The Pacific Crest Trail runs for 2660 miles from the Mexican border to the Canadian Border. It passes through all biospheres represented in mainland USA except for savannah and maintains its wilderness character throughout the length of the trail, generally avoiding towns, roads and civilization. It is, overall, a maintained and marked trail; one among many multi-state trails in the USA.
From icy glaciers to dry deserts, the trail traverses 3 states, 7 national park and 25 national forests, climbs 57 mountain passes and skirts more than a thousand lakes, offering beauty beyond comparison.
Hiking the entire length of the trail in one season is known as a “thru-hike” and this is attempted by many hundreds of people, each year. A 2013 bestselling book, combined with a general tendency in modern society to “live-out-yourself”, has seen the numbers of thru-hikers surge in recent years. In 2014, an estimated 1500+ people attempted a thru-hike; the vast majority, 90%, walking from Mexico to Canada, northbound.
Walking north is, generally, considered to be slightly “easier” than walking south: Your “seasonal-window” is a little longer allowing for slightly shorter hiking-days and a few more rest-days; and you avoid two extra challenges, that the southbounders are facing: long-sections of snow-packed trail in the beginning of your walk and severe water-shortage in the southern Californian deserts towards the end of your walk. Northbounding, it is easy to find some friends, probably for life, that you’ll walk with. Should you like to party and socialize a lot during your walk, northbounders have plenty of options for this, if they want. Either way, north or south, you’re still walking the same trail and northbounders do face a lot of snow also, especially in the Sierras if they arrive early. Due to these weather-limitations, northbounders start in april/may and southbounders start in early july. However, in february 2015 two southbounding hikers were the first to complete a thru-hike in the winter season, seriously hardcore hikers with 70.000 miles of walking between them.
Walking south has an obvious advantage: you avoid the crowds. I walked south, simply because I got the idea very late, in mid-june, and hence southbounding was my only option. I didn’t regret it, not one day.