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Family Outdoor Vacation: Pacific Crest Trail

Family Outdoor Vacation: Pacific Crest Trail

The Pacific Crest Trail is America's westernmost national scenic trail, covering 2,650 miles of rugged and pristine scenery through California, Oregon and Washington. Born from the effort of the Forest Service and citizen activists committed to creating a long-distance mountain trail back in the 1930s, the trail passes through six North American eco-zones, from low desert to arctic-alpine, descends into multiple canyons, passes more than 1,000 lakes and climbs over 60 major mountain passes.

In California, the trail begins at the Mexican border, passing through the scorching valleys of the Mojave Desert, and into higher brushy landscape as it winds north. Not a portion for the faint of heart, temperatures can be brutal even in spring and there are many miles between water sources. The Sierra Nevadas offer refreshing and often remote wilderness, large meadows and conifer forests. The popular John Muir Trail joins the PCT in Sequoia National Park, and the trail crosses deep canyons and high saddles on the route to Yosemite National Park. Pressing north, the volcanic Cascades arise and hikers are greeted with beautiful lupine, larkspur and columbine. Turning west towards greener coastal ranges, the PCT enters Oregon's Cascade range, a subdued volcanic landscape that hikers will find much easier to travel. Highlights in the state are Crater Lake, the nation's deepest lake, and the Columbia River Scenic Gorge along the border of Washington. The North Cascades in Washington offer some awe-inspiring scenery as the trail climbs towards towering Mt. Rainier through the Pacific Northwest rainforest, snowfields and small glaciers.

Fast Facts:

*The PCT travels through seven national parks, 24 national forests and more than 30 wildernesses.

*The U.S.' three deepest lakes are on the trail: Lake Tahoe, Crater Lake and Lake Chelan.

*The Pacific Crest Trail, along with the Appalachian and Continental Divide Trails, make up the "triple crown" of long-distance hiking in America.

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