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Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail

Hiking Trail or Trailhead
Arrowhead Lake in the High Sierra – a jewel of the West. – Aaron Doss

The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is the western treasure of America’s scenic trails, spanning 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington. It reveals the beauty of the desert, unfolds the glaciated expanses of the Sierra Nevada, and provides commanding vistas of volcanic peaks and glaciers in the Cascade Range. Thousands of hikers and equestrians enjoy this national treasure each year. The PCT crosses or is near 26 National Forests, 7 National Parks, 5 State Parks, 4 Bureau of Land Management resource areas, and several state and county parks. The PCT is a nationally significant resource providing hiking, backpacking, horseback riding and long-distance trail opportunities for pedestrians and equestrians, extending from Mexico to Canada along the rugged and remote crest of the Cascade, Sierra Nevada, and Southern California mountain ranges.

In the Sierra Nevada section of the Trail, elevations range from 8,000 to 13,200 feet and for 200 miles the trail doesn't cross a road. Starting from this section's lowest point at Walker Pass (elev. 5,246'), the trail enters a roadless and wildly scenic realm, being met only occasionally by a dead-end road from the east. It hugs the relatively dry crest through the Chimney Peak Wilderness before reaching and crossing the South Fork of the Kern River near Kennedy Meadows. The route alternates between expansive meadows and conifer forests, then embarks on a 3,300' ascent and traverse to Cottonwood Pass.

In Sequoia National Park, the popular John Muir Trail descends from nearby Mt. Whitney (elev. 14,494') to join the PCT. The trails share the same tread for most of the way to Highway 120 in Yosemite National Park's lush Tuolumne Meadows (elev. 8,690'). Along this mostly wilderness stretch, the route repeatedly descends deep canyons only to ascend to high saddles. The PCT crosses eight named passes above 11,000' in this section, the first being Forester Pass (elev. 13,180'), the highest point on the entire trail. After crossing Highway 108 at Sonora Pass (elev. 9,620'), the altitude changes diminish in amplitude, and the trail soon begins a generally subalpine, relatively level traverse that stays close to the Sierra crest until this section ends at Interstate 80 (elev. 7200'). There is some volcanic rock south of Yosemite, but notable amounts are encountered from Sonora Pass to Echo Summit at Highway 50, and again near this section's end north of the Granite Chief Wilderness.

North of Donner Summit (elev. 7,200'), old volcanic flows and sediments bury most of the ancient bedrock of the Sierra Nevada crest, making travel in this section potentially dusty in late summer. Beyond the North Fork of the Feather River, the Sierra Nevada yields to the southern Cascade Range.

For an accurate map of the PCT California trail sections, please visit

Trail Distance

2,650 miles

Nearby Places