This series of three books, written by Jeffrey P. Schaffer and Andy Selters, was the only game in town for a long, long time. The first book covers Southern California. The second covers Northern California. The third covers Oregon and Washington.
Countless hikers have thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail with these guidebooks. The series is a classic.
These guidebooks have a more detailed written description of the PCT than any of the other map options. They have maps covering every inch of the trail. They explain how to find the trail, and how to find side trails. They recommend beautiful alternate routes. They tell you where to find water, campsites, and exits to resupply points. Schaffer and Selters also describes the rich geological and natural history of all the areas along the trail. The Wilderness Press Pacific Crest Trail Guidebooks can also be one of the least expensive map resources of all.
First of all, the books are heavy. They are easily the heaviest of all the map options. This can be overcome rather easily, though. Start by removing the front and back cover of the books. Then you’ll notice the binding on the books is just glue, so you can just divide the books up (by “ripping” them apart at the glue). You’ll find this is quite easy, and the paper itself never rips. This way you can section the book up into many different parts and only carry the parts you’ll need until your next resupply box.
The second major concern is the maps. Most of the guidebook maps are scaled at 1:50,000 – a bit “zoomed out” for many hikers. The maps are fine for on-trail navigation, but aren’t detailed enough to really help you in an off-trail emergency.
The MSRP for these guidebooks is $19.95 each ($59.85 for all three together). But they can always be found cheaper. They sometimes appear on Amazon.com for as low $10 each (used) or $12 each (new). You should expect to pay less than $45 for the set of three (not including shipping & handling). This makes the Wilderness Press Pacific Crest Trail guidebooks one of the cheapest map options available to backpackers on the PCT.
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