Are you wondering when to start the Pacific Crest Trail? As one of the great long-distance hiking trails in the world, trekking the Pacific Crest Trail, also known as the PCT, is a dream escape for most adventurers. At the same time, do you know the best time to start the PCT? Remember that proper timing is important for your safety and to ensure a truly rewarding hiking experience throughout. With this in mind, to help you plan for this adventure, here is everything you need to know when deciding on the best time to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
When to Start the Pacfic Crest Trail Hike
Answer – Mid April to Early May
Most northbound hikers start hiking the Pacific Crest Trail between the middle of April and early May. On the other hand, southbound hikers generally begin around late June or early July. Most hikers would prefer to start early, but most sections of the trail are still covered with snow during spring and early summer which can mean an early start is not always a good idea.
In Southern California, dangerous stretches of snow blankets the trail on the first 200 miles from the border. If you enter the Sierra early enough, you are also likely to come across a significant amount of snow and anxious crossings on particularly treacherous streams. In Washington, steep and dangerous snow slopes also make trekking the PCT quite risky and first time hikers are encouraged to avoid such scenarios whenever possible.
Making a late start is not always the best time to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. During this period, Southern California is likely to be dangerously hot and dehydration or sunstroke are serious concerns. If you intend to start late and plan to finish the entire trail as a thru-hike, there are also consequences which you need to keep in mind.
Checking the Current Weather Conditions
As you can see, weather is one of the most important factors to consider when deciding the best time to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Therefore, you must make sure to check the weather conditions during the your hike and you should look to follow the Pacific Crest Trail blog to get updated with the conditions of the trail and to know if the snow has already melted.
Study the weather conditions well and work around some windows of opportunity. Above all, ask yourself the important questions – are you fit enough to sustain “Big miles” in order to catch up or get ahead on trail? Will winter be over before you are done with your hike? In case you might be asking yourself, “Big miles” is different for each hiker but in time, most hikers look to cover a minimum of 25 and 30 miles on a daily basis.
Considerations for When to Start the Pacific Crest Trail
Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is a truly exciting experience, but things could happen along the way that is beyond your control. Injuries are often the reason for delays but also, many hikers love nothing more than taking a day off every once in a while which will set you back in the long run. Although the PCT trails are easy to follow, putting in the miles is a constant challenge even for experienced hikers and catching up is much easier said than done. With this in mind, make a decision to start early rather than late and this is likely to give you an option to take days off whenever needed. Furthermore, in the event of arriving at the foot of the Sierra too soon, you will have time to wait for the snow to dissipate and peace of mind that you are still ahead of the pack.
If you have any questions about when to start your hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, please leave a comment below!