The route is mostly through National Forest and protected wilderness. The trail avoids civilization and covers scenic and pristine mountainous terrain with few roads. It passes through the Laguna, Santa Rosa, San Jacinto, San Bernardino, San Gabriel, Liebre, Tehachapi, Sierra Nevada, and Klamath ranges in California, and the Cascade Range in California, Oregon, and Washington.
A parallel route for bicycles, the Pacific Crest Bicycle Trail (PCBT) is a 2,500-mile (4,000 km) route designed closely parallel to the PCT on roads. The PCT and PCBT cross in about 27 places along their routes.