Pacific Crest Trail Food Resupply Plan

— February 28, 2012

Finally worked out my trail food resupply plan. That took some doing. Fortunately there are a few Pacific Crest Trail resources to assist.

There’s Yogi’s PCT Handbook Planning Guide with 17 pages of discussion and suggestions on trail food resupply from PCT thru hike veterans. And there’s Yogi’s PCT Handbook Trail Tips and Town Guide with details on each trail town. Details such as “you can’t even buy snacks here” no resupply to “anything you want” full resupply.

There’s also the very useful Craig’s PCT Planner. Craig’s planning tool helps with choosing resupply locations and projecting arrival and departure dates at each resupply location. After plugging in your own estimated hiking rate of travel and adjustment for big gains in elevation, the planner determines how many days you’ll be hiking between resupply points.

However, even though it might be 4.5 days hiking between a couple given resupply towns, that doesn’t mean I need to carry 4.5 days of food. I’ll be eating breakfast before leaving trail towns. And sometimes stopping for meals at restaurants that are nearby when the PCT crosses highways. And when I get in to a town, I’ll be eating there too (if early enough, eating both lunch and dinner). Quite a lot of food weight to be saved by subtracting these meals from the food carried. So, I took the information from Craig’s planner and enhanced it with a spreadsheet so I could calculate where I’d be eating at restaurants and exactly how many breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks I would be carrying between resupplies.

My PCT Trail Food Resupply Plan

Southern California – The Desert
  • Pre-trail, buy food to carry the first three days and to ship to Mt. Laguna and Warner Springs to get from Campo to Idyllwild (looks to me like the first full resupply “on trail” or very close to “on trail” is 179 miles into the hike at Idyllwild).
  • Beginning in Idyllwild, buy food resupplies in trail towns (Idyllwild, Big Bear City, Wrightwood, Agua Dulce, and Tehachapi/Mojave).
  • In Agua Dulce, also buy food and ship ahead to Kennedy Meadows and Independence.
Central California – The Sierra
  • Pick up mail drops in Kennedy Meadows and Independence.
  • At Red’s Meadow, go back to resupplying food in trail towns (Mammoth Lakes, Yosemite Valley after a side trip to hike up Half Dome, South Lake Tahoe, and Sierra City).
  • In South Lake Tahoe, also buy food and ship ahead to Drakesbad Guest Ranch.
Northern California
  • Pick up mail drop at Drakesbad Guest Ranch.
  • Buy food resupplies in Mt. Shasta and Etna.
Oregon
  • In Ashland, buy food for the trail for Ashland to Crater Lake and buy food to ship to Crater Lake (Mazama Village) and Big Lake Youth Camp.
Washington
  • In Cascade Locks before crossing the bridge to Washington, buy food for the trail for Cascade Locks to White Pass and buy food to ship to Snoqualmie Pass, Skykomish, and Stehekin.

Behind this plan are a few values. Such as wanting to optimize trail time and minimize town time. Which means carrying up to seven days food a few times. And not stopping or taking a “zero” rest day at every nearby trail town. And not hitching or otherwise traveling a long ways away from the trail (say no more than fifteen miles).

This is just a plan. So we’ll see what really happens once trail shoes are on the ground headed from Mexico to Canada.

If you’ve hiked or are going to hike the PCT, how did you plan out your trail food resupply? Let us know in the comments section below.

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