The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is one of the most popular hiking trails in the United States, offering unparalleled views of varying landscapes along the West Coast. The scenery plays a starring role in the new movie Wild, a true story featuring Oscar-winning actress Reese Witherspoon. She portrays Cheryl Strayed, a woman who hiked over 1,700 kilometers of the 4,265-kilometer trail in an effort to overcome her divorce and the death of her mother. Strayed began her journey in southern California’s Mojave Desert and trekked all the way to the Oregon-Washington border.
Want to go hiking in the USA? These trails are sure to be memorable!
Stretching from Mexico to Canada, the Pacific Crest Trail traverses spectacular and varied landscapes that range from barren deserts to ragged mountain ranges to glacier-fed streams. To provide a more extensive look at the natural beauty found on the route, we rounded up 11 of the most iconic views from the trail, a handful of which made appearances in the film.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in southern California (about 135 kilometers from San Diego) is about 112 kilometers north of the start of the trail and is a popular stopping point for many hikers. In addition to the stunning desert and mountain views, this state park is also home to unique wildlife, like the endangered peninsular bighorn sheep and the bobcat.
On the eastern fringe of Sequoia National Forest less than 300 kilometers north of Los Angeles is Kennedy Meadows, an important landmark in the movie Wild. The general store and pack station offers hikers refuge from the harsh desert conditions — complete with showers, food and ample camping sites.
Yosemite National Park
Roughly 280 kilometers east of San Francisco, Yosemite National Park is notably one of the most popular landmarks on the PCT. This beautiful park offers sweeping views of the Sierra Nevada mountain chain, as well as stunning waterfalls, deep valleys and grand gorges.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park is located about 500 kilometers north of Yosemite National Park near the Oregon-California border. This park was formed by the region’s volcanic activity, making for a unique landscape. In addition to volcanic peaks, you’ll find colorful wildflower meadows and clear mountain lakes.
Crater Lake National Park
Easily one of the most popular stopping points on the PCT is Crater Lake National Park. The cliffs can reach over 600 meters, which is nearly as high as the lake is deep. “I was so excited to go to Crater Lake because, in the book, that was the one place that I was like ‘Whoa, I really want to go there,’” Witherspoon said in an interview about filming Wild. “It was extraordinary.” The trail offers spectacular views of the 590-meter-deep lake, which was created from a volcanic eruption over 7,500 years ago. Although the trail doesn’t lead directly to views like this, many hikers walk a little further down an offshoot trail to see the lake from the crater’s edge.
Three Sisters Wilderness
Located 25 kilometers north of Crater Lake, the Three Sisters Wilderness features several small lakes and ponds that are beautiful to gaze at after a long hike. The major peaks are the North, Middle and South Sisters and the entire forest covers about 114,000 hectares of central Oregon.
Mount Hood National Forest
Located around 150 kilometers east of Portland, Mount Hood is the main attraction for the northern Oregon stretch of the trail. This glacier-robed mountain is Oregon’s largest active volcano and is surrounded by lush forests, making it the perfect place to snap a photograph.
The Bridge of the Gods and the Columbia River Gorge
The Columbia River Gorge crossing offers the only real elevation change on the Oregon portion of the trail: a 963-meter drop as you cross the Columbia River. To cross the river, you walk over the Bridge of the Gods, where Strayed wrapped up her real-life hike and the final backdrop for the movie Wild.
Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park (145 kilometers southeast of Seattle) is one of the most popular stops along the Washington state stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail. Standing 4,392 meters tall, this still-active volcano offers sweeping views of the many waterfalls and evergreen forests surrounding it.
One of the toughest parts of the Washington portion of the trail is the stretch through Snoqualmie Pass. Despite the gorgeous views of the Cascade Range and Snoqualmie National Forest, the vast land offers little to no cover from the elements.
North Cascades National Park
Less than a three-hour drive northeast of Seattle, North Cascades National Park on the border of Washington State and Canada, and near the end of the Pacific Crest Trail. For many hikers, this is the end of the journey, and they’re welcomed with breathtaking views of the rugged Cascade Mountain Range, as well as more than 300 glaciers.
Find out when Wild is coming to a theater near you!