Traversing Trails: Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail

Traversing Trails: Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail

By Rachael Medina August 20, 2019

Continued from Traversing Trails: Preparing to Hike the Pacific Crest Trail

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) requires several months of preparations and dozens of hours of planning. Once you determine the amount of money and the type of gear you will need for the trip, permits become the next limiting factor. 

In order to hike 500 miles or more of the PCT, a long-distance permit is required. While these permits are free to apply for and obtain, they are issued on a first-come, first-served basis. This means that some prep time is needed to ensure you can hike at your preferred time of the year. 

The trail can prove to be dangerous, so hiking in groups is recommended. That being said, because permits are time sensitive and issued in the order in which they are received—and are required for every adult in the group—each participant should complete and submit the application at the same time. Permits for the next calendar year become available the October prior, so if you want to hike the PCT in 2020, get ready to mark your calendar. 

Hikers hoping to conquer the Pacific Crest Trail in 2020 will need to apply for a permit well in advance. Applications open this year on Tuesday, October 29 at 10:30 a.m.  

At 10:30 a.m. on October 29, 2019, the Pacific Crest Trail Association will release 35 permits—which allow hikers to start at or near the Mexican border—per day for 2020. Only 15 permits per day will be added on January 14, making October 29 an incredibly important date for those wanting to hike the PCT in the coming year. 

On launch day, a waiting-room system will appear on the website when you go to fill out the permit application. As soon as you click on the application, you will be assigned a place in line and an approximate wait time—which may be up to three hours. Once you have access to the application, you will have 10 minutes to start it and an additional 20 minutes to fill it out. Before you begin, make sure to solidify a start location and date as well as an end location and date; the system will not give you very much time to figure out these details. Select your preferred date if it is available, but make sure to have some backup dates (just in case) and to stay in close communication with your group during the application process so that nobody gets left behind. 

After you finish the application for this extremely important long-distance permit, the next step is filling out a California Fire Permit. This permit is also free but must be acquired in order to use a stove or lantern along the trail—making it an integral aspect in planning a trip along the PCT. Although the name of this permit implies that campfires are allowed