Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
21,200.00 ft (6,461.76 m)
Trail type
Shuttle
Distance
109.85 mi (176.79 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The Pacific Crest Trail is quickly becoming one of the most popular treks in America. Stretching 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada, it runs through some of the most spectacular scenery in the west including six national parks, 25 national forest units, and 48 federal wilderness areas. The PCT truly has it all, from the hot and desolate desert of southern California to the majestic 14,000-foot peaks of the Sierra Nevada and the dense forest and rocky volcanoes of Oregon and Washington. 

The first known proposal for a trail running from Mexico to Canada came in 1926. After years of exploration and advocacy, the PCT was officially designated as a National Scenic Trail in 1968. It wasn’t until 1993, however, that the trail was officially completed and a “golden spike” ceremony was held in southern California. Today the trail can be a very busy place. Over 6,000 permits were issued in 2017, with over half of those being northbound thru-hike permits. While it can be hard to find the solitude one may expect on a national scenic trail, hiking with others can be a very rewarding experience; camaraderie is quickly formed with other hikers as you embrace the joys and struggles of thru-hiking together.

If you are planning a thru-hike, be sure to secure a permit well in advance. If you are only planning a short trip, refer to the PCTA to determine if a permit will be necessary (it likely won’t be). 

The PCT is divided into 29 sections. In this guide we’ll be looking at California Section A, Campo to Warner Springs. Stretching 109.5 miles, this section will make or break many a thru-hiker’s dreams. One of the biggest challenges hikers face in the desert is the lack of water sources. Waterless stretches of up to 30 miles exist, and you need to plan ahead and carry an appropriate amount of water. An extremely useful resource for determining reliable water sources is the PCT Water Report. Please note that, while reliable water caches do often exist during thru-hiker season, it is never wise to rely solely on a cache.

California Section E, Agua Dulce to Tehachapi Pass

It is a road walk out of Agua Dulce (and Section D). You’ll follow the main paved road through town for awhile, then a dirt road, then finally it’ll be back to singletrack trail! This stretch of PCT ascends into the hills before coming out on top with a view of Bouquet Reservoir (off trail).

Green Valley Fire Station is located just off trail at mile 478.2. There is running water here. This is also where most people hitch into the town of Green Valley and Casa de Luna. Green Valley is a small town with a gas-mart store and coffee shop that has excellent food. Casa de Luna is the main attraction in town, and it is a place worth of stopping for. It is run by Terrie Anderson, a trail angel who has been hosting hikers for many years. After hugging Terrie, you’ll need to slip into one of the required Hawaiian shirts provided (this is one of the quirky requirements at Casa de Luna!). Next you can set up camp in the manzanita forest and enjoy hanging out playing horseshoes, guitar, or even paining rocks to add to the collection. A taco salad dinner is served each night, and pancakes and coffee are often prepared in the mornings. 

After leaving Casa de Luna, it’s back into the hills. Water sources along this stretch are especially iffy; many are cisterns that collect rainwater. Although usually reliable sources, these cisterns have been sitting stagnant for months and often have the remains of small animals that have found their way in and drowned. It goes without saying that filtering or chemical treatment is a good idea!

After passing the 500-mile marker and patting yourself on the back, the next stop is Hikertown at mile 517.6. This odd place provides hikers with water, electricity, showers and a place to spend the night. It is modeled after an "old west” town. It is definitely a weird place, and some even go to say that it’s creepy and should be avoided.

Next up is the dreaded Los Angeles Aqueduct. This notoriously hot, flat, dry section of PCT travels about 20 miles through the Mojave Desert until finally getting back into the hills. You’ll walk along (or on top of) the Aqueduct before coming to Cottonwood Creek (mile 534.9), the first refuge from the intense desert sun. There is a bridge here that provides shade, as well as an unreliable water faucet.

Continuing on you’ll walk among hundreds of giant wind turbines. From this point until Tehachapi there will be more windmills than you can imagine. Mile 541.5 is finally the end of the flat aqueduct section. The PCT is now finally back in the hills, and there is a reliable stream, campsites, and a bit of shade here.

You’ll continue traveling up and down the desert hills until mile 549, and there is often trail magic at this splendid location. Continuing along there will be more wind turbines as you near Tehachapi. The first way of getting into town is via the Tehachapi Willow Springs Road (mile 558.5). You can also continue to Highway 58 at mile 566.4 (and the end of Section E). This is often considered a harder hitch into town, but it will reduce the amount of waterless miles you’ll have to do at the start of section F.

Tehachapi itself is a good size town with an assortment of shops and restaurants for hikers to enjoy. There are plenty of resupply options here, and many hotels can be found to spend the night. Perhaps the coolest place in town is Redhouse BBQ. This wonderful establishment allows hikers to camp behind their restaurant for no charge. They also give PCTers a discount on their delicious BBQ. Another excellent stop is Kohnen's Country Bakery. This restaurant is a popular hang out spot among PCTers and serves inexpensive German baked goods and sandwiches. 

Remember to always practice Leave No Trace principles, pack appropriate gear, and to be prepared both physically and mentally. Happy Trails!

More PCT Guides

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Beautiful scenery. Cool trail towns. Casa de Luna. Seasonal thru-hiker culture.

Cons

Desert heat. L.A. Aqueduct. Rattlesnakes. Lack of water sources.

Trailhead Elevation

2,536.00 ft (772.97 m)

Highest point

6,294.00 ft (1,918.41 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Wildlife
Big vistas
Big Game Watching
Horseback riding
Wildflowers
Bird watching

Typically multi-day

Yes

Suitable for

Horseback

Permit required

Yes

Permit self-issue on site

No

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Adventures

Los Angeles Metro Area, California
Tehachapi Mountains + Western Mojave Desert, California
Angeles National Forest, San Gabriel Mountains

Nearby Lodging + Camping

San Gabriel + San Bernardino Mountains, California
San Gabriel + San Bernardino Mountains, California
Angeles National Forest, San Gabriel Mountains

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