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The Crest to Coast Trail Could Be a New Way to Start Your PCT Hike

An in-progress, 71-mile spur seeks to connect one of America’s most famous long trails with the ocean.

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What if a simple detour could let Pacific Crest Trail hikers walk to the ocean? That’s the idea behind the Crest to Coast Trail, an in-progress path that would provide a path from the PCT to the California seaside.

The joint project is the work of a coalition of nonprofits—the Santa Clarita Group, the National Park Service, the US Forest Service, the City of Santa Clarita, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy—as well as hundreds of trail maintainers and volunteers who are diligently working to complete it. The Crest to Coast would be about 100 miles long and link the Agua Dulce section (mile 454.4) of the Pacific Crest Trail to the Pacific Ocean. 

“Over the years, we’ve probably had about 500 volunteers or so,” says Jeff Morrison, open space and trails administrator for the city of Santa Clarita, with builders meeting every Wednesday and Saturday.

Upon its completion, Crest to Coast visitors will be able to travel on foot, on a mountain bike, or by horse.

 “A lot of the trails are there, and they’re being used right now,” says Morrison. “We just need to make the connections.” 

Besides offering days’ worth of trail to explore, the Crest to Coast Trail’s supporters say that it could act as an alternate southern terminus for the Pacific Crest Trail. At a time when interest in the PCT is exploding, finding ways to alleviate human impacts near the end may come as a great relief to the trail. The highest density of human impact is typically seen in this region, and the Crest to Coast Trail could help spread it out. 

“Some people will hike the PCT from the coast,” says Morrison. “I think it may bring tourist money to [the area]. That’ll be a good benefit. There will also be a regional draw.” 

Across the Santa Clarita section of the Crest to Coast Trail,  just 5 miles of undeveloped trail remain. Besides the adventure of heading from the mountains to the sea, the views from the ridgeline over which the trail traverses may be reason enough for many hikers to explore this new path. Once it’s complete, hikers on the Crest to Coast will trek through the San Gabriel Mountains, following a ridgeline that offers views of Los Angeles, the Tehachapi Mountains, and Santa Clarita.

As for camping, the nearby open space offers permits to hikers who plan in advance. Morrison hopes that there will be opportunities for dry camping on the ridgeline as well. And the trail developers plan to provide additional camping opportunities for hikers down the line. 

The modern Crest to Coast Trail was first envisioned by Laurene Weste, the Mayor of Santa Clarita, who began working as a Parks and Recreation Commissioner in the early 1990s. After her election to Santa Clarita’s city council in 1998, she began to push forward the trail’s early alignment and development.

About two decades of dedicated labor later, the completion of the trail is imminent. Morrison estimates it will take another five years to finish the remaining sections of the trail. Hikers that are antsy to see it finished can sign up to help.

“We’re always looking for new volunteers,” says Morrison. “It’s kind of the way that we get our trails built here in the city.”

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