Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail

Mojave Desert: What terrain to expect hiking the PCT

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One of the reasons I decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail in 2018 is the incredible diversity along this trail which runs from the border of Mexico all the way to Manning Park in Canada. However, one thing I had no idea about was the specific terrain and conditions of each region through which it passes.

For this reason, I decided to do some research and document whatever I found. With that said, here is a quick summary of what to expect hiking the Mojave Desert – the first section of the PCT:

Mojave Desert: Hiking the PCT in 2018

For northbound hikers, the PCT begins in southern California with 1100km through dusty landscapes hiking the Mojave Desert. Featuring cacti, brush, sage and a minimal amount of water; this is the driest desert in the United States which covers a total area of over one hundred thousand square kilometres.

Rain and temperature in the Mojave Desert

The Joshua tree is one of many thousands of plant species and while there is rain in this part of the country during the year, after April this is far less common. Regarding temperature, the average low is 15 degrees Celsius (April & May) while the average high at this same time of year is much higher at approximately 35 degrees Celsius. However, there have also been temperatures ranging from 4 degree Celsius to above 45 degrees Celsius.

Wildlife and living creatures in the Mojave Desert

As for living creatures, the desert is home to bobcats, fix and coyote but n encounter with these is very uncommon. On the contrary black widow spiders are sometimes spotted and rattlesnakes are pretty much a certainty at some point although most hikers will say these can be heard from quite a distance.

Crossing a desert in Northern Kenya

Sun, umbrellas and protection

I have a lot of experience in deserts, from the Sahara in north Africa to the oldest in the world, the Namib Desert. Unfortunately these experiences were quite a painful experience and on one occasion, I was lucky to recover after some partiularly dangerous heat exhaustion.In this sense, I hope fellow hikers realise the serious affect of the sun.

For anyone hiking the PCT, this will be a largely dry section of the trail accompanied by a relentless heat. You must stay dehydrated and it is equally important to get out of the midday sun or hottest part of the day. I see that many hikers take an umbrella for this part of the trail which is apparently worth its weight but otherwise, early moring or just before sundown is the best time to clock up some extra miles.

Next up is Central California and the Sierra Mountains.


I'm an Outdoor Adventure Blogger from Dublin, Ireland. In late 2013 I began riding a bicycle across Africa and it was during this adventure when I discovered a passion for the great outdoors and the general uncertainty of life on the road. Next April, I am hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

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