A Deeper Dive | The Five Sections Of The PCT |
Quick Navigation To The Five Sections:
First – The Desert (Southern California) | Second – The Sierras ( Central California) | Third – Northern California | Forth – Oregon | Fifth + Last – Washington |
Quick Navigation To Individual Legs: California Desert Section / California Sierra Section / Northern California Section / Oregon Section / Washington Section / Entire PCT: All Sections + Leg’s |
This post is the first of five. If you scroll down and learn about the first part of the Pacific Crest Trail you can then click the link and jump to the second part and follow the whole trail as a summary to help you understand it.
If you are new to learning about the Pacific Crest Trail, you will understand better how big a trip of this is for us. Since this is a high level summary, we have trail notes that break down all the little indvidual legs of the trip if you want to drill down. Quick Navigation To Individual Legs: California Desert Section / California Sierra Section / Northern California Section / Oregon Section / Washington Section / Entire PCT: All Sections + Leg’s |
These links are at the top of each section so you can jump around.
But right now… this is a summary of the 5 sections of the PCT and below is the first 700 miles covering the desert section from the Mexican border up to the start of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Let’s now begin… with Southern California:
The first 700 miles starts at the bottom of the map at Campo with the Southern Terminus and heads North up to Big Bear. The trail then slides West to follow the San Bernardino National Forest and then into the Angels National Forest. After that, the PCT then spikes North towards the Sierra Nevada and Kennedy Meadows which is known as the beginning of the Sierra’s.
We will try and take the start of the PCT slow to get used to carrying the weight of our packs and battling through the heat of the desert section. We are planning to cover the 700 miles in 2.5 months. We are tentatively scheduling about 13 zero/nero’s for that first 700 miles to rest, relax, edit our vlog and record our podcast.
Southern California has sections A, B, C, D, E, F, and G where Kennedy Meadows is Leg 12.
Leg 1: Campo to Lake Morena | 0 – 20 miles | Expecting to hike 1.5 days for the 20 miles | Half-day Nero in Lake Morena Campground
Leg 2: Lake Morena to Mt. Laguna | 20 – 40 miles | Expecting to hike 2 days for the 20.8 miles | 1 day Nero in Mt. Laguna + sleep on the trail |
As we go towards our first 40 miles on trail we will be in Lagunas and we will rise in elevation. Mt. Laguna brings us up to 6,000 ft above sea level and we might see our first bit of snow up that high and it’s April in the desert. To be only on-trail for only 5-6 days we could wake up in our tent to snow outside and we are in the desert! We will probably spend the day in Mt. Laguna eating our second burger and charging our electronics ( phone, GPS watch, battery pack, rechargeable headlamp and Garmin In-Reach ) What is our Garmin In-Reach? It allows us to stay connected when there is no cell reception and also has an S.O.S. button if we need help from Search and Rescue. Let’s hope we don’t have to push that for us or anyone we come across.
We will also resupply with groceries to strip down into meals and shove in our packs. For places that there is not a good selection, we might mail a box of food. One of our Patreon supporters, Neil Robertson funded us a little over $300 so we marked that money for the first part of the trail for food in his name. So kind of him to do that so we will show on our YouTube channel the haul we get from town to town in the first part of the trail.
Right now, one of our friends wants to come out for the first month on-trail with us, which will cover the first 266 miles of the PCT. Her name is Heidi and she will be our alarm clock. We introduce her in our podcast and she also joins us for our Trail Lingo Podcast as we talk about all the new PCT and Thru-hiking terms we will say and hear.
Leg 3: Mt. Laguna to Scissors Crossing (Hitch to Julian, CA) | 40 – 77 miles | Expecting to hike 3 days for the 34.2 miles | Full Zero in Julian with Motel |
Julian will probably be our first-night off-trail in a real bed. PCT hikers get a free slice of pie from Mom’s Bakery which we will go and get and also some treats to take back to our room. Julian is 13 miles west so this might be our first hitchhiking experience on the PCT. It has a good little grocery store to resupply. This will be our first chance to wash our clothes.
Since we are rookies, so hopefully our feet are ok. For the first 30 days, we are planning on hiking an average of 12.6 miles per day on hiking days. With the zeros/neros included it will drop it down to an 8.8 mile average per day if you factor off-trail rest and errands. After Julian, the trail enters the San Felipe Hills with the most impressive selection of cacti on the trail. After that 22 miles comes Barrel Spring where the trail drops back down into the Valle de San Jose.
We will camp hopefully near a water source which will make it easier to clean up after dinner and hydrate our bodies for the next day. Anywhere that is hopefully rock-free and flat and out of the wind that many times will pummel us at night.
Leg 4: Sisicors Crossing (Julian) to Warner Springs | mile marker 77 – 109 | Going to try to hike it in 2 days for the 33 miles | Nero at Warner Springs | This leg completes Section A
Leg 5: Warner Springs to Saddle Jct (Idyllwild) | 109 – 179 | Expecting to tackle this 77-mile stretch in 7 days and 2 days (double zero) in Idyllwild to resupply |
Coming out of Warner Springs we will be basically walking uphill for the entire 6-7 days of hiking. After that its downhill to Cabazon after that. “Mikes Place” is at the 127-mile marker so not sure if that will be a place to stop or now along the way. Most people stop for water at least. After Mike’s the trail traverses up, down and around some beautiful hillsides. Water is limited along this stretch. There are some caches which is such a morale boost, but you should try and plan it will be dry and treat it as a bonus. Our next goal to think about is Paradice Cafe at the 152-mile marker. This would be a 25-mile stretch that we can break down into two days. Standout meals at the Cafe are the Brownie Sundaes and the burgers.
