national scenic trails

What Draws Us to the PCT?

Why do thousands of people elect to voluntarily work harder than they could ever imagine, deprive themselves of creature comforts, experience searing heat and voracious mosquitoes, expose themselves to dangerous river crossings and unpredictable weather? The reasoning is somewhat different from the thinking and observations we have imparted in previous posts entitled ‘Why the PCT?”.

The whys and the whats shine different lights on different places. In fact what draws the collective ‘us’ to the PCT is as variable as the weather one can find all along the trail. Every time I am hiking along the PCT I intersect and interact with a wide variety of people; young and old, experienced and inexperienced in nature, seekers, discoverers, people avoiding or embracing their next step in life. I have met people celebrating a recent life event or considering great life changes. As you can see the list is long and could be developed even more. My question for the people I meet often comes back to ‘what drew you to do this?’

The point is, there is not one specific element that draws each and everyone of us to walk the PCT. No matter if you are a sectioning or thru hiking, going it alone or together. Certainly many share a sense of challenge for the unknown. I have thought and written about that on numerous occasions both here and in the privacy of my trip journals. Beyond the sheer challenge of putting oneself out in nature there is also the interest in going somewhere few have gone and few have seen while overcoming a wide range of diverse problems and challenges. 

Despite the significant increase in the number of people on the PCT over the past ten years, the overall sense is there really aren’t that many people who are going after it. Of course the so called ‘wild effect’ that occurred after the publication of Cheryl Strayed’s, ‘Wild’, has influenced more people to search out themselves and the PCT. In particular it appears there are more women on the PCT than ever as a result of Strayed’s story. However when one considers the population of only the United States, and the fact that when we refer to the PCT we are referring to a National Scenic Trail the PCT is no interstate hiker’s highway with big traffic jams. Sure there are the occasional accidents, detours, and at specific times of the year, ‘bubbles’ of people moving in what has been described at times a herd but there are many miles where it can be just you. 

Then add in the international visitors and the impact is still not all that great. However the reasoning for a PCT hiker from outside the US to walk the PCT may be different or not from his or her American colleagues. Certainly there is nothing quite like the National Scenic Trail system and specifically the PCT anywhere else in the world.   

So, what does draw us to the PCT? There is a social component that can’t be denied, just look at social media and You Tube. All kinds of people have experiences to share and announce to the world. In that way, their draw may be a desire be noticed. Their fifteen minutes of fame or a whole lot less. In fact a whole community exists around the PCT and that community draws ever more interested folks to see what it’s all about. There are numerous books about the PCT, e.g.’The Pacific Crest Trailside Readers’ as an example. All of this sparks interest and desire to see what the PCT is all about and ultimately check it out in whatever way one can.

Finally, the greatest draw to the PCT is the opportunity to experience parts of the United States and specifically the far west that few will ever see or experience. Simply going where others only go in calendar photos, coffee table books, or hear about in public talks and other places across a variety of media. Whether vicariously or up close and personal what draws us may be that we as people are interested in getting in touch with the desire to know more. Know more about the world, ourselves, and each other. For that the draw is undeniable, taking us on a journey of a lifetime that goes deeper into our hearts and minds than we may not always fully realize unless we continue to ask the question, ‘what drew me here?’ 

It’s National Take A Hike Day! Some of the best places in the country to enjoy a walk outdoors are on public lands. National parks, wildlife refuges and recreation areas – as well as National Scenic Trails, National Recreation Trails and National Historic Trails – are amazing places to exercise, marvel at stunning landscapes, learn incredible stories and make lasting memories. Here’s a great view from the famous South Kaibab Trail at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. Where will you #FindYourWay? Photo by Michael Quinn, National Park Service.
A pipeline cutting through the iconic Appalachian Trail sparks a fight over natural gas expansion
Plans for a 300-mile gas pipeline that would cut right through the Appalachian Trail have come to symbolize what environmentalists warn is a pipeline building frenzy out of control.
By Evan Halper


The stretch of Appalachian Trail through the Blue Ridge Mountains here is prized by hikers from around the world for its open ridgelines, spectacular geologic formations and challenging slopes.

But one of the country’s most iconic viewsheds could soon be changed forever to make room for an energy project favored not just by fossil fuel industry boosters like President Trump, but also Virginia’s Democratic governor.

A natural gas developer with some powerful political allies is nearing final approval to plow a pipeline corridor as wide as 150 feet, tracking the trail for dozens of miles and burrowing through it at one point.

Amid the nation’s ongoing boom in natural gas production, federal rules have made pipeline construction an extremely lucrative enterprise, even in markets where the need is hotly debated.

To many, the Mountain Valley Pipeline has become a symbol of the building frenzy. Concern stretches all the way to California, where climate activists worry that such projects are undermining their efforts. Leaders of the Pacific Crest Trail Assn. fear that gas companies feel increasingly emboldened to impose an ever bigger footprint on protected lands.

“Everybody, not only in the East, but around every national scenic trail, should be concerned about this,” said Andrew Downs, regional director with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the 90-year-old nonprofit organization entrusted by the National Park Service decades ago with the task of managing the trail. The conservancy has never found it necessary to get involved in a pipeline fight in this way, but times have changed. “We’ve never seen pipelines of this size and magnitude,” Downs said.

The same glut of natural gas that helped the U.S. substantially cut its greenhouse gas emissions is now also threatening efforts to fight climate change. In communities being rattled by the rush to lay pipe, the natural gas projects are drawing the kind of rancor usually associated with more imposing and disruptive oil pipelines.With some 9,000 new miles of pipeline in the planning stages nationwide, natural gas expansions are threatening to undermine greenhouse gas emission reduction goals already agreed to by Virginia and other states hosting the projects.

A pastoral view from Mountain Lake Road near the historic town of Newport, Va., through which the pipeline would be built.


Celebrate the passage of the National Trails AND Wild and Scenic Rivers Acts with photos of the BLM river and trail segments included in the original 1968 legislation signed #OTD in 1968!

The Río Grande Wild and Scenic River, located within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico, includes 74 miles of the river as it passes through the 800-foot deep Río Grande Gorge. The Río Grande Wild and Scenic River provides a wide variety of recreational opportunities, luring anglers, hikers, artists, and whitewater boating enthusiasts.  

In addition, the Rogue Wild and Scenic River is located in southwestern Oregon and flows 215 miles from Crater Lake to the Pacific Ocean. Some of the wildlife that calls the Rogue home include black bear, river otter, black-tail deer, bald eagles, osprey, Chinook salmon, great blue heron, water ouzel, and Canada geese.

Featuring 30 miles of the world famous Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT), Sand to Snow National Monument in Southern California is a favorite for camping, hiking, hunting, horseback riding, photography, wildlife viewing, and even skiing.

The 43-mile stretch of the PCT in southern Oregon includes countless scenic views and well-known recreation points: Mount Shasta; Pilot Rock, Hyatt Lake; Soda Mountain Wilderness; and the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, to name a few.

Photos by Bob Wick, BLM

Incredible sunsets are one of the many rewards of hiking along the Appalachian Trail, a national scenic trail that stretches from Georgia to Maine. Native to the Appalachian Mountains, rhododendrons bloom in this gorgeous photo that was taken along the trail near the Roan Highlands on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. With so many great vistas to choose from, this scenic area is a favorite with day hikers and backpackers alike. Photo courtesy of Serge Skiba.


More #green greatness for #stpatricksday!  One of our favorites - the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Oregon (photos by Bob Wick, BLM).

Designated in 2000, the Cascade-Siskiyou was the first national monument in the country set aside solely to protect biodiversity, with some rare, some endangered, and some endemic (found only here) species. The convergence of three geologically distinct mountain ranges resulted in an area with remarkable biological diversity. The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail meanders 19 miles through the monument, offering challenging hikes with stunning views. Recreational activities - such as hiking, fishing and horseback riding - are allowed throughout the monument with consideration for sensitive plant and animal communities.


#TravelTuesday with Guest Photographer Bob Wick to Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse Outstanding Natural Area – A Quiet Oasis in Urban Southern Florida!

Visitors to the Atlantic Coast of South Florida who want a break from the hustle and bustle of this mostly urbanized area will find a welcome respite in northern Palm Beach County.  The 120-acre Jupiter Inlet Outstanding Natural Area packs in a remarkable array of natural and historical resources in addition to its spectacular namesake lighthouse.  The 105 foot tall brick lighthouse itself, an early homestead, and other historic structures are visitor and photographer mainstays and are open for tours most days. However, don’t end your visit there.  An interpretive trail traverses several Florida coast vegetation types and ends with an overlook of mangrove forest and the intracoastal waterway.

Photo tip: A polarizing filter works just like polarized sunglasses and cuts the glare on the water surface and other objects. This will improve photo clarity of manatees as they remain mostly under water, and also brings out the colors of all scenery – it’s my mainstay filter and as a bonus it (like any filter) protects the camera lens from scratches.

The waters around the ONA offer opportunities for snorkeling, kayaking and stand up paddleboarding past mangroves and other native vegetation. Osprey, herons, egrets and ibis are commonly seen along the shore. In winter, manatees congregate in the adjoining waterways and are often visible surfacing for air right next to shore. Look for gopher tortoises along the trails sunning themselves at mid-day.

Photo tip: When photographing wildlife, try to capture behaviors; an osprey eating a fish, a tortoise walking towards its burro. This makes for more interesting shots than an animal just standing looking at the camera.

Check out our @esri Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse ONA multimedia storymap for more stunning photos, helpful links and a map of the area:


#TravelTuesday with Guest Photographer Bob Wick and Retrace Wyoming’s Historic Emigrant Trails!

It’s hard to believe that just over 150 years ago, hundreds of thousands of pioneers traversed these vast high deserts of Wyoming on foot and by wagon seeking a better life in the west. Easterners looking to farm in the rich soils of Oregon or to find riches in the California goldfields, Mormons pulling handcarts towards the Brigham Young’s settlements in the Great Salt Lake Valley, and riders on the short-lived Pony Express mail route all converged west of Casper to make their way over a low point in the Continental divide at South Pass.  

Start your trip to retrace the route at the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center in Casper, Wyoming. The center has outstanding exhibits interpreting the significant role of the area’s historic trails played in in the history of the United States, and is a great place to get oriented for sites along the route.

As you travel westward from Casper, the landscape unfolds just like it did for the emigrants.  Imagine preparing for your trek and viewing sketches of surreal western land features in your guidebook and then coming upon them in real life. Milestones such as Devils Gate, Independence Rock (usually passed around July 4th), and Split Rock, which acted like a gunsight pointing towards South Pass, served both to guide and encourage the emigrants. The landscape remains relatively unchanged along the route so you can capture photographs of the same untouched places.  At several locations you can view inscriptions left by the emigrants.

Photo Tips: The vast landscapes in Wyoming often have dramatic skies – including sky in a large portion of the image (¾ or more) will help capture a stronger mood of the vastness of this place. Plan your photography around the weather. Clearing storms behind cold fronts, and summer monsoon afternoon/evening cloud buildup offer some of the most dramatic skies here and elsewhere in the west. Flat blue and flat grey skies are visually boring – in these situations you should minimize the amount of sky in your landscape images.

One of my favorite places along the emigrant trails route is South Pass itself. Camping near the base of Oregon Buttes (no facilities), watching the dawn light roll down the Wind River Range and filter across the pass makes one feel how powerful this place must have been as a milestone and gateway to the emigrants.

Photo Tip: Get your camera out before sunrise and don’t put it away after sunset. The soft pink light makes for soft sublime images.

Check out our @esri Historic Emigrant Trails multimedia storymap for more stunning photos, videos, helpful links and maps of the area:


May #conservationlands15 Social Media Takeover: Add the Continental Divide Trail - the “King of Trails” - to Your Bucket List

The Continental Divide Trail is much more than just a line on a map: it is a living museum of the American West, a place to reconnect with nature, and a unifying force bringing people of all walks of life together. -CDT Coalition

The Continental Divide Trail is a unique and challenging hiking experience. Hiking the trail will take you through low valleys and high peaks, across several ecosystems and historical treasures. The entire corridor runs approximately 3,100 miles from the Canadian border to the Mexican border.  

The BLM Oregon Salmon Field Office manages several segments of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, with expansive views into the Lemhi Valley to the west and the Big Hole Valley to the east.  A unique feature of this section of the trail is its intersection with the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail at Lemhi Pass and the Lewis and Clark Back Country Byway and Adventure Road in Idaho.  The mountains, evergreen forests, high desert canyons, and grassy foothills look much the same today as when the Lewis and Clark Expedition passed through in 1805.

In west-central New Mexico, the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail travels through the Chain of Craters Wilderness Study Area. Here, a line of more than 25 volcanic cinder cones exist where, long ago, magma found a weak spot in the Earth’s crust. At the lower elevations, you can place your tent among ponderosa pines whispering in the breeze. 


Thanks, Tumblrs, for following our #takeover of @USInterior’s Instagram Account Today!

Included here are today’s photos and a few other favorites posted by Interior over the last year.  Photos by Bob Wick, Wilderness Specialist for the BLM’s National Conservation Lands.


Welcome to the May #conservationlands15 Social Media Takeover!

Today’s takeover will feature National Historic and Scenic Trails to blaze on BLM’s National Conservation Lands - with the top 15 trails for summer adventure, partners who maintain those trails, and a feature location for your bucket list.

Note: The #conservationlands15 Social Media Takeover is a 2015 monthly celebration of the 15th anniversary of the BLM’s National Conservation Lands.


We continue our weekend celebration of National Scenic and Historic Trails and National Wild and Scenic Rivers with fall foliage along the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail.  

The BLM manages a section of the Continental Divide Trail in Montana, with a majority located within the Centennial Mountains Wilderness Study Area.  A part of the BLM’s National Conservation Lands, the Centennial Mountains WSA contains some of the most wild and biologically important lands in southwest Montana. Backcountry hiking, equestrian, hunting and fishing are popular along this segment of the trail. During the winter months, you can experience exceptional backcountry skiing opportunities and endless views.

Photos by Bob Wick, BLM


The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail was designated for its scenic significance. It is also considered the ‘King of Trails’, more difficult than its sister long distance trails, the Appalachian and Pacific Crest. It navigates dramatically diverse ecosystems through mountain meadows, granite peaks, and high-desert surroundings. Upon designation in 1978, Congress identified a corridor for this trail, straddling along the backbone of the North American continent –the Divide– for the future placement of the trail. When complete, the trail will climb and descend the peaks and cross the high-deserts of the Rocky Mountains from Canada to Mexico for 3,100 miles.

The trail crosses BLM-managed lands in five states: Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming. 

Photos by BLMer Bob Wick.


#mypubliclandsroadtrip Recap - Pacific Northwest Style!

The summer roadtrip stopped in BLM Oregon and Washington for coastal views and wildlife, scientific research, unique hikes, and a float down the Rogue River!  

Pictured here, the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument - located at the crossroads of the Cascade, Klamath, and Siskiyou mountain ranges. The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail meanders 19 miles through the monument, offering challenging hikes with stunning views.

Photos by Bob Wick, BLM. Check out all BLM Oregon/Washington roadtrip photos on My Public Lands Flickr, and view the storymap roadtrip journal


Check Out the August #conservationlands15 “Top 15″:  15 Amazing Urban Escapes on BLM’s National Conservation Lands! Close to Home, but A World Away.

1. Alaska, Steese National Conservation Area, Pinell Mountain Trail. Just over 2 hours from Fairbanks, this northernmost of U. S. National Recreation Trails traverses 27 miles of rolling tundra offering day hiking and backpack opportunities.  Come for the summer solstice to view the midnight sun.

2. Arizona, Hells Canyon Wilderness, Spring Valley Trail. A short 25 mile drive from Phoenix, this trail’s relatively gentle grades is great for the whole family. In addition to an array of Sonoran Desert wildlife, the resident burros may be seen along the trail.

3. California, California Coastal National Monument, Point Arena-Stornetta Unit. A 2-½ hour scenic drive from San Francisco through California’s wine country  enables San Francisco residents to escape the city for the small hamlet of Point Arena and its spectacular coastal headlands.  

4. California, North Fork American Wild and Scenic River. Follow the 49’rs and pan for gold in this crystal clear stream just an hour from Sacramento. 

5. Colorado, Beaver Creek Wilderness Study Area.  Just an hour from Colorado Springs and 2 hours from Denver, Beaver Creek offers miles of trail as well as fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities. Its lower elevation allows for an extended hiking season in comparison to Colorado’s high-country.

6. Florida, Jupiter Inlet Outstanding Natural Area. Less than 2 hours from Miami and even closer to Fort Lauderdale lies this historic lighthouse and surrounding restored coastal habitats.  Take a gentle walk along a trail and boardwalk to learn about the site’s important role in World War II.  

7. Idaho, Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. Just south of Boise, this bird-watching mecca is close enough for an after work trip and boasts one of the highest concentration of raptors in the world.

8. Virginia, Potomic Heritage National Scenic Trail. Just over 20 miles from the U. S. Capitol, the Meadowood Recreation Area provides a segment of the trail in a pastoral setting.

9. Montana, Pompey’s Pillar National Monument. Drive a short ½ hour from Billings to learn about the Lewis and Clark Expedition at the interpretive center then have a picnic along the cottonwood lined banks of the Yellowstone River.

10. Nevada, Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area. The entrance to Sloan Canyon, one of the most significant cultural resources in Southern Nevada, is almost within sight of the Las Vegas Strip. The area contains a concentration of over 300 petroglyphs.

11. New Mexico, Tent Rocks National Monument. Just an hour from Albuquerque and Santa Fe is an area of magical rock formations that seem to defy gravity. Hike through the unique array of hoodoos and a narrow slot canyon, and then enjoy a picnic under the pinyons. 

12. Oregon, Deschutes Wild and Scenic River. Two hours from Portland, the Deschutes is Central Oregon’s playground. Visitors can fish for steelhead and salmon or raft the exciting whitewater.

13. Utah, Cedar Mountain Wilderness. This vast 100,000 acre area is only an hour west of Salt Lake City.  It is a true wilderness experience with no formal trails.  Hardy-well prepared visitors will be rewarded with solitude and expansive vistas of the Great Basin.

14. Washington, San Juan Islands National Monument. Take a ferry from Seattle and escape to this archipelago of fir clad islands.  The National Monument includes several lighthouses, hiking trails and sea kayak campsites. 

15. Wyoming, National Historic Trails Visitor Center. Located right in Casper, Wyoming off of highway I-25. The Trails Center offers extensive interpretive materials and programs describing the emigrant trails that led to settling of the west.

Join us next month for the September #conservationlands15 Social Media Takeover and our Top 15 - Wilderness Adventures on National Conservation Lands.

Located at the crossroads of the Cascade, Klamath, and Siskiyou mountain ranges, Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Oregon has long been recognized for its ecological importance. The convergence of three geologically distinct mountain ranges resulted in an area with remarkable biological diversity. The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail meanders 19 miles through the monument, offering challenging hikes with stunning views. Photo by Bob Wick, mypubliclands