I love wilderness hiking in North America. And I love the town-to-town hiking we have done in Europe, Turkey, and Australia. To my surprise I was a bit disappointed by the overall structure of this trail. For me it was a weird combination in that it is not a wilderness hike (it crosses at least one and sometimes several roads nearly every day), but it does not have the advantages of the hiking in Europe where trails pass through beautiful and interesting towns (this trail avoids all towns).
For example, we would spend several hours on a beautiful ridge with big vistas, but then come to a pass and enter a drainage that had OHV activity. Just when I was getting in the groove of the scenery, the vroom-vrooming OHVs would break the spell. Some stretches of trail are open to motorcycles, their tires chew up the trails and their high speed ripping around corners really disrupts my sense of what a long distance hike is all about.
As James says, perhaps we are spoiled by having the Sierra Nevada as our backyard range of mountains; for me, they are hands-down more scenic than the mountains of the CT. I enjoyed hikes in other mountain ranges more than I enjoyed hiking the CT, including Vermont’s Long Trail, the HRP in the Pyrenees, and the Arizona Trail. For a combination of reasons, those other trails seemed to have more integrity and internal consistency than the CT. Soon after completing the CT, we spent 13 days in the Sierras, and for me every one of those 13 days was more scenic than 90% of the days on the CT.
Perhaps we have done so much hiking now that I’m overly persnickety, and I’m looking for magic. In spite of my negative comments, I did enjoy the hike very much, primarily because I enjoy the process of backpacking.
On the plus side, this is a very well maintained and well-marked trail with predominantly easy tread. Good campsites are (usually) abundant and easy to locate. Distance between resupply towns is reasonable. Access to water is good. It is well suited to a hiker without much long-distance backpacking experience.
In 2007 we thru-cycled the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route from Banff to Mexico, a route that crosses the CT several times. I loved that trip (it’s on my Top Ten list), and my overall summary is that the geography of this region and the plethora of roads make it better suited to bicycles than to hiking.
Would I recommend this hike? To be honest, I think that the PCT from Interstate 80 (near Truckee) to Cottonwood Lakes or Kennedy Meadows South (just south of Mt Whitney) is a better stretch of trail. It’s roughly the same distance; similarly well maintained and documented; with roughly similar distances between resupply. I believe that the scenery is better, the trail is dedicated to hikers, and the trail has internal consistency and integrity.