Hiking The Pacific Crest Trail

Each spring, hikers take the long trek from Mexico to Canada (and vice versa) on the Pacific Crest Trail. Many are students. Many come from other countries to hike the length of the trail and many hikers use only segments of the trail. The trail begins on the California-Mexico border, 50 miles east of San Diego and leads north through desert chaparral and along the spine of Southern California’s mountains. It briefly crosses an arm of the Mohave Desert  before its ascent into the southern Sierra. The trail crosses or touches 33 federally designated wilderness areas, 24 nationals forests and 7 national parks. It also touches 5 state parks and many county lands. Private landholders have generously made routes available by right of way agreements with the federal government.

Touching 3 countries and extending 2,638 miles, the trail passes through Truckee, Tahoe, and through Plumas, Lassen and Shasta areas. In our northeastern California region it also takes you into the Bucks Lake Wilderness, winds through the Ishi Wilderness and crosses through Mt. Lassen National Park near Drakesbad Guest Ranch. The ranch offers rustic accommodations complete with gas lanterns for light, hiking trails, fishing and a restaurant that serves its guests. They also take reservations for dining only at Drakesbad, although space is limited. (For the full story on this resort, visit mountainvalleyliving.com and search Drakesbad.)

One evening at Drakesbad, after a relaxing dinner, we were enjoying the hot springs pool, when in wandered two hikers from Europe who noticed the pool from the trail above us. They were directed to the kitchen where managers Ed and Billie got them set up with a hot meal and a shower. Soon they were in the steaming hot springs pool soothing their aching muscles and enjoying the nighttime array of bright stars with us all. The trail is visible from the pool as it ventures off into the wild.

The variety of wildlife is wide on the PCT, with hikers seeing everything from deer mice to bears and cougars. Bald eagles and osprey soar by. We asked  Jason Judd of Westwood about it.  He hiked the trail last year.

“See any bears or cougars, Jason?”

“Meet any new friends?  Were there any social gatherings along the trail?”

“How much weight did you have to pack in for food, water and supplies?”

“Did you take any side trips into cities for more supplies?”

“What was the best part of your experience?”

“What was the worst part?”

“How long did it take to hike the whole thing?”

To hike the trail, permits are required including a California Campfire Permit, obtained for free at any Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, or California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection office. You will also need a back country permit to travel through Lassen National Park as well as in Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Yosemite. There are both trail books  and wilderness maps available. Visit a local US Forest Service or USDA Bureau of Land Management office for more details. For information on maps and guidebooks, contact Pacific Crest Trail Association at (510) 939-6111.