When you’re getting ready to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, the one thing on your mind is preparedness. Making sure you have the right gear, enough cash to sustain you through the months ahead, and your food situation planned ahead of time. While you need to have these things taken care of, once you actually start hiking, a new obsession will take: miles.
Your progress, the hours of your day, your distance from food- it all comes down to miles.
You might have already begun to think about mileage: how many you should hike each day, what’s reasonable, how long it’s going to take to hike all 2,650, or something similar. These are important considerations, and there’s no one-size-fits all approach to mileage, unfortunately.
What might help is seeing how we fared. Here’s our official Pacific Crest Trail stats report for our mileage on the trail, broken down in the major sections of the trail. Keep in mind that we only hiked 1,500 miles of the trail (if you want to know why you can read this post), but also that we’re not super athletes and didn’t have experience being in the woods for more than 4 days.
As for the actual data we started on April 28th and hiked just over 1,500 miles in 118 days.
Below is the mileage for our entire trip, all sections included.
*Zero day = a day we didn’t hike any miles. Nero day = a day when hiked less than 10 miles (this term is subjective and depends on the hiker).
|Average Excluding Zeros||15.6|
|Average Excluding Zeros and Neros||18.0|
|Number of Zeros||22|
|Number of Neros||19|
We also calculated our 7-day average of miles hiked so you can see how our mileage evolved and increased as we became more conditioned and more comfortable on the trail. Each point in the chart below represents the average number of miles hiked for the previous week:
The smallest 7-day average of 4.2 miles a day corresponds to a period where Nikita was sick with a persistant cold and a high fever, so we had to sit out from hiking for a few days. The largest 7-day average of 21.7 miles a day corresponds to the end of our hike when our legs were in excellent shape and the only thing that kept us from doing more miles was the amount of daylight. Around day 100 we decided to flip and go to Washington and the 3-4 days it took us to get up there and begin hiking caused our average mileage to drop significantly.
Each section of the trail created a different obstacle for us to overcome, but as you look at these numbers you will see our zero days dropping and average mileage increasing.
The first part of the trail was probably the most difficult on the entire trail for us. We carried way too much gear at first, the temperatures were extreme, and we didn’t have our trail legs. Blisters defined Sally’s experience for the first two weeks or so and it was relatively slow going while they healed. Even on full hiking days, we averaged just 15 miles a day.
|Average Excluding Zeros||15.0|
|Average Excluding Zeros and Neros||17.6|
|Number of Zeros||9|
|Number of Neros||7|
Central California aka The Sierras!
Central California was beautiful and we wanted to make sure that we took our time in the Sierras. Injury also ensured that we would take our time. Nikita acquired a bad cold right as we got to the Sierras and then he pulled his hamstring muscle jumping back from a rattlesnake (true story).
The Sierras are an incredible part of the trail. They are so remote that you don’t have many opportunities to get off trail, and when you do, you’re probably running out of food and really need to. We found ourselves running out of food throughout the Sierras and had to get off to resupply earlier than we’d planned. Away from those issues our legs really started to strengthen and even though the elevation was high and the hiking hard, it was manageable.
|Average Excluding Zeros||14.4|
|Average Excluding Zeros and Neros||16.1|
|Number of Zeros||8|
|Number of Neros||5|
We didn’t spend much time in Northern California. Near the halfway point Sally started having issues with the heat (95+ degree days) and we decided to flip to Washington to hike south with the full intention of finishing the trail.
|Average Excluding Zeros||17.4|
|Average Excluding Zeros and Neros||21.2|
|Number of Zeros||2|
|Number of Neros||4|
Washington was a very beautiful and very difficult section of trail. We had to skip the Glacier Peaks Wilderness due to fire and eventually ended up getting off trail about 70 miles north of the Oregon border.
|Average Excluding Zeros||17.5|
|Average Excluding Zeros and Neros||19.4|
|Number of Zeros||3|
|Number of Neros||3|
We expected the hike to be a lot more solitary than it was. We started the hike about two weeks after the main herd of hikers set out and did not expect to run into very many people on the trail. We also did not expect to camp with other hikers very often. The reality was much different. We only camped alone 25% of the time while on the trail, even when we flipped and went southbound in Washington. In Washington we ran into a lot of section hikers and ended up sharing tent sites with then on a very frequent basis.
Notes About The Pacific Crest Trail Stats
These statistics come from two people that did not finish the trail, but decided to quit after 1,500 miles. I fully believe that we could have finished the trail if we wanted to; the physical foundation for the thruhike was there, but the motivation simply wasn’t. The statistics above show that after the first 1,000 miles we really started to pick up steam and could have done very long days to finish the trail.
Don’t fear starting out slow. In the beginning, hikers were blazing past us and claiming that they were trying to do 20+ mile days. A few hundred miles up the trail we ran into those people again or heard stories of them quitting with injuries that ran the gamut from infected blood blisters to broken feet to debilitating knee pain. Take your time, take care of your injuries from the beginning, and you’ll eventually speed up.
If you are expecting to hike the trail to get some solitude, you might want to reevaluate. There are people everywhere, and the trail gets exponentially more popular each year. From day hikers to section hikers to PCT hikers. In the desert, water is so scarce that it forces hikers to cluster because they must fill up and camp in the same areas. In the Sierras the sites are more limited and hikers on the John Muir Trail are more numerous than PCT thruhikers. You can certainly spend a lot of time alone on the trail, but you will not find complete or even semi-complete solitude.
We have a lot of zeros, it’s true. There are a couple of reasons for this:
- It was our first (and probably last) thruhike and we took a lot of zeros to get through it. Especially in the first month, so much happened out on the trail that by the time we got into town we thought more time had passed than it actually did, so we gave ourselves a day to rest.
- Another reason is that hiking in a pair, if one person was injured and had to slow down or needed to rest, we both had to. We couldn’t even separate for a time if we needed to, because we shared so much essential gear. That’s one disadvantage of hiking with your significant other.
- The last reason is that we needed to stop a lot to maintain our blog. Whenever we had good internet in town, we would take one, sometimes two, zero days to deal with an enormous backlog of photos and to write posts.
Most hikers don’t take this many zeros, and unless you’re an industrious blogger or dealing with injury, we’d advise against it in order to stay on pace and not feel stressed about finishing the trail.
Have any questions about Pacific Crest Trail stats and mileage? Let us know in the comments!