The Pacific Crest Trail has always been a 2,650-mile long-distance hiking trail running from Mexico to Canada. But, a decade ago, permits were more of a formality than the competitive lottery that the system is today. So, what happened to create such a high demand for one of these valuable permits? Some measures show the usage on the PCT increasing nearly 100x in the last 20 years.
In short, the Pacific Crest Trail exploded because of exposure. The more people who found out about the epic adventure, the more people wanted to challenge themselves mentally and physically. In recent years, the PCT has seen a significant increase in popularity, with thousands of hikers attempting the trail each year.
Here are a few reasons why the Pacific Crest Trail has become so popular:
Scenic Beauty: The Pacific Crest Trail passes through some of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes in North America, including deserts, forests, mountains, and alpine meadows. Hikers on the PCT are treated to stunning views of mountains, lakes, rivers, and wildlife, making it a truly awe-inspiring experience, and when these images and videos show up on social media, it spreads the word and the inspiration.
Popular Culture: The PCT has gained widespread exposure through popular culture, including books, films, and social media. The book “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed and the film adaptation of the same name, which starred Reese Witherspoon, brought the trail to the attention of a wider audience and inspired many people to attempt the trail. Even though it involves the Appalachian Trail, Bill Bryson’s book, “A Walk in the Woods” also had a profound impact on sending people on thru-hikes.
Accessibility: The Pacific Crest Trail is a well-established trail that is easily accessible to hikers. It is well-marked, has plenty of trailheads and access points, and is supported by a network of resupply points and other resources. This makes it easier for people to plan their trip and complete the trail. Also, with the advent of smartphones and GPS devices in hikers hands, it makes it much easier to navigate and find their ways onto the trail. Apps like OnX and FarOut have made trail accessilibity much better in the last decade.
Mental and Physical Challenge: Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is a significant mental and physical challenge that requires dedication, perseverance, and a sense of adventure. For many people, the PCT offers a chance to push their limits and test their endurance, and the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing the trail is unmatched. This is a new sentiment when more people are willing to step away from traditional life in order to chase big audacious dreams.
Community: The Pacific Crest Trail has a strong and supportive community of hikers, including trail angels, volunteer trail maintenance crews, and other hikers. This supportive community helps make the trail a welcoming and inclusive environment for all who attempt it, and this community and energy is contagious, especially when seen and noticed through social media, YouTube, and in person.
In conclusion, the Pacific Crest Trail has increased in popularity due to its scenic beauty, exposure through popular culture, accessibility, mental and physical challenge, and supportive community. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a beginner, the Pacific Crest Trail offers an unforgettable experience that is well worth the effort.