Pacific Crest Trail Hikes In Winter

Often compared to the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail is one of the most well-known in the States; it stretches more than 2,000 miles and passes through California Oregon and Washington. Completing the entire trail takes months, considerable resources and a high level of physical fitness. And with some treacherous ground and snow covering many aspects of the trail throughout the year, even the most hardened hiker finds it a struggle.

As you’ll have guessed from the introduction, taking on the entire of the Pacific Crest Trail isn’t for amateurs, or for those who aren’t in peak physical fitness. However, as explained below, the novice hiker can still get a taste of the Pacific Crest Trail by tackling one of the smaller section hikes. Or you could visit one of nearby National Parks as a starting point.

Section Hikes

While there are much longer hikes to be tackled, the middle of winter might not be the most suitable time to take on a multi-day trip. However, there are plenty of shorter sections hikes to choose from. For instance, the Eagle Rock, Eagle Crest and Hart Pass trails are popular day hikes you could consider. And with many of the other section hikes coming in under the ten-mile mark, they can be well-suited to hikers who want less of a challenge. However, don’t just consider the length when you’re planning a section hike: think about the terrain and year-round conditions too.

National Parks

Another way to enjoy winter hiking close to the Pacific Crest Trail is to visit one of the nearby National Parks. The Pacific Crest Trail passes through the Lassen Volcanic, Crater Lake and Mount Rainier National Parks; they can all serve as starting points for a hike and will get you near to the Pacific Crest Trail. However, always check ahead as some entrances will be closed in winter, and make sure that you have the relevant passes.

Planning Your Hike

As mentioned in the introduction, the Pacific Crest Trail is a challenge for even the hardened hiker, but throw some icy weather and snow into the mix and there is an even greater potential for accidents. Recent newspaper stories have highlighted how dangerous the trail has become because of the wintry weather, and these icy conditions make preparation even more important.

When getting ready for a winter hike, don't forget the basics such as layering your clothing and packing the 10 essentials. However, you should be prepared for the snow and cold with  extra clothing, snow shoes and extra warm socks. Also, pack crampons and traction equipment, especially if it’s icy underfoot.

In addition, download the latest maps and apps so you can easily identify important resources like camping sites and safe water sources, and always have access to navigation. There’s plenty of ways of finding up- to-date maps, such as visiting the official website or downloading an app. Or print off maps, which can be found online.

Keep Safe: Always Check Conditions On The Day

Weather conditions and the terrain can vary, especially when the winter sets in, so always check the website or apps ahead of your visit; this will give you the most recent information. Speak to the Park Rangers when you get there. They can give you updates on the conditions, any additional tips, and the best advice on how to tackle your chosen route.


The Pacific Crest Trail is on many hikers’ wish list, but completing the entire thru hike isn’t going to be for everyone. However, there is a compromise: you can tackle some of the section trails, or access parts of the Trail via some of America’s best known National Parks. Whichever method you choose, prepare well, go equipped for winter weather and emergencies, and dress in layers to maximize comfort.

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Photo by adrian on Unsplash