Home   |   Plan a Hike   |   About   |   Live Map   |   Data   |   Feedback   |   My Hiking Tips   |   2013 Journal

[motivation/hosting fund]

new news: [September 10th, 2022]

I need to do some server upgrades, hence pctplanner will be offline at 1:30pm Saturday September 10th PDT. It shouldn't take long
My PCT Hiking Tips
PCT Hiking Tips: Overview

Good Morning Goat Rocks! (and 9:33 on humanclock.com)
I packed up my belongings into a nylon carry-all...

This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive guide by any means. A lot of the travel experience (PCT or otherwise) is just figuring things out as you go. I’m putting this online since people write me with questions and I want to have something to direct them to.

If you are new to backpacking and the outdoors, you should really do some overnight trips first just to see what you are getting into. You will either find out you love it and it will give you additional confidence for your hike. Or, you might discover that just maybe the idea of hiking the PCT doesn't sound so hot after all, so you can pick a new goal and save yourself a lot of money in the process.

As I said two paragraphs above, this guide is basically a "behind the scenes" overview of my 2013 Pacific Crest Trail Hike, along with some relevant advice from my 1994/96 hike of the PCT. Much (and has) been written about preparing for a PCT hike. There is a general FAQ on the pcta.org website and a more extensive one at postholer.com.

The best possible thing you can do is to hike around town with a weighted backpack, eventually to the point of walking around 100 miles per week. This way you can hit the PCT at full throttle and not have all the usual feet issues that all the other hikers have the first 200 miles or so. You will have paid your dues already so to speak. The downside is that this takes a lot of free time to prepare for.

In 1994 I spent several hours each night walking around the Bellingham, WA with 50 pounds of weight in my backpack. When I hit the trail I was able to do 15 miles a day without many problems. This was also 1994, so wearing heavy mountaineering boots and a 50lb backpack were quite common.

When I went to finish the trail in 1996 and do the whole trail in 2013, the amount of training I did was minimal. A five mile jog 3-4 times a week was all I did. In 2013 my feet had the usual blisters and I had to take a day off the trail early on due to some sort of cramp in my right a foot. A day of ice/wrapping my foot helped it a lot and I never had any other problems.

Training for people other than you
(eg helicopter parents, needy significant others, and friends who all think you are going to die a horrible death on the PCT!)
First off, the entire PCT is sadly not a utopia wonderland. You will be walking through areas full of trash, under freeways, around poop, giant clearcuts, mind-numbing wind, mosquitoes from Rings #4 and #5 of Hell, etc. These are not areas where you want to sit on your ultralite yoga mat and "take it all in". Around these areas it is more preferable just to keep walking for hours on end, yet people back home will wonder why you are "rushing through all that beautiful scenery". The area around Highway 58 (section E/F) in California is one of the worst areas of the entire trail due to the wind and dust.

One thing I've found that non long-distance hikers do not understand is that the "walking is the pay off". Almost all my crazy ideas for the future and thinking about events in my past came when I was walking...not when I was sitting down "taking it all in". Some of my favorite days on the trail were also ones where I did the most miles...or when I did no miles.

The reason people are concerned is just because the PCT and the outdoors are giant unknowns to them. It is only natural. People are scared of uncertainty. Most people don't have any experience in the Wilderness so to them it is nothing but rattlesnakes, bears, and Indian Jones sized boulders trying to kill you. Yet, these same people think nothing of getting into a car and driving somewhere, where you are more likely to be injured in an auto accident.

Every time you get into a car and drive to work, do these people lecture you about safety and make you check in with them every time you reach your destination?


Hikers will say over and over again that they feel safer in the woods than they do in a city. That said, you also need to be smart about it and be properly equipped for bad weather.

When I biked around Australia in 2002-03, I heard a lot of tales of deadly spiders, snakes, etc. Yes they are there, but it is a bit blown out of proportion. For instance, twice in Australia I had an Australian ask me, "Wow, you are from America?! Man, how many drive by shootings have you seen?" The single worst thing that happened to me in Australia was probably the night I got really drunk and ate at McDonalds for the first time in ages.

Unless you are off the PCT itself, you are never really "out there all alone". For example, in Central Washington I was hiking with a couple hikers one day. We hadn't seen any other PCT hikers that day. There was a day hiker out and he was headed south. As he got closer he pointed at each of us and said "#49, #50, #51". The guy was numbering the amount of northbound hikers he had seen that day.

There are a lot of people on the PCT, but since almost all of them are moving at the same pace as you in the same direction, you won't really see them. Take for instance the amount of resupply packages waiting for hikers at Kennedy Meadows (mile 702.2) one afternoon in June 2013:

Disclaimer: all calculations and data are believed to be correct but are not guaranteed.
Please double check the calculations and trail/resupply data before starting a hike.