As we head north we will get to Idyllwild 180 miles into our hike. It’s about 27 miles from Paradise Cafe. In Idyllwild… one of our goals is to meet up with the Mayor. Did you know the Mayor is Mayor Max who is a dog. A teacher from San Diego reached out to us and invited us to stay in his cabin in the mountain town of Idyllwild. We hope that offer stands when we get up there. If not… we will be all good. We will double zero in Idyllwild.
Idyllwild is nestled in the San Jacinto Mountains. Set among the tall pines and sweet-smelling cedars and legendary rocks.
Leg 6: Saddle Jct (Idyllwild) to Interstate 10 (Cabazon) | Miles 179 – 209 | We are expecting to hike the 30 miles in two days and take a nero in Cabazon recharging. Inside that hike, we will take a side trip for a day and climb Mt. San Jacinto.
Right after leaving Idyllwild, we will head straight up and hopefully summit our first Mountain. Depending on what the conditions are with snow and ice will dictate if we will attempt it. The dangers of snow and ice on some exposed ridges can be very dangerous. We will be mindful of Trevor who slipped and fell in 2020. We will have our Ice Axe and Microspikes for this section if needed. We will stop at his mile marker at 169.5 and reflect on our hike and being safe.
Mt. San Jacinto at 10,834 ft will be our first side-trip and hopefully summit.
After the San Jacintos over the next 62 miles, a huge downhill will take a day to reach the desert floor where we will treat ourselves to a Uber to an In & Out Burger joint and then back to climb up and into the San Bernardinos. You can see the change in temperature for every 1,000 feet of elevation that drops the temperature by 5 degrees.
Leg 7: Int 10 to Hwy 18 (Hitch to Big Bear + Big Bear Lake) | 209 – 266 | We are expecting to hike the 66 miles in 4 days and take 2 days off in Big Bear to Zero and say goodbye to Heidi that hiked the first month with us.
They have a good hostel in Big Bear and also a cool place to stay at someone’s house for a small donation which might be fun to hang out with hikers. Will ask the people we are chatting with inside our bubble where they might stay.
Leg 8: Big Bear to Interstate 15 (Cajon Pass) | Mile 266 – 342 | 66 miles to the famous PCT McDonalds. We are estimating it taking us 5 days of hiking.
After Heidi departs us in Big Bear, we will travel West along the ridges of the San Bernardino National Forest as we head towards Wrightwood and then down to the desert floor and the heat near Action and Agua Dulce.
We also hope to stop and have a dip in some Hot Springs at the 300-mile marker.
At that Mcdonald’s at Cajon Pass 342 miles into the trail… which should be day 36 on trail. I think we both will try the McDonald’s Resupply Challenge and we will eat just Roten Ronnie’s till the next resupply stop.
Leg 9: Int 15 to Wrightwood | mile 342 to 369 | We expect to hike 27 miles in 2 days, where we will take a zero in Wrightwood.
Leg 9B: Wrightwood to Agula Dulce | mile 369 to 454 | We expect to hike 8 days for these 85 miles and take a double zero in Agula Dulce.
We will also attempt our second summit on trail of Mt. Baden-Powell on day 2 of 8. That summit will bring us up to 9,406ft.
We will also hit Proclaimer’s Day and being around the 500-mile mark we both will probably need a new pair of trail runners too if we can get a hitch to REI near Agula Dulce. Tehachapi will give us a double zero and we will rest from the heat before the final push towards Walker Pass and up to Kennedy Meadows, which is coined “The Gateway To The Sierras”. Getting into KM will get us into the 6,000 – 7,000 ft above sea level and we will feel the energy be sucked out of us walking in that elevation which is a teaser of the Sierras.
Gear Swap: The Sierra Mountains Are Next
Our spikes will be mailed ahead to her after our Mt. Baden-Powell summit. We will also pick up a Bear Can and pick up our Ice Axe. We will also have to have warmer clothes. Long food carries are head in this section. Finding water is not an issue.
- Stay/Eat/Outfitter – Grumpy Bear’s Retreat 700.4mi / Restaurant with beer, wine, food and pizza. Amazing breakfasts. Also, live entertainment and party place. Rides can be arranged from the general store in Kennedy Meadows. Free camping. Laundry also. Wifi $10 / Accepts packages without a fee. Triple Crown Outfitter next door to Grumpy Bear.
- Triple Crown Outfitters: 8am – 10pm / www.triplecrownoutfitters.com / 559-302-9943 / They sell all the gear and also food to resupply. Yogi and Jackie are awesome to deal with. / TCO home phone number if stuck after hours 559-850-4453
- Kennedy Meadows General Store: Usually open 9-5pm. They also carry some gear. 559-850-5647 / email@example.com / www.kennedymeadowsgeneralstore.com / Holds packages for $6 fee. Super low key and chill. Free camping. Laundry and showers. Has a nice deck to relax. Quieter than staying at Grumpy Bears. Play movies on Saturday nights. Must try the Farmer’s Burger.