Pacific Crest Trail

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The Pacific Crest Trail is a long-distance mountain trail that runs from the United States border with Mexico to its border with Canada and follows the highest portion of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Range which parallel the Pacific Ocean. The Pacific Crest Trail is 2,650 miles (4,240 km) long and ranges in elevation from just above sea level at the Oregon-Washington border to 13,153 feet (4009 m) at Forester Pass in the Sierra Nevadas.

It was designated a National Scenic Trail in 1968, although it was not officially completed until 1993. The Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail form the "Triple Crown" of long distance hiking in the United States. The PCT was conceived by Clinton C. Clarke in 1932; however it was not given official status until the National Trails System Act of 1968.

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Route

The route is mostly through National Forest and—where possible—protected Wilderness. It avoids civilization preferring instead scenic and pristine mountainous terrain with few roads. It passes through the Laguna Mountains, San Jacinto Mountains, San Bernardino Mountains, San Gabriel Mountains, Liebre Mountains, Tehachapi Mountains, and Sierra Nevada ranges in California, and the Cascade Range in Oregon and Washington states.

Thru-hiking

Each year, about 300 people, commonly called thru-hikers, attempt to hike the entire trail from end-to-end. The trip usually takes between four and six months. Around 180 complete the hike each year. Most thru-hikers start from the Mexican border and reach the north end of the trail before the first hard snow. Picking up supplies along the way, usually packages sent to them via mail, most hikers cover about 20 miles (32 km) per day.

The trail may have been first thru-hiked in 1970 by 18-year-old Eric Ryback. Wilderness Press, the publisher of Ryback's 1971 book The High Adventure of Eric Ryback, later claimed that Ryback had "cheated" by accepting rides for part of the distance. Ryback sued for $3 million, but dropped the suit when the publisher produced statements from people claiming to have given Ryback a ride. The truth of Ryback's claim is still debated.

The first person confirmed to have thru-hiked the entire PCT, as well as the first person to hike from south to north, was Richard Watson, who completed the trail on September 1, 1972. The first woman was Mary Carstens, who completed the journey later in 1972 accompanied by Jeff Smukler.

The first person to have thru-hiked the entire PCT both ways in a single continuous round-trip was Scott Williamson, who completed the "yo-yo" circuit on his fourth attempt in November 2004. Williamson traveled a total of 5,300 miles (8529.5 km) in 197 days, covering an average of 35 to 40 miles (56.3 to 64.4 km) per day when not in snow, wearing an extremely ultra-lightweight pack, which "without food, weighed about 8.5 pounds" (3.864 kg). Williamson then went on to complete a second round trip on November 28 2006, cutting two weeks off his 2004 time.

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