Want to do some planning for your inevitable Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike but don’t know where to start? Looking for the best Pacific Crest Trail resources? Well if you haven’t already, I suggest you check out my Pacific Crest Trail page.
Absorbed all of that? Great, read on.
As much as I would like to say that you can find everything about the Pacific Crest Trail here on Halfway Anywhere, I can’t. Well, I could, but I imagine that since you’ve managed to make it here, you are perfectly capable of finding other resources as well – and I don’t want to be branded a liar (not yet, at least).
Using my experience planning a Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike, and using the data from my Pacific Crest Trail thru-hiker survey, I’ve compiled a list of the best (and worst) resources for hiking the PCT.
THE BEST PACIFIC CREST TRAIL RESOURCES
BLOGS/FORMER THRU-HIKERS: What’s consistently the most valuable resource for people hiking the PCT? The tales and experiences from former thru-hikers. This is why I have devoted countless hours to filling Halfway Anywhere’s PCT Page with all the information I can manage. It’s also why I began conducting my Annual Pacific Crest Trail Thru-hiker Survey (here) – because there’s no better resource than hikers who have just finished a thru-hike.
CRAIG’S PCT PLANNER: Craig’s PCT Planner is a resource that allows you to plot a Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike by inputting a starting date, starting point, ending point, hiking pace, hiking day length (in hours), and how much time to add for every 1,000 feet of elevation gained. Using your data it outputs how many days it will take between your selected resupply points, what the elevation profile it, how much total elevation you’ll gain, your average elevation gain per day, and your average mileage per day. It’s best used for getting an idea of how long it will travel between resupply points (which are listed in the web-based application). Don’t go crazy trying to plan your hike exactly – it’s not going to work. Find Craig’s PCT Planner here.
HALFMILE: Halfmile offers PDF maps of the PCT (that can be printed or used on your mobile device) that receive a yearly update and much praise from PCT hikers (myself included). The maps offer notes on water sources, campsites, resupply, alternates, and features that the trail passes. Update: This app is no longer available
Halfmile has also developed an app that lists all the PCT waypoints in his maps and is available (for free) on both Android and iOS. Check out my review of the Halfmile app here. Find Halfmile’s maps (available for free) here.
ATLAS GUIDES (FORMERLY GUTHOOK): Atlas Guides (formerly Guthook Guides) has the most comprehensive and complete PCT app around. It includes maps, water information, campsites, waypoints, resupply and town information, photographs, elevation profiles, comments and more. I seriously love this app. You can buy the entire PCT guide for $24.99 or you can buy each of the five sections individually for $6.99 each. Get it for Andorid or iOS. Check out my review of Guthook’s PCT Guide here (or check out the Atlas Guides here).
THE PCT WATER REPORT: The desert portion of the PCT is plagued by long, dry, waterless stretches where hikers are forced to carry far too many liters of water between sources. And to make things worse, sometimes even “reliable” sources of water can be dry. So how do you know where the water’s at? The PCT Water Report is a crowd-sourced document that covers all sections of the trail but is most helpful in the desert (and a few places in Northern California). You can (and are encouraged to) send updates to the water report from the trail via email or text message. You can find the water report as section-based PDFs here. Alternatively, you can view the most current version Google Sheets here. Just remember to be a bit wary of the information in the report and certainly don’t bet your life on it.
THE WORST PACIFIC CREST TRAIL RESOURCES
THE PCT CLASS FACEBOOK GROUP: Oh, PCT Facebook Group, how incredibly useless you are. Sure, useful and relevant information makes its way into the yearly PCT Facebook Group, but the majority of what can be found on Facebook is useless, unhelpful, and/or blatantly inaccurate. Remember that the members of the PCT Facebook Group can be anyone: future hikers, past hikers, trail angels, family members, or random PCT groupies. The Facebook group is a place where you will find a lot of fearmongering, people who don’t know how to use Google, and people who quite obviously need some attention from internet strangers. The short of it? Keep an eye on the Facebook group, but do not put any stake in what’s posted there.
PCT GUIDEBOOKS/DATABOOK: Pretty much any book published (including the PCT Databook) on “how to hike the PCT” is most certainly not worth your time or money. The resources listed above will do a better job of giving you a more realistic and accurate look at what the Pacific Crest Trail is like. Reading a book about the trail is one thing, but don’t expect any book out there to teach you how to successfully hike the PCT.
NON-THRU HIKER OPINIONS: It’s dangerous out there! You’re going to get killed by a bear! You aren’t experienced enough to do this! You’re never going to make it! Yes, the ramblings of an unsupportive lot of naysayers. Basically, you shouldn’t concern yourself too much with the thoughts and opinions of people who have no idea what they’re doing and who are apparently experts in unfounded speculation. And you should also be wary of any advice gathered at your local outfitter or big-box sporting goods store. Consider yourself warned.
THE PCT-L: I am surprised that this still exists. The “L” in PCT-L stands for listserv and if you’re asking yourself “The fuck is a listserv?” don’t worry, you’re not alone. A listserv is an e-mail list that people can use to mass mail and reply to members of the list. In theory, the PCT-L is filled with questions/news relevant to the PCT and those who plan on hiking it. Since all members of the list receive and can reply to all emails, it’s more like a spammy clusterfuck of people who have little to zero idea of what they’re talking about. Do yourself a favor and stay away from the PCT-L. I wrote a post on the topic a while back that you can find here.
WHAT ABOUT YOGI’S GUIDE?
Yogi’s PCT Handbook has consistently ranked as both one of the best and worst resources for PCT hikers. Personally, I am not a fan of the book and I definitely found myself in the “worst resource” category at the end of my PCT thru-hike. If you’re interested, I wrote this post about Yogi’s Guide for Squares.