Exploring the Pacific Crest Trail: A Guide to Camping Spots

The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is one of the most iconic long-distance hiking trails in the United States. Stretching over 2,650 miles from the Mexican border in California to the Canadian border in Washington, the PCT offers breathtaking landscapes, diverse ecosystems, and an unparalleled outdoor experience. For many adventurers, knowing how many camping spots are available along this legendary trail is essential for planning a successful trip.

Camping Along the Pacific Crest Trail

The Pacific Crest Trail traverses through some of the most remote and pristine wilderness areas in the United States. Consequently, camping is a major part of the PCT experience. While the exact number of designated camping spots along the PCT is not fixed due to the nature of dispersed camping practices, there are numerous established and informal camping sites spread throughout the trail.

Types of Camping Spots on the PCT

  1. Designated Campgrounds: These are specific areas set aside for camping, often with amenities such as picnic tables, fire rings, and sometimes even restrooms. They are usually located in more accessible parts of the trail, such as near trailheads or within national parks.

  2. Backcountry Campsites: These sites are less developed and can be found throughout the wilderness areas the PCT crosses. They typically lack amenities but offer the serenity of camping in a more natural setting. Hikers can often identify these sites by well-worn patches of ground where previous campers have pitched their tents.

  3. Dispersed Camping: The PCT permits dispersed camping, meaning hikers can set up camp almost anywhere along the trail as long as they follow Leave No Trace principles. This type of camping offers flexibility but requires careful planning to ensure a suitable and environmentally responsible camping experience.

Key Sections and Notable Camping Spots

  • Southern California: Starting at the Mexican border, this section offers a mix of desert landscapes and mountain ranges. Key camping spots include Lake Morena Campground and Mount Laguna, where hikers can find established campgrounds and water sources.

  • Sierra Nevada: Known for its stunning granite peaks and alpine scenery, the Sierra Nevada section includes famous spots like Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park and Rae Lakes in Kings Canyon National Park. Permits are required in certain areas, so plan accordingly.

  • Northern California: This section transitions from the high Sierras to the volcanic landscapes of Northern California. Lassen Volcanic National Park and Castle Crags State Park are notable for their scenic camping opportunities.

  • Oregon: With its lush forests and volcanic peaks, Oregon offers beautiful camping spots such as Timothy Lake near Mount Hood and Crater Lake National Park. Oregon's section of the PCT is known for being well-maintained with several accessible campgrounds.

  • Washington: The trail's final stretch includes the rugged North Cascades and finishes at the Canadian border. Noteworthy camping locations include Goat Rocks Wilderness and Glacier Peak Wilderness, both offering breathtaking views and remote camping experiences.

Tips for Camping on the PCT

  • Permits: Depending on the section of the PCT you are hiking, you may need specific permits for camping. National parks and wilderness areas often have their own regulations.

  • Water Sources: Reliable water sources are critical for camping. Plan your camping spots near known water sources to ensure you have enough water for cooking, drinking, and hygiene.

  • Leave No Trace: Practice Leave No Trace principles to preserve the natural beauty of the PCT. This includes packing out all trash, minimizing campfire impact, and respecting wildlife.

  • Weather: Be prepared for varying weather conditions. The PCT crosses diverse climates, from arid deserts to snow-covered mountains. Ensure you have appropriate gear for the section you are hiking.


While it's challenging to pinpoint an exact number of camping spots along the Pacific Crest Trail due to its vast and varied nature, hikers will find numerous opportunities to camp, from established campgrounds to remote backcountry sites. With proper planning and a respect for the environment, camping on the PCT can be a memorable and rewarding experience. Whether you're embarking on a thru-hike or exploring a section of the trail, the PCT offers a unique chance to connect with nature and discover some of the most stunning landscapes in North America.