[Cdt-l] PCT vs. CDT - some questions

Lawton Grinter lawtong at hotmail.com
Sat Dec 13 18:07:58 CST 2008

Roger, I’d like to take a stab at your questions.  I hiked the PCT in both 2004 and 2008 and hiked the CDT in 2006.

Which trail is more worth to thru-hike in your opinion? 

They are both worth thru-hiking and I would highly recommend hiking both of them.  If you can only hike one and will never get a chance to thru-hike again, I would recommend the PCT.  It’s my personal favorite of any of the trails I’ve hiked thus far . . . nice mix of scenery, maintained trail, wildlife and trail community.

Am I wrong with all my concerns about the PCT? 

If you base your concerns on what folks on the pct-l or any listserve for that matter are saying then you are setting yourself up for disappointment.  As far as the herd goes . . . you don’t have to be a part of it unless you choose to.  I hiked out of Lake Morena this year at the kick-off in late April and within 2 weeks was in front of the herd and never saw the herd again.  Don’t be put-off of hiking the PCT because a few folks on a listserve talk about the herd.  If you want to see a real herd then hike the Appalachian Trail starting anytime in late March / early April.

Is it really crowded on the PCT when starting in late April? 

It depends on what “crowded” means to you.  Any crowding you experience on the PCT at the beginning of the hike will likely be in towns.  If you avoid town stops or simply shorten your stay in towns during the 1st month you will not feel crowded.  After the 1st months folks get pretty spread out on the PCT.

Which of the two trails has more rewarding landscape/ nature? 

It’s a toss up.  I will say that the desert section of the PCT is really really neat.  You can night hike out there under a full moon without a headlamp because it’s so bright.  I definitely saw more wildlife on the CDT . . . and spending the 1st 1,000 miles of the CDT as a southbounder in Grizzly country was a bit unnerving.  The New Mexico section of the CDT going thru in October was amazing . . . cliffs, mesas, amazing colors.

What kind of trails can I expect on the CDT (percentage of small hiking trails, bushwhacking, jeep roads, roads and in comparison to the trails on the PCT)?

On the PCT you will mostly be on single-track the entire way.  On the CDT you will experience a diverse and regular mix of single-track, two-track, jeep roads, dirt roads, paved roads and cross country land navigation where there are no trails.

Is it the right choice to start thru-hiking the CDT, not having done other thru-hikes before (my longest was two weeks through the Swiss Alps…)?

Year after year more folks seem to be biting off the CDT as their 1st thru-hike.  2 friends from my town just hiked the CDT this summer southbound as their 1st thru-hike.  It’s doable but not easy.  Hiking the PCT as your 1st thru-hike would be relatively easier in the sense that you wouldn’t have to deal with nearly as much map reading and land navigation issues.  

Roger, I would seriously recommend hiking them both and if I were in your shoes, I’d hike the PCT 1st with no worries of “the herd” having a negative effect on my hike.  Have a good time out there regardless of which trail you choose!

Best, Disco

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