Of the roughly 800 miles of trails zig-zagging across and through Yosemite National Park, likely none require as much grit and determination to complete as the Pacific Crest Trail. A dirt-ridden, rock-covered path extending from Mexico to Canada, the PCT has lately been given the credit it’s due thanks to Cheryl Strayed’s national bestselling memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. With the movie that came out in November 2014, starring the lovable Reese Witherspoon as Strayed, the trail became even more well-known.
Which means that if you want to hike this monster in peace, you should grab your Nalgenes and don your wicking layers quickly! OK, so maybe the rush to put boot to dirt isn’t quite that dire. After all, most people have day jobs–ones that don’t give them the five months it takes the average hiker to cover this 2,656-mile long trail from end to end.
Those contemplating a trip to tackle the PCT should consider beginning with the 70-mile stretch that runs through Yosemite as a sort of “practice run” (or maybe try just a few miles of it). This section meanders through the lush Tuolumne Meadows, which, at 8,600 feet, rank as a high-elevation meadow. At this point, through-hikers are well on their way with 942 miles to Mexico and 1,714 miles to Canada.
Within park boundaries, the trail reaches its highest point at Donohue Pass, 11,056 feet above sea level, and its lowest point near Benson Lake at 7,560. Between those two points (and before and after them) the route frequently rises up to mountain saddles and down into canyons.