I’m a nerd, and like statistics. It’s a fun way to organize and look at the hike in a very non-personal way (but also very personal because very few people probably have the same stats as me). I also get asked many questions like “how many miles did you hike per day?” and “how many times did you have to hitch hike?” And some of these I haven’t done the math on yet, and others I kept track of during the hike and had an exact number to give. I’m sort of stealing a template from Butters, who posted it to her blog about her’s and Hot Mess’s hike. Thanks, Butters! She also goes into some more in-depth info about the trail, reroutes, etc. that I really don’t want to go that much into, so you may want to give it a read! Also, their blog is super interesting as well, so if you’re looking for another blog that gives a day-by-day synopsis of the trail to learn more about trail life, or you’re wondering what happened to them after we split, go read it! So here are some interesting facts, numbers, and some completely random ones.
The Pacific Crest Trail by the Numbers
The PCT is ever-changing. As of this post, 10% of the PCT is still on private land, and there are continuous efforts to move the PCT onto public land to ensure that access to the trail is permanent. That means the trail and its mileage can change over the years. For example, a new trail re-route added 2.6 miles to the trail this year, making it 2,652.6 miles long. There’s another proposal to move part of the trail in the desert. There are also detours, some more permanent than others, that are not taken into account in this “official mileage” like fire detours and endangered species detours. I will be using the mileages from Guthook, as that’s the app I used for my entire hike, and found it to be incredibly accurate, and really easy to get this information.
Total mileage: 2,652.6 miles
Total elevation gain: 461,668.3 ft.
Total elevation loss: 460,335.7 ft.
Total number of days on trail: 163
Total Average miles/day, including “zero days”: 16.3 miles/day
Total Average miles/day, NOT including “zero days”: 18.9 miles/day
Number of Zero Days: 23
Number of Nearo Days: 17
If you didn’t already know, a zero day is a day where no miles are hiked on the PCT. Meaning, no positive progress on trail is made. I make this distinction because there were days I hiked, but made almost no forward progress on the PCT itself. If this was due to a fire closure, and the miles were some type of forward progress (like the fire closures in the Goat Rocks, Glacier Peak, and Pasayten Wilderness areas) I counted this as a hiking day. If it was a resupply detour (like hiking out of Kearsarge Pass to Bishop), I counted that as a zero, because no PCT miles were hiked, even though I still had to hike. A nearo day is a “nearly zero day” and is defined differently by each hiker, and can change over the course of the trail. For ease of counting, I consider a nearo to be 10 or less PCT miles hiked in a day. Zero and Nearo days are essential to rest and recovery. Some people can take a lot less, some people take more. I tended to like to take my zeros in bunches, especially at the end of a section.
Halfway Point: 1,326.3 miles
# of days to reach halfway: 92
# of days to finish: 71
average miles/day first half: 14.4
average miles/day second half: 18.7
As you can see, I completed the second half of the trail 21 days faster than the first half! It probably would have been more if I hadn’t been sick in Burney. The reason why it takes so much longer to complete the first half of the trail for many people is two-fold: 1. The desert & the beginning of the trail is just so new. You’re generally moving slower, and hiking less miles for a variety of reasons: getting used to trail life, preventing injury, socializing more, possibly spending more time in towns for rest & relaxation. Pack weight can be a factor too: water hauls can easily be 3+ L (6.6 lbs+) and if you’re not hiking big miles, your time in between resupplies will be longer, so you might be carrying 10 lbs of food for some of the 100 mile stretches. I remember in particular, the stretch between Big Bear and Wrightwood (Desert) to be long. It took me 6 days to do those 103.2 miles, but only took me 3.5 days to go from Castella to Etna (NorCal), a stretch of 98.5 miles. 2. The Sierra is another factor in the first half of the trail. Snow travel is inherently slower than dirt trail. And sometimes you’re not even walking in the Sierra. You’re postholing, you’re route finding and scrambling down rock, you need to take extra time to ford rivers. You’re dealing with altitude, which makes breathing harder, and you’re encountering the steepest trail you’ve seen so far. You’re also carrying more equipment and food, making your pack heavier. For myself, I did not feel like I had my hiking legs by the time I got to the Sierra. I think I acquired them sometime in Northern California ;). Once you get past the Sierra, you’re in full summer mode: the days are longer, the trail no longer holds snow, you’ve now hiked over 1,000 miles, the towns seem to be closer together, so you don’t have to carry so much food, and the terrain kind of gets easier in parts, so you’re really able to kick the hiking into higher gear.
The Numbers by Section
The Desert (Campo - Tehachapi):
Total miles: 566.5 mi
Total elevation gain: 95,290.7 ft.
Total elevation loss: 94,359.9 ft.
Average grade: 334.8 ft/mi
Total days spent in the desert: 42
Zero Days: 5
Average miles/day: 13.5 mi
Average miles/day WITHOUT zeros: 15.3 mi
The Sierra (Tehachapi - Echo Lake):
Total miles: 525.8 mi
Total elevation gain: 98,671.9 ft
Total elevation loss: 95,089.6 ft
Average grade: 368.5 ft/mi
Total days spent in the Sierra: 35
Zero Days: 5
Average miles/day: 15 mi
Average miles/day WITHOUT zeros: 17.5 mi
Northern California (Echo Lake - CA/OR border):
Total miles: 599.4 mi
Total elevation gain: 102,558.1 ft.
