The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) which passes through the states of California, Oregon, and Washington is a famous 2,653 mi (4,270 km) long hiking and horseback riding trail. Its highest peak is at Forester Pass and is 13,153 feet high.
Because of its fame, many bikers around the world are wondering can you bike the pacific crest trail?
Although other parts of the forest are open to bikes and bikers, the Pacific Crest Trail itself is not open for biking and was traditionally limited to hiking and horseback riding only. A fierce debate is still being fought whether mountain bikes should be allowed on the trail, with recent efforts of lobbying for the inclusion of bikes; to no avail.
It was designated a National Scenic Trail in 1968 and since then, and as of 2020, 7,703 people have completed the entire 2,653 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail with almost 100 people completing it more than once.
Why are there no bikes allowed on the Pacific Crest Trail?
The PCT was originally designed as a hiker and equestrian trail only and not much has changed since then. This is the main reason why no official bike wheels are allowed there. Because the trail was never open to cyclists, there’s a lot of people that want it to stay that way.
Mountain bikes move much faster than people or even horses do on the trail. Beth Boyst, Pacific Crest Trail manager says that that poses a safety issue without the trail being upgraded and therefore significantly changed. Upgrades such as passing areas and longer sightlines should be incorporated at many of the trail’s spots.
Because the terrain is often treacherous and is cut into high and narrow territory, said changes would be extremely difficult to implement.
Of course with the resurgence of mountain biking since the end of the eighties when the U.S. Forest Service has upheld its 1988 order closing the trail to mountain biking, a lot of trail riding enthusiasts were starting to get louder against said restrictions. Some of them even outright disputing it by riding on the trail.
Going for mountain biking on a trail closed to mountain bikers is never a good idea as unsuspecting hikers and especially horses can get spooked and even injured in the process. Fortunately, there are no biker-related deaths as biking on the trail is not that common.
Most of the 14 deaths that occurred on the trail were fall-related, and the others were drowning, heat-stroke, and falling tree-related. Sadly, two women were hit by a car when the driver fell asleep when as they were taking a road detour in 1995.
A couple of initiatives did spring up to lobby against the ban on bikes on the trail. Mainly in the form of the Pacific Crest Trail Reassessment Initiative. They are primarily attempting to have the 1988 bicycle ban abolished and be granted legal and public access to all non-wilderness parts of the Pacific Crest Trail.
The initiative had no real success and in 2013 the organization received a reply from United States Forest Service in which the agency formally denied their request for the agency to revisit the 1988 bicycle ban.
Will the Pacific Crest Trail be open to biking in the future?
That is always a possibility but by the current looks of it, it doesn’t seem highly likely that the 1988 closure order will be abolished by the USFS.
There are a lot of elements working against mountain bikers in this situation. Things like the traditional use of the trail for hikers and equestrians only, organizations like the Pacific Crest Trail Association working actively against them, and the innate nature of politics to change things.
Pacific Crest Trail Alternatives
The state of Oregon has a mountain bike trail called The Oregon Timber Trail that is a 668-mile singletrack mountain bike trail spanning the whole of the state. The project took over 18 months to build and takes an estimated 20-30 days to complete.
The trail is for serious mountain bikers and is 51 percent singletrack and 91 percent unpaved tracks.
Of course, there’s no shortage of awesome mountain biking trails across the country and you’re sure to find your next adventure with ease. Just not on the PCT.