TravelTravel Advice

What’s the best weeklong hike on the PCT?

A friend and I are planning to hike a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail next summer. We'll have a week; what are the best sections for a trip like this?

Sierra views along the PCT. (Photo: MiguelVieira/Flickr)

Throughout the pandemic, we'll keep publishing news to help you navigate the state of travel today (like whether travel insurance covers the coronavirus), as well as stories about places for you to put on your bucket list once it's safe to start going more far-flung.


Less crowded than the Appalachian Trail and better marked than the Continental Divide Trail, the PCT might just be the Goldilocks of long-distance National Scenic Trails.

More than half of the 2,650-mile-long trail is in Wilderness Areas that offer primitive, backcountry hiking. As Mark Larabee, managing editor for the Pacific Crest Trail Association observes, “Spending a week backpacking will literally just be scratching the surface of this amazing experience. Some people spend their whole lives section hiking the PCT, ticking off place after place.”

Assuming you’re fit enough to take on any trail segment and weather isn’t a factor (some of the trail can be packed with snow through July), here are a few suggestions based on state:  

Sierra Nevadas, California
“For my money, you can't beat the breathtaking scenery of California's Sierra Nevada in summer," Larabee says. "The Ansel Adams and Desolation Wilderness Areas are my favorite."

Three Sisters Wilderness, Oregon
Along with Broken Top to the south, this trio of volcanic peaks in the Oregon Cascades are known for their glaciers. Lush forests in the section of trail from Three Sisters Wilderness to Mount Jefferson Wilderness teem with Douglas, silver, and sub-alpine firs; hemlock; vine maple; huckleberry; and rhododendron. Streams course through the landscape, including the Wild and Scenic Squaw Creek whose headwaters emerge here.

Goat Rocks Wilderness, Washington
Mount Adams Wilderness to Goat Rocks Wilderness offers a solid section hike from the Northwest’s second-highest peak, with terrain similar to that in Oregon. En route you’ll hike through Packwood Glacier. Named after the numerous mountain goats that inhabit the crest of the Cascade Range, you may spot a few on the way to Goat Rocks. 

A transportation tip: By its nature, the PCT is a point-to-point hike. If you’re hiking for a week, you’ll need to arrange for drop-off and pick-up. If you plan a loop, you’ll need to consult regional trail maps beyond those of the PCT.

If you’d like to do further research, the best trail knowledge is collected in guidebooks (yes, actual books!), many of which are available through the PCTA shop.

Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. In recent years, Outside Online has reported on groundbreaking research linking time in nature to improved mental and physical health, and we’ve kept you informed about the unprecedented threats to America’s public lands. Our rigorous coverage helps spark important debates about wellness and travel and adventure, and it provides readers an accessible gateway to new outdoor passions. Time outside is essential—and we can help you make the most of it. Making a financial contribution to Outside Online only takes a few minutes and will ensure we can continue supplying the trailblazing, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. We hope you’ll support us. Thank you.
Contribute to Outside
Filed To: Adventure Adviser
Lead Photo: MiguelVieira/Flickr
More Travel