Total elevation loss: 103,911.4 ft.
Average grade: 344.5 ft/mi
Total days spent in NorCal: 39*
Zero Days: 8*
Average miles/day: 15.4 mi
Average miles/day WITHOUT zeros: 19.3 mi
*I took 3 zeros with my family, and 4 zeros sick in Burney during this section, which was 4 zeros more than anticipated. I was also sun sick in Sierra City. Both of these illnesses set me back, in an unquantifiable way besides the zeros (my mileage surrounding those days was lower than normal as well). If you were reading my blog posts, you know this was incredibly frustrating, and in general, between my “Lakehouse Zeros” and my “Burney Zeros” I had a really difficult time finding a rhythm in Northern California.
Total miles: 455.4 mi
Total elevation gain: 63,060 ft.
Total elevation loss: 69,058.1 ft.
Average grade: 290.1 ft/mi
Total days spent in Oregon: 24
Zero Days: 4
Average miles/day: 19 mi
Average miles/day WITHOUT zeros: 22.8 mi
Total miles: 505.5 mi
Total elevation gain: 102,087.6 ft.
Total elevation loss: 97,916.7 ft.
Average grade: 395.7 ft/mi
Total days spent in Washington: 25
Zero Days: 1
Average miles/day: 20.22 mi
Average miles/day WITHOUT zeros: 21.1 mi
Other Random, Fun Statistics
Pounds lost: ~15-20 lbs*
Pairs of Shoes: 5 (Altra Lone Peak 3.0 M’s: 1, 3.5 W’s: 2, 3.5 M’s: 1, 4.0 M’s: 1)
Miles hiked with a “tramily”: 1,195.4
Miles hiked solo: 1,457.2
Rattlesnakes seen: 6
Other snakes seen: 16
Bears seen: 2
Bee stings: 2
Fire Closures: 6** (1. Mountain Fire near Idyllwild, 2. Holcomb Fire near Big Bear, 3. Fire closing the official PCT in Crater Lake NP, 4. Miriam & Clear Fork Fires in Goat Rocks, 5. Bannock Lakes Fire near Stehekin, 6. Holman Fire near Canadian Border)
Other Closures: 1 (Endangered Species detour near Wrightwood)
Collapsed Tents: 2
Cowboy Camps (sleeping under the stars, not in a tent): 7
Solo Camps (where no other hiker was camped within sight): 6
Number of times I fell down: 13
Number of times I tripped: LITERALLY CAN’T COUNT SO MANY
Resupply stops: 34***
All “town” stops: 44***
Number of times hitch-hiked: 18
Longest wait for a hitch: 45 minutes (from Kennedy Meadows North back to Sonora Pass)
From Cops: 2
In an RV: 1
*I never got an accurate weight at the beginning of the trail, but I definitely started overweight, and I have a general idea of where I was, not giving a care in the world about the food I ate before starting. Obviously, I wanted to eat all of my favorite foods I knew I’d never be able to eat on trail (Thai, Indian, Poké, Pho). This isn’t necessarily something I would suggest, as it’s probably better to take some weight off of YOURSELF, so you have a lower chance of getting injured. Help your joints out, ya know? The exception: if you’re already at a healthy weight, don’t try to loose weight pre-trail! Especially if you are a man. The men always loose so much more weight. However, I weighed myself the morning after finishing (in a doctor’s office, no less), so I was able to estimate my weight loss a little. I think its way more noticeable in the way clothes fit: I went down at least one jean size (good thing my mom brought the smaller pair to Seattle!), and could probably have fit in jeans 2 sizes down.
**Fire Closures vary year to year. The two in Southern California have been closed for at least 1 year, the Mountain Fire having been closed since 2013. A new fire sprung up in the Mountain Fire area this summer, creating new challenges for the detour in the area. Southern California is so dry, so prone to fires. It is SO important to practice fire safety, and better yet, never have an open fire, as it’s usually illegal to in the area anyways. The Crater Lake fire was a relic from last year’s fires in Oregon. It closed the official PCT, which is better know as the “horse PCT”. Hikers almost never take the official PCT, opting for the Rim Trail instead, so we can actually see Crater Lake. The rest of my closures were in Washington. These will be temporary, and will most likely open next year for hikers. Of course, next year’s class will have other fires to contend with. Fire closures will also depend on the time of year you hike through certain areas. There are hikers who didn't have to deal with any “new” closures (aka the ones in Washington) because they were SOBO, or NOBOs who went through earlier in the season. Some people had it even worse: the CA/OR border was closed for a while, causing hikers to re-route through that, and the Canadian border was also closed at one point! You probably remember me stressing out about these closures if you read the blog, but know that I ultimately lucked out because I hiked through after the trail had re-opened.
***I’m going to do a more thorough resupply/ food blog post, so stay tuned for more information about resupply & town stops in that one! I’ll go into this more in the post, but “town” is in quotes because sometimes “town” would be a lodge or community center or camping resort that’s not what a normal person would think of as a “town”, but it was some sort of civilization, so its what a hiker would consider to be “town”.