The US Forest Service has decided to issue long-distance travel permits at normal levels this year on the Pacific Crest Trail, but the Pacific Crest Trail Association is encouraging travelers to postpone trips if possible due to coronavirus and the restrictions that could be faced.
The decision by the agency, which has overall management responsibility for the trail, comes after in-depth discussions with federal land managers and state recreation officials, other agency partners and Pacific Crest Trail Association staff.
As public health concerns may change rapidly, permit holders are reminded to follow all local, state and federal COVID-related travel and safety guidelines.
Northbound permits for trips starting anywhere from the PCT Southern Terminus at the Mexican border to Sonora Pass will be issued at normal levels of 50 permits per day from March 1 through May 31.
Southbound permits for trips starting from the Northern Terminus will be issued at normal levels of 15 per day from June 15 through Sept. 15.
The Forest Service also authorized PCTA to issue 1,400 permits for section hikers crossing the John Muir Trail overlap and 600 permits for trips starting in the Southern Sierra. The PCTA distributes long-distance permits for trips of 500 miles or more on behalf of federal land management agencies.
Permit application opening date
You’ll be able to apply online starting on Jan. 19 at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time. Learn about how to apply for a permit. It is very important to read, understand and follow all the information on the permit page as well as all state and federal COVID-19 guidance. Answers to many questions and important trip planning information can be found in the Discover the Trail section of the PCTA website.
Travelers must adhere to all COVID-19 regulations, which can change at any time and could range from mask requirements and camping restrictions to travel bans. Permit holders should be advised that permits may be cancelled if state travel restrictions limit back country travel. So again, please remain aware at all times of any current restrictions, or you may be traveling on a cancelled permit.
Submitting an application secures a requested date but the permit still needs to be approved. PCTA will review applications in the days and weeks following the permit opening. Do not submit more than one request or all of your requests may be denied. You are advised to wait until your application is reviewed and approved before making travel arrangements.
Consider postponing the trip
The PCTA asks travelers to consider postponing: “Despite permits being issued at normal levels, these are not normal times, and this will not be a normal year to go for a long trip. Well over a quarter-million people have died from COVID-19 in the United States. We don’t take this lightly. If you are not prepared to change your behavior to lower the risk to yourself and those around you, this is not the time for a long-distance trip on the PCT. Please postpone your trip.”