For the penultimate myth about the PCT, I have to mention one that is more silly than anything else. When I was hiking with Kentucky Blue in Oregon we talked a lot about our impressions of the PCT, and she mentioned this one, which I had forgotten because it had been debunked so early. And that is the myth of trail towns along the trail. If you haven’t heard that trail towns along the PCT are far apart, hard to get to, and often require that you hike out along a side trail for many miles before being able to hitchhike into them, then don’t worry about it. If you have heard those things, you still shouldn’t worry.
In comparison with the Appalachian Trail (not to compare the two, since my rant earlier), there are indeed less possible towns to get into from the Pacific Crest Trail, but I found myself in town and able to resupply just as often from the PCT as I had from the AT, with only one exception. Yes, there were often times when the distance between towns was around 100 miles, but the trail is flatter out west. A hundred miles usually takes only four or five days to cover, which was exactly as often as I was resupplying on the AT. Four to five days worth of food is no big deal.
Towns were also not the least bit difficult to get into. Hitchhiking along roads, whether major or minor, always yielded a ride in less than an hour, usually in less than fifteen minutes. The key was being prepared and knowing what lay ahead. Guidebooks and trail gossip will almost always tell you what is the easiest way into a town. Just listen, and you will find a way.
The most common bit of nonsense I heard about the PCT in years past, though, was that hikers had to plan their town stops far in advance because it was often necessary to hike five, ten, even twenty miles of side trail to get to a road where they could finally hitchhike into town. With one major exception, this is a load of hogwash. There are a handful of places where you have the option of hiking a few miles along a side trail to get closer to a town, but you never need to do this (I’ll mention the exception below). As with any place in the US, the PCT crosses roads, and people drive frequently on these roads. It’s not hard to get a ride into a trail town, no matter how far you have to hitch.
The only exception to this is in the Sierras. The resupply options in the Sierras seem complicated before you get there, but don’t worry about it. They will become abundantly clear while you are in the SoCal desert. Either you can send mail drops to the few resorts that are near the trail (Vermillion Valley Resort and Red’s Meadow), or you can exit the Sierras to the towns in the Owens River Valley. The latter option, which I chose, requires that you hike off the PCT for several miles to get to a trailhead where you can try to get a ride into town, but this is much less a hassle than it sounds like. If you plan ahead, it’s no big deal.
A conditional exception might be Oregon and Washington, where the towns are smaller, and sometimes are replaced for resupply options by resorts, but don’t worry about those until you get to Northern California. There’s plenty of time to plan those things while you’re on the trail. And, really, it’s not something you should worry about at all. A few mail drops in Oregon and Washington are pretty simple to figure out.
So, to recap, aside from the Sierras, where the trail is much more remote, resupplying and getting into towns is not difficult. It requires that you know where you’re going, and it sometimes helps to have a cell phone with numbers from a guidebook in case you want a guaranteed ride, but it’s nothing that should cause any anxiety during the planning stages of your hike.