. And leave your umbrella at home: The Sierra in summer is reliably sunny and mild.
LOCAL WISDOM Flatlanders should hike this stretch north to south to acclimatize before reaching the higher elevations of Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks.