How long does it take to thru-hike the PCT?
The Pacific Crest Trail is the holy grail of trails for thru-hikers everywhere. At 2,650 miles long, the Pacific Crest Trail is one of the longest hiking trails in the world. The trail meanders through lush valleys, over rugged peaks, and takes hikers through harsh deserts. To put things simply, the PCT is one of the most popular and rewarding trails in the world, and it is immensely popular for that reason.
Many along the western United States have likely been able to enjoy sections of the trail, but for some, that’s not enough: that’s where the thru-hike comes in. In other words, a thru-hike is a full-length hike of the PCT. All 2,650 miles from start to finish with minimal stopping in between is a lot, and the question arises: how long does it actually take to hike the PCT from start to finish?
We’ve written about how fast you can expect to hike here, but hiking the entire Pacific Crest Trail is a whole different beast. A thru-hike requires, grit, determination, physical endurance, and the ability to stay sane during months in the wilderness. Without further ado, here’s how long it takes to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
How Long It Really Takes To Thru-Hike The PCT
Most people hike the Pacfic Crest Trail from south to north, starting at the Mexican border and ending at the Canadian border. According to the Pacific Crest Trail Association, a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest trail will take most hikers between 3 to 6 months, with the majority of hikers ending up closer to the latter half of that range.
If we do some simple math, 2,650 miles divided by 150 days, or 5 months, ends up average close to 18 miles per day. That’s a reasonable pace for most, and considering the length of the thru-hike, 18 miles per day is a good goal. Even if you may be able to do 20, 30, or even 40 miles per day on shorter backpacking trips, the PCT takes a toll. Only experienced hikers in incredible shape will be able to complete the PCT in less than 100 days, which requires hiking speeds of at least 30 miles per day.
There are a number of other factors that affect how long it’ll take you to hike the PCT. If you get injured on the trail, that’s a setback that, if it doesn’t derail your trip altogether, could put you behind by a few weeks. A lack of proper planning (which you can avoid by checking out our comprehensive PCT gear list here) can set you back further as well.
Weather conditions, the status of water supply locations, and a whole host of other factors will influence how long it takes you to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. That being said, most hikers start sometime in April and end sometime in September; if you’re planning a thru-hike, that timeframe is one to aim for.
What is the Fastest You Can Hike the PCT?
The answer to this question is more about you personally and less about statistics, but the alleged record for hiking the PCT is 52 days, which comes out to a total of more than 50 miles per day. This is far different from how most people choose to enjoy their thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, but it’s certainly a good example of how fast people can finish it if they’re physically prepared.
You’d need to be running the trail to finish it in less than two months, though; again, it will take most people between 3 to 6 months to complete the PCT. If you’re adventurous, it might even take more! There are thousands of different trail systems that intersect with the PCT in some of the most beautiful places on the planet, and the adventurer in you just might want to head off the main trail for a while to explore the scenery around you.
The Pacific Crest Trail is one of the most beautiful and famous trails in the world for a reason. If you’ve done a thru-hike of the PCT, let us know in the comments! We’d love to know how long it took.