20 BEST PLACES TO MEETUP ON THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS
It takes the average Pacific Crest Trail thru-hiker 4-5 months to hike all 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. That’s a long time to go without seeing your family and friends. Coordinating a Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike is logistically hard enough so planning how, when, and where to have friends or family meet up with you can be overwhelming.
For many thru-hikers, it’s a struggle to share the magic of the trail with friends and family who aren’t hiking with you. That’s why along with advice on meeting up with friends and family on the Pacific Crest Trail, Kim Vawter, Bearfoot Theory’s Community Manager, put together this guide to the best places to meet up with friends and family while thru-hiking.
In this blog post, Kim shares the 20 best places on the Pacific Crest Trail to meet friends and family.
1) Mt. Laguna – Mile 43
Being zero miles off the trail, this is a great location for someone to stop by and say hello! It might seem a little crazy to have your family meet you this early, as you’ve only hiked 43 miles, but for me, it was a lifesaver. If you have friends/family that want to spend your first 2 nights with you, hiking from Campo, CA to Mt. Laguna is a great idea. I had a friend join me for this stretch and it was a huge confidence booster.
Mt. Laguna was an important first stop for me as I resupplied (to keep my pack weight as light as possible in the beginning), switched shoes (from La Sportiva hiking boots to Altra trail running shoes) and did a mini-shakedown of things I didn’t need. I was lucky enough to have a friend take the gear with her instead of me having to pay to mail a box home.
Perfect for: Friends and family close to San Diego (Mt. Laguna is less than an hour drive from SD).
2) Julian – Mile 77
The town of Julian, CA is only 4.1 miles off the trail and I’d say about half of all PCT hikers stop in Julian. One big draw is a free slice of pie for all PCT hikers from Mom’s Pie House! Julian is popular for a good night’s sleep since it’s early on when you’re still getting used to your pack and sleeping in a tent every night. I did another big shakedown in Julian and mailed home 5 pounds of non-essential items here–my knife, extra socks/underwear, non-critical first aid supplies, etc.
Perfect for: Friends and family close to San Diego (Julian is slightly over an hour from San Diego), and those who love a good slice of pie.
3) Idyllwild, CA – Mile 179
Idyllwild is one of my favorite weekend getaways from Los Angeles. It’s a small, quirky mountain town that’s a quick, beautiful drive into the mountains and is just before Palm Springs, CA. Idyllwild is also an entry point for hiking Mt. San Jacinto for any hiker friends or family that want to pair that with their visit.
Perfect for: Friends and family in Southern California. It’s also great for National Park enthusiasts as it’s close to nearby Joshua Tree National Park.
4) Big Bear, CA – Mile 265
If you have friends/family in Los Angeles they have most likely visited Big Bear in the winter for skiing but few people visit in the summer months. There are some great local breweries to check out in town as well.
Perfect for: Friends and family close to Los Angeles (Big Bear is just over a 2-hour drive from Los Angeles).
5) Wrightwood, CA – Mile 364
Wrightwood is similar to Idyllwild but even smaller. If you have any friends who live in Los Angeles and own a motorcycle you won’t have to ask twice for them to visit you in Wrightwood. The roads through Angeles National Forest are infamous amongst motorcycle fanatics. It’s also a great place for any friends to meet you who are attempting to hike the “6 Pack of Peaks”—San Jacinto is nearby and luckily also on the Pacific Crest Trail, it’s a great day hike for friends to join you!
Perfect for: Friends and family close to Los Angeles, Wrightwood is less than 2 hours from Los Angeles.
6) Agua Dulce – Mile 454 or Mile 519
There isn’t much to do in Agua Dulce but it’s a great location for Los Angeles or San Fernando Valley friends/family to come day hike or backpack for a short distance with you.
Perfect for: Friends and family close to Los Angeles (Agua Dulce is less than 1 hour away).
7-9) Lone Pine (Mile 745), Bishop (Mile 831) or Mammoth (Mile 903)
These three mountain towns are great locations to meet up while hiking the PCT because of the flexibility you have since the towns are so close to one another. For someone driving, Lone Pine is only 1.5 hours from Mammoth so they can easily alter where to meet you depending on your timing. Most likely you’ll be resupplying in at least one, if not all of these towns, AND you might even need a reliable hitch into town. This section of the trail also syncs up with the John Muir Trail–check out our favorite JMT Section Hikes.
Perfect for: National Park enthusiasts and Central or Northern California friends/family. Mammoth Airport sometimes has great deals on flights and Reno Airport is only 3 hours to Mammoth. PCT mile 942 is in Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park and is a great meetup spot too. Death Valley is also nearby.
10) Lake Tahoe – Mile 1127
Lake Tahoe is a gorgeous location to have friends/family visit you. Here are 12 of our favorite things to do around Lake Tahoe. Plus, housing is easy to find in this area – we recommend Airbnb.
Perfect for: Friends/family who live in NorCal or Nevada and those who need a good airport to fly into. The Reno-Tahoe International Airport has Southwest flights and is really easy to fly in/out of.
11) Ashland – Mile 1727
Ashland, Oregon is a great city for a meetup. If those meeting you have a car, you can even ask them to meet you at Callahan’s Lodge which is on the trail and have them hitch you into Ashland.
Perfect for: Friends or family who might be into Shakespeare – Ashland, Oregon is famous in the summer for their Shakespeare Festival. The Medford Airport is only a 15-minute drive from Ashland.
12) Crater Lake – Mile 1830
Crater Lake is technically not on the Pacific Crest Trail but you’re absolutely crazy if you don’t take the approved alternate route to hike along Crater Lake’s Rim Trail. You will need to be flexible in this area as wildfires could cause you to have a trail detour and you might not be able to take the Crater Lake alternate route, making a meet-up here difficult.
Perfect for: National Park enthusiasts. Crater Lake is a bit hard to access via flights as the closest airport is Medford which is 75 miles away or Portland, Oregon which is 5 hours away.
13) Bend, Oregon – Mile 1990
Since Bend is 22 miles from the trail, some PCT hikers don’t make the effort to travel all the way into town but personally, I really loved Bend. If you’re not looking to venture this far off the trail you can have people meet you at Shelter Cove Resort or Elk Lake Resort which are each only 1 mile off the trail. If you need to make any changes to your gear there is a large REI in Bend.
Perfect for: PNW friends and family close to Bend. Surprising Bend only has a small municipal airport. Redmond (30 minutes away) has a commercial airport, while Eugene (2 hours away) and Portland (3 hours away) have larger airports.
14) Timberline Lodge – Mile 2107
The Timberline Lodge, on the south slope of Mt. Hood, is on the list of Historic Hotels in America. It is a little tough to meet here just because you probably aren’t planning to stay here unless you want to splurge some $$$ on a room, but it’s an iconic place for friends to meet you for a morning or afternoon. Most likely you’ll be planning to arrive in the morning to make it for the incredible all you can eat brunch (very popular amongst hungry PCT hikers). If you don’t make it till the afternoon, don’t worry, the Timberline Lodge bar is incredible and worth a stop. You can easily spot in the image below all the thru-hiker packs outside the hotel while everyone is inside filling up at brunch!
Perfect for: Friends and family who aren’t super outdoorsy and want to visit you without having to hike.
15) Cascade Locks/Bridge of the Gods – Mile 2155
Cascade Locks is the last town in Oregon before you enter Washington. It’s small and easily walkable, perfect for thru-hikers. Don’t miss grabbing a beer at Thunder Island Brewery, they have an awesome outdoor beer garden.
If your family plans to visit around Pacific Crest Trail Days, generally held in mid-August, they’ll really be able to experience a lot of the trail culture as hundreds of PCT hikers, alumni, and hopefuls rendezvous for a weekend of gear demonstrations, classes, activities, and all kinds of fun.
Make sure to have your family walk across the Bridge of the Gods with you, then they can say they officially hiked some of the Pacific Crest Trail. There is a small fee to pay for walking the bridge but it’s iconic and worth it.
Perfect for: Pacific Northwest friends or those who love a good summer outdoor festival. Cascade Locks is less than an hour from Portland and 3.5 hours from Seattle.
16-18) White Pass (Mile 2303), Snoqualmie (Mile 2402) or Leavenworth (Mile 2462)
All three locations have cheap hotel accommodations and great food options, making them great places to kick back for a bit and enjoy beautiful Washington. There are also some great breweries in the area to check out as well.
Perfect for: Seattle friends. White Pass is about 3 hours from Seattle, Snoqualmie is only about 30 minutes, and Leavenworth is just over 2 hours all from Seattle. Leavenworth is a super iconic Dutch town perfect for friends/family who want to do some sightseeing and aren’t super outdoorsy. The town is just a 15-mile hitch from Steven’s Pass ski area.
19) Stehekin – Mile 2574
This is the last place for someone to see you before your big finale! This isn’t the most accessible meeting location but 100% worth it if your family/friends are outdoorsy and adventurous. Don’t miss visiting the Stehekin Bakery. Stehekin is just south of North Cascades National Park. Those looking to meet you will need to take the Lady of the Lake boat ferry from Chelan, WA. Seaplanes are not currently available.
Perfect for: National Park enthusiast friends and those who like a mini-adventure to reach a location!
20) Manning Park Resort
Manning Park is a little logistically challenging to get to but as a thru-hiker who had family meet them at Manning Park, I’m forever grateful they did. If your friends love to hike they can even hike to the PCT monument on the US/Canada border to see you finish (and be your official photographer).
Perfect for: Canadian family/friends! Also, those looking to join the grand finale celebration of your 2,650-mile journey or anyone looking for an excuse for an international vacation. The Manning Park Resort is a 2.5-hour drive from Vancouver, Canada. Plus if you have family/friends meet you here then you can travel home with a buddy instead of soloing it all the way home.
Do you have any questions about the best places on the Pacific Crest Trail to meet up with friends and family while thru-hiking? Leave a comment below and we’ll be sure to answer.
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