A Soutbound PCT Summary

In preparation for my hike on the PCT, I largely depended on two blog articles, The Southbound Scoop and Why Sobo?, along with the PCTA website for information. I hope this summary will be another helpful account if you are considering a southbound trip on the PCT. 

If you are willing/able to hike the trail in around 4 months and don't want to be with a large group of hikers, south is likely the better direction to hike. You will hit the Cascades with beautiful snow-capped peaks and waterfalls, the Sierras will be snow and bug free, and the desert won't be as hot (it will be dry).  Based on conversations with some northbound hikers, you may even have less snow to deal with in the Cascades hiking south, than in the Sierras going north.


Southern California: The Dry Part

The southern CA stretch was more difficult than expected, partly due to the transition from one of the most visually stunning landscapes (the high Sierra) to one of the most drab (the desert in the fall). I was also expecting southern CA to be flatter. It's not all desert south of the Sierras, but instead climbs in and out of the desert, transitioning from desert, to chaparral, to forest as you go up.

The most difficult part was adjusting to a trail with few reliable water sources.  Clear cold water is abundant in the high Sierras, but south of Cottonwood Pass, water sources quickly increase up to 40 miles apart. Carrying 2-5 liters of water takes some getting used to, as does being dirty all the time. (There are few swimming opportunities.)  Once south of Tehachapi the trail begins to pass through more populated areas, so resupply and support becomes more frequent, offsetting much of the difficulties with the lack of water.  Showers, laundry, cold drinks and food are more accessible.  Unfortunately there were several trail closures due to fires and an endangered frog, so some road walking and/or hitching was necessary.