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Myths about the Pacific Crest Trail

  1. You need backpacking experience to hike the PCT: While the Pacific Crest Trail is a long and challenging trail, it is accessible to hikers of all levels. Many people who hike the PCT are first-time long-distance hikers and even backpackers. They get experience and learn along the way and from other more experienced hikers out there.

  2. The PCT is a wilderness trail: While the PCT does pass through many wilderness areas, it also passes through many towns and urban areas. Thru-hikers are never too far from a resupply or a place to change out gear. There is ample opportunity to bail out, push through or turn around if a problem arises.

  3. The PCT is a solitary experience: While there are certainly opportunities for solitude on the PCT, it is also a social trail. Hikers often form trail families, or “tramilies,” and there are many opportunities to meet other hikers at trail towns and campsites. The whole trail name phenomenon is born out of socialization and the trail community. Once you are part of the long-distance hiking community, you will immediately have connections and friends worldwide.

  4. The PCT is dangerous: While there are certain risks associated with hiking the PCT, it is generally considered to be a safe trail. Hikers can mitigate risks by planning their route carefully, being aware of weather conditions, and carrying appropriate gear. Also, the fact that 10k other hikers a year will be out on the trail makes it much safer should a problem arise.

  5. The PCT is a continuous trail: While the PCT is a continuous trail, there are sections that may be closed or rerouted due to wildfires, snow, or other hazards. Hikers need to be prepared to adjust their route as needed and stay up-to-date on trail conditions.

  6. The PCT is only for young people: While backpacking is often associated with young people, people of all ages and backgrounds enjoy backpacking. You don’t have to be in your 20s to enjoy the outdoors and explore new places. In fact, a large portion of newly retired thru-hikers have exploded into the long-distance hiking world.

  7. You have to be in great shape to thru-hike the PCT: While thru-hiking can be physically demanding, the body will naturally adhere to the demands of the trail. The key is to take it slow at first and then slowly increase speed, mileage, and exertion.

  8. You have to rough it on the PCT: While the PCT does require a certain level of self-sufficiency, there are many ways to make your trip more comfortable, ranging from hotels to premium gear. You can bring a lightweight tent, a warm sleeping bag, and a portable stove to cook your meals.

  9. The PCT is always hot and dry: While some sections of the PCT do pass through desert areas that can be hot and dry, the trail also passes through forests, mountain ranges, and other varied landscapes. Hikers should be prepared for a range of temperatures and weather conditions. Even the desert portion of the Pacific Crest Trail is at some altitude and can have cold nights.

  10. The PCT is a well-marked trail: While the PCT is generally well-marked, some sections can be confusing or difficult to navigate. Hikers should be prepared to use a map and compass, or a GPS device, to navigate these sections.

  11. The PCT is only for solo hikers: While some backpackers do choose to hike the PCT solo, there are many hikers who hike with a partner or in a group. Hikers should choose a hiking style that works best for them, whether that is solo or with others. And if one group/tramily doesn’t work, simply speed up or slow down and catch the next one.

  12. There is too much snow in the Sierra: Every year, people are able to make it through the Sierra starting in April and all the way through the late fall. Get up to the snow, get eyes on the conditions yourself, and make your own decisions rather than following the rumors out there.

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