Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail

Can we expect another record year for snow on the PCT in 2018?

By  | 

Will there be heavy snow on the PCT in 2018? So far this year, many hikers have lost their lives while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. In some cases, these tragic incidents happened during dangerous river crossings while others were the result of an especially significant snow fall. I guess the underlying message we should take from these awful tragedies is a need for extra caution on the PCT and a commitment to either be prepared or resolve not to go at all.

That being said, I know many of you hiking the PCT in 2018 will be just as eager to get out there and take on this romantic trail, regardless of the conditions.

How much snow can we expect on the PCT in 2018?

PCT snow

Every year is different, and the extent of snow in the Sierra or further north will change. Initially, I had planned on hiking the PCT in the month of May but having heard about the record snowfall; I was quite content that my adventure was postponed until April of next year.

In fact, it was a record breaking year in California to the delight of snowboarders, etc. but even for experienced hikers, these conditions ensured some extremely challenging conditions on the trail. Will we see a similar situation on the PCT in 2018? Possibly, I heard yesterday from a fellow hiker that early indications seem to suggest this will be the case. Either way, it makes sense to prepare for every eventuality.

Will a heavy snowfall affect every thru hiker on the PCT in 2018?

Yes, most especially hikers who depart in mid-April (or late April) as this will mean arriving early in the Sierra before the most of this snowfall has gone.

How will the snow affect a thru hike?

Conditions may be so bad that hikers need to (and should) turn around. In some cases, it will mean re-routing, or for experienced climbers, there will indeed be sections which are better described as climbing rather than hiking.

Hikers should expect avalanches, flooding and severely cold weather which is more than capable of bringing on hypothermia. And then as we have seen so far this year, river crossings are a common danger which needs to be taken with the utmost seriousness. Inevitably there will be impassable parts of the trail for different reasons, but at the very least, these changing conditions will mean hikers will need to change their resupply strategy accordingly.

Setting off on the trail early should mean that crossing creeks will be a lot more treacherous as the snow continues to melt in the Sierra but regardless, there will still be snow to encounter well into the month of June. Many experts over the years have recommended hikers not to leave early during a big snow year. Easier said than done when you spend a year or more preparing and planning to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.

Snow on the PAcific Crest Trail

Moral of the story

I have been genuinely gutted to read about all the beautiful people who have lost their lives on the trail this year, but these tragedies have encouraged me to look at the Pacific Crest Trail with a lot more detail and respect than ever before. So yes, I think we can expect heavy snow on the PCT in 2018 but at the very least, we should absolutely prepare for it and everything it brings.

How do YOU feel about the prospect of another record year for snow on the PCT in 2018? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

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.


  1. Kevin

    September 20, 2017 at 12:09 am

    “So yes, I think we can expect heavy snow on the PCT in 2018”

    Not trying to be mean but you sound incredibly retarded predicting snowfall in the Sierra for next year. So how many hurricanes are we having next year?

    • Derek Cullen

      November 21, 2017 at 8:07 am

      I love your attitude, Kevin, and I am sure anyone reading this will think so too!

  2. A Hiker

    January 13, 2018 at 9:45 am

    I completely agree with the underlying message that people should hope for the best and prepare for the worst, however it looks like 2018 is shaping up to be a relatively low snow year (based on current snow depth on http://www.nohrsc.noaa.gov/interactive/html/map.html).

    Perhaps it’s worth updating the article accordingly?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge