Choosing the Best Bivy Site On the Pacific Crest Trail
While still in John Muir Trail territory, my son and I set up a fantastic bivy site for the night high over an absolutely gorgeous lake, the name of which doesn’t matter because they’re all beautiful. The site was nearly a mile from the lake’s shore and at least 400 feet up. Facing the setting sun, we were in a secluded little pocket some ways from the trail behind a few trees and hidden on two sides by granite walls and about 200 feet from the rushing stream that ran alongside the trail.
So I was surprised when a voice came out of nowhere – and it wasn’t mine or my son’s.
“Hey, are you guys camping here?”
We turned around to see the hiker and his companion looking at my bivy site laid out 10 feet away.
“Yes.” Jason and I looked at each other. It seemed obvious enough. The hiker was now peering down to the lake. It was still quite far away and we had not been down to it yet, although we would the next morning as we headed north.
“Can you tell me where the better campsites are around the lake?”
If I had been drinking milk (or anything, but milk demos best), it would have shot out of my nose.
Better campsites? What?
“No. Sorry. We’re no help there. I’m sure you’ll find plenty of camping if you look.”
The lake, by the way, was not at all small. It took a half an hour to descend to it the next day and another half hour to pass it.
The point is that there are NO “better” campsites anywhere. There are thousands of fantastic places to set up a bivy on the PCT.
Here’s what I look for – but this is just me (and my son).
Top qualities for better bivy sites
- Leave No Trace—read these simple principles for a starter
- Granite or granite gravel
- Sun and shade (don’t want much, do I?)
- Open sky (stars, right?)
- Water—stream, creek, spring, lake
- West exposure—for sunset pix
- East exposure—so the sun can wake me
- In-room coffee service—no wait, that’s for zero days…
I hope you are able to find your better bivy any time you go out on the PCT.