Thru-Hike Numbers and Statistics
Thursday, March 28, 2019 2:53 pm

I’m a big fan of statistics and numerical analysis, so once I got back from the Pacific Crest Trail, I started to look at my hike numerically, to see what insights I could glean.

Distance

Distance Days %
Zeroes 18 9.8%
< 5 mi 6 3.3%
5 - 10 mi 16 8.7%
10 - 15 mi 42 22.8%
15 - 20 mi 54 29.3%
20 - 25 mi 39 21.2%
25 - 30 mi 7 3.8%
30+ mi 2 1.1%

The Pacific Crest Trail is roughly 2650 miles. While hiking it, I averaged 14.4 miles/day on the trail (16.0 miles/day excluding zeroes). These numbers do not include side trails or fire detours, which added roughly 100 miles to the total.

My pace in each section on the trail lined up fairly well with the relative difficulty of each section, though the southern California desert was not nearly as difficult as my pace suggests. While I was slowed by not having trail legs during the first few weeks, I also wanted to take my time: I started relatively early in the season (March 21), and wanted to enjoy the new-to-me desert scenery and not arrive excessively early to the Sierra.

Section Days Miles miles
per day
miles per
non-zero day
SoCal 56 702.2 12.5 14.0 (6 zeroes)
Sierra 39 388.5 10.0 11.8 (6 zeroes)
NorCal 34 611.9 18.0 19.1 (2 zeroes)
Oregon 24 444.2 18.5 21.2 (3 zeroes)
Washington 31 505.8 16.3 16.8 (1 zero)
Whole Trail 184 2652.6 14.4 16.0 (18 zeroes)

SoCal also saw my only two, relatively short, stints of slackpacking. The first time was a short stretch of trail on a not-quite-zero day near Idyllwild. The other was between the two roads that lead to Tehachapi.

The Sierra, with long distance between resupply (meaning, a heavy pack) and difficult snowy terrain, was by far my slowest section. That segment, between Kennedy Meadows South and South Lake Tahoe, included my only triple-zero (in Bishop), and one of my two double-zeroes (in Mammoth Lakes).

Almost immediately after leaving the Sierra, my pace significantly quickened, and between South Lake Tahoe and the Oregon border, I logged two thirty mile days. The longest, 33.8 miles, was also the first time I hiked further than a marathon in a single day.

Oregon, thanks to its comparatively flatter terrain, was my fastest section on the trail. Also helping this speed was a combination of food miscounting and trail magic that enabled me to skip two planned resupply stops. Oregon also saw my second double-zero, in Cascade Locks, following my longest stretch without a zero: the 429.1 mile, 20 day stretch from Ashland.

Washington was a fair bit slower than NorCal and Oregon, thanks to more difficult terrain (especially north of Snoqualmie Pass), lots of rain in the north half of the state, and three fire detours that added about 16 miles.

In total, I hiked six marathons: two in California (both 30s); three in Oregon (including two in back-to-back days); and one in Washington (that was also part of a fire closure).

Step Counting

According to the step counter on my iPhone, I took 7,819,898 steps on my hike (including zeroes), for an average of 42,499 per day. The day with the fewest steps was a zero at the Burney Mountain Guest Ranch, where I only made 6,127 steps. The lowest non-zero day was 14,525, when I did a very short day out of Chester, CA.

The day with the most steps was the 30.7 mile day ending just north of the Lassen Volcanic National Park, in which I took 74,104 steps. That was a little surprising, since a week earlier, I’d hiked 33.8 miles with only 67,329 steps. I suspect at least part of the difference was made up by side-trips to the park’s Terminal Geyser and a loop around a lake, which added distance not otherwise accounted for. Also, part of the 33.8-mile day was at a fairly high pace, which may have reduced the total number of steps required.

Lodging

Tent Hostel Hotel Trail
Angel
Alone
143 15 12 13 33
78% 8% 7% 7% 18%

Unsurprisingly, I spent most evenings on the trail in my tent. Those numbers include cowboy camping, which I did only twice, in the High Sierra.

Of the 13 nights at a trail angel’s place, two were in a teepee, in Quincy, and one was in a tree house, near Old Station.

The longest all-outside stretch was the 16 nights between Ashland and Timberline Lodge.

About a fifth of the time, I camped entirely by myself. Before the trail, I expected to have a much higher percentage of nights alone, but I didn’t take into consideration that I’d have a trail family (which was a big portion of California) or hiking partner (two thirds of Washington).

Sanitation

I did laundry 21 times. The longest stretch between clothes washings was the 17 days (379.2 miles) between Ashland and Timberline Lodge.

I got 35 showers. The longest period between showers was 11 days, between Crater Lake and Timberline Lodge (235.1 miles). While I’m sure I got pretty ripe in the periods between laundry and showers, it wasn’t nearly as bad as on the Appalachian Trail, where consistently higher humidity and more strenuous trail conditions caused much higher rates of sweating.

Shoe Replacements

Replacement
Location
Miles Days
Agua Dulce 454.5 37
Mammoth Lakes 448.8 43
Mount Shasta 597.9 39
Cascade Locks 645.6 42
End of Trail 515.8 32
Average 530.5 36.8

I went through five pairs of Merrell Moab shoes on the trail, with each pair lasting on average about 530 miles. Mount Shasta was the only town where I was unable to purchase new shoes locally; none of the gear shops in town carried Merrell shoes. Fortunately, Amazon Prime and two-day shipping got a new pair of shoes (and some other supplies) delivered to my motel room without much fuss.

The hard ground in the desert and High Sierras, particularly as the trail approached Agua Dulce led to replacing my shoes more quickly than anticipated. On the day hiking into Agua Dulce, nearly every step hurt as the padding in my shoes had almost completely worn out.

The longest stretch one pair of shoes survived was from Mount Shasta to Cascade Locks, covering about 150 miles of Northern California and all of Oregon. There, hiking on relatively softer ground greatly extended their lifespan, though the lava rock in central Oregon did my shoes no favors.

Resupply

I resupplied 30 times on-trail, 12 of which were maildrops (and 9 of those were sent from the trail). My shortest resupply stretch was 39.2 miles, from Mammoth Lakes to Tuolumne Meadows, just narrowly shorter than the 41.5 miles from Campo to Mount Laguna.

My longest (in distance) planned resupply was from Tehachapi to Kennedy Meadows, covering 135.8 miles. However, the longest distance between resupplies wound up being 250.4 miles over 11 days, from Shelter Cove to Cascade Locks (thanks to trail magic and miscounting food, as described above).

I carried the most food in the Sierra: I likely had 11 days of food for the stretch between Kennedy Meadows and Kearsarge Pass (86.3 miles), which included two days attempting to summit Mount Whitney. I also had ten days of food for the 114.8 mile stretch between Bishop and Mammoth Lakes. Both sections ultimately took nine days, and the extra food came in handy, as I gave extra to members of my trail family who ran low. The ten days of food leaving Bishop was particularly horrifying, as the hostel there had a pack scale: mine weighed 62 lbs!

Cost

Category Cost Per Day Per Mile
Gear $2,055.22 $11.17 $0.77
Transportation $857.72 $4.66 $0.32
Lodging $1,402.59 $7.62 $0.53
Consumables $695.81 $3.78 $0.26
Food $4,340.09 $23.59 $1.64
Laundry $33.55 $0.18 $0.01
Postage $409.24 $2.22 $0.15
Other $267.41 $1.45 $0.10
Total $10,061.63 $54.68 $3.79

My hike cost a touch over $10,000, including gear. Without gear, my hike cost $8,006.41. More than half of that cost was food. (I ate a lot.) And more than half of the food cost ($2,233.99) was at restaurants. (I ate at restaurants almost whenever I could.)

Most of the transportation cost was getting to the trail, and back home. Less than $100 went towards bus rides and shuttles to or from the trail to go to towns or places to resupply.

Most of the consumables cost (roughly $550) is the five pairs of shoes I went through; much of the rest went towards fuel canisters.

In a future post, I’ll break this down further. However, the primary takeaway is that hiking is cheap, and towns are expensive. It’s hard to spend money while in the wilderness with no cell service!

Pacific Crest Trail, 2018