2600 miles, bitches!

Pacific Crest Trail Stats: My PCT Hike by the Numbers

At the end of every day on the trail, I jotted down a few notes on the day’s happenings – sometimes in complete sentences, more often not – and at a bare minimum, I recorded the start and end points of the day, the mileage (rounded to the nearest tenth of a mile), and the elevation gain. After completing my thru-hike, this allowed my inner data nerd to totally geek out – I entered all of my hiking data into a spreadsheet, crunched the numbers, and analyzed my hiking statistics for the entire trail as well as for each of the five major sections of the trail. I even created a fun chart breaking down my mileage by week:

weekly-mileage
My Weekly PCT Mileage

One quick note on hiking terminology – a zero day refers to a day where no miles are hiked. A nearo is less than a full day of hiking. Hikers have varying definitions for how many miles constitutes a nearo. For the purpose of my calculations, I defined a nearo as any day with less than 15 miles. Earlier in the trip, this would have been closer to a full day, but for the last two-thirds of the trail, I would typically hike 15 miles before lunch.

Stats for the Entire Trail

Total Days139
Average Miles per Day18.8
Average Miles per Day (excl. zeros and neros)23.7
Number of Zeros14
Number of Neros (< 15 miles in a day)23
Average Elevation Gain3784.5
Average Elevation Gain (excl. zeros and neros)4244.3
Longest Day36 miles
Most Miles in a Week217.3
Number of 30+ Mile Days14
Days with 5000+ Elevation Gain27
Most Elevation Gain in a Day8832

Southern California

Southern California
Hiking in the desert south of Agua Dulce

While not as steep as later sections of the trail, Southern California still gives thru-hikers plenty of mountains to climb just as they’re beginning to break in their hiking legs. The desert quickly challenges their strength and mettle with numerous dry stretches of trail often 20 miles or longer, the longest waterless stretch being a whopping 42 miles. This means frequently hiking with a heavy pack loaded down with 7-8 liters of water, which, at 2.2 pounds per liter, adds up to 17.6 pounds of weight. I was fortunate to experience cooler than average temperatures when I started the trail on April 28, but the desert could only be merciful for so long. By the time I reached Tehachapi, a major heat wave had moved in, bringing soaring temperatures of more than 100 degrees for the final 150 miles of the section. This meant rising before dawn to get more miles in early in the day, taking a long siesta in the afternoon, and often hiking into the night with a headlamp to avoid the blazing desert sun as much as possible.

Campo to Kennedy Meadows, Miles 0-702

Section Miles702.2
Average Miles per Day15.9
Average Miles per Day (excl. zeros and neros)20.9
Average Elevation Gain3330.9 ft
Average Elevation Gain (excl. zeros and neros)3758 ft
Number of 30+ Mile Days0
Days with 5000+ Elevation Gain5
Longest Day27
Most Elevation Gain in a Day7449
Total Days42
Number of Zeros5
Number of Neros (< 15 miles in a day)9
Zeros Between Sections0

Central California (The Sierras)

The High Sierra
Descending from Selden Pass in the High Sierra

Departing Kennedy Meadows, thru-hikers climb up into the Sierra Nevada mountains, those rugged and majestic granite peaks John Muir famously dubbed “the Range of Light.” Most hikers experience a reduction in mileage throughout this section because of the increased elevation, rugged terrain, steep climbs up and down high mountain passes, as well as (depending on the year) many miles of snowfields to traverse. 2016 was an average snow year for the Sierra, meaning there was still a LOT of snow to trudge through when I arrived the second week of June. My pace often slowed to 1-1.5MPH when climbing up and down the steep mountain passes covered in snow and my feet were constantly wet from slogging, occasionally post-holing, through snow in the afternoon as well as fording countless raging rivers, creeks, and seasonal streams. In other words, 15-20 miles was a jam-packed day of hiking in the Sierra.

Kennedy Meadows to South Lake Tahoe, Miles 702-1091

Section Miles389
Average Miles per Day14.4
Average Miles per Day (excl. zeros and neros)19.6
Average Elevation Gain2926.5 ft
Average Elevation Gain (excl. zeros and neros)3578.8 ft
Number of 30+ Mile Days1
Days with 5000+ Elevation Gain0
Longest Day30
Most Elevation Gain in a Day4696
Total Days27
Number of Zeros2
Number of Neros (< 15 miles in a day)9
Zeros Between Sections2

Northern California

Northern California
Hiking in the Marble Mountain Wilderness

Northern California is perhaps the most loathed section of the trail for thru-hikers and, unfortunately, where many decide to throw in the towel. After conquering the challenges of the desert and the High Sierra, hikers arrive in South Lake Tahoe feeling both exhilarated and exhausted from their experiences, only to realize they are still not even halfway and there are 600 long miles still to be hiked in California. While the trail tread improves from the arduous terrain of the Sierra, allowing for faster hiking and bigger miles, Northern California still challenges hikers with plenty of elevation gain, hot temperatures that rival the desert highs, long waterless stretches, and increasingly monotonous scenery. More than anything, a strong mental game served me well in this section. Some days were extremely tough, both physically and mentally, but I managed to power through and picked up the pace significantly in order to meet my target date of finishing the trail in mid-September.

South Lake Tahoe to Oregon-California Border, Miles 1091-1690

Section Miles598.9
Average Miles per Day24.7
Average Miles per Day (excl. zeros and neros)25.7
Average Elevation Gain4519.5
Average Elevation Gain (excl. zeros and neros)4519.5
Number of 30+ Mile Days2
Days with 5000+ Elevation Gain7
Longest Day32.3
Most Elevation Gain in a Day8780
Total Days25
Number of Zeros1
Number of Neros (< 15 miles in a day)0
Zeros Between Sections2

Oregon

Oregon
A typical early morning start in Oregon with the morning sun glowing warmly through the trees

Finally, and I mean finally, reaching the Oregon-California border after more than 100 days in the state of California may have been the highest of emotional highs of my journey, even when compared to finishing the trail. At this point, with another 960 miles yet to hike, I could finally allow myself to think with growing certainty that I really was going to complete the trail. For many thru-hikers, Oregon is a promised land of sorts, with smoother trail tread, less elevation gain, more gradual climbs, and, most importantly, the legendary breakfast buffet at Timberline Lodge (mile 2095). I never knew until crossing the Oregon border how motivating this all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet would be. In the week leading up to Timberline Lodge, I logged my longest day on the trail (36 miles), fell just shy of reaching 100 miles over three consecutive days (hit 95 miles over three days, but my calf was hurting so I didn’t want to push it), and hiked the most miles of any week on the trail (217.6). Now I know for future long distance hikes that nothing will ever be more motivating for me than the lure of a hot breakfast and coffee.

Oregon-California Border to Cascade Locks, Miles 1690-2144

Section Miles454.5
Average Miles per Day25.6
Average Miles per Day (excl. zeros and neros)28.4
Average Elevation Gain3452.8 ft
Average Elevation Gain (excl. zeros and neros)3829.1 ft
Number of 30+ Mile Days7
Days with 5000+ Elevation Gain2
Longest Day36
Most Elevation Gain in a Day6063 ft
Total Days17
Number of Zeros0
Number of Neros (< 15 miles in a day)2
Zeros Between Sections1

Washington

Washington
Goat Rocks Wilderness looking toward Mt. Rainier

After speeding through Oregon and walking across the Bridge of the Gods into the state of Washington, I could practically smell the finish line (in my mind, Canada smelled like pure maple syrup…yes, I thought about pancakes a lot, especially in the latter half of the trail). Washington does not let thru-hikers off easy, however. With daily elevation gains and loss of around 5,000 feet or more, Washington proved a veritable rollercoaster of steep ups and downs, rarely offering a break on more level terrain. Being a notoriously rainy state, thru-hikers also faced the psychological toll of wondering not if, but when and how much and for how many days it would rain. I lucked out again with the weather gods and only had to deal with two days of rain throughout the entire state. Despite its challenges, when views were not obscured by heavy clouds and lingering fog, Washington offered glorious vistas rivaling the Sierra in awe-inspiring grandeur and beauty. If I had to choose one section of the trail for a reprise hike, I would probably return to hike somewhere in Washington.

Cascade Locks to Monument 78 on the US-Canada Border, Miles 2144-2650.1

Section Miles505.9
Total Days23
Average Miles per Day22
Average Miles per Day (excl. zeros and neros)25.3
Number of Zeros1
Number of Neros (< 15 miles in a day)3
Average Elevation Gain4977 ft
Average Elevation Gain (excl. zeros and neros)5501.4 ft
Number of 30+ Mile Days4
Days with 5000+ Elevation Gain13
Longest Day31.2
Most Elevation Gain in a Day8832 ft

9 comments

  1. Phew. Tough numbers. You really got to want it. Congratulations.

    1. Very true. Thanks, Mitt!

  2. Congratulations on completing the trek! Looks like it was quite an adventure and I loved reading all the updates. This was a great breakdown on numbers, but I’d love to hear how your gear ended up. Every PCT blog starts with a breakdown of all the gear hikers use, and I’m curious after 2660 miles, what worked best, what was a total waste, or what surprised you.

    Congrats again! What’s next?

    1. Thanks so much, Matthew! I will definitely be posting a detailed post-hike gear assessment soon. As a newbie backpacker, I definitely learned a lot while out on the trail about what I did and didn’t need. No promises, but hopefully posting that within the next week.

      As for what’s next…remains to be seen. I’m focused on enjoying a little bit of relaxation with a roof over my head, appreciating running water more than ever, and spending time with family and friends. But a few ideas are starting to swirl around in the back of my head about what the next adventure will be. I know I can’t sit still for too long! ?

  3. Hey DC,
    Glad to see you made it! I finished on sept 19 in a blizzard.
    Congrats Saunter

    1. Thanks, Saunter! 🙂 Happy to hear you made it too, even with some dramatic weather at the finish! Congrats on completing your journey.

      DC

  4. DC,
    Gots to love the stats. Thanks for taking the time to put it out there (here).
    Larry

  5. DC,
    Sot that daily elevation change is like hiking the Grand Canyon 139 times! Crazy.

    Larry

    1. Wow! That is crazy. Thanks for sharing. Funny you should mention that, as I’m thinking a Rim to Rim hike will be one of my next adventures. 🙂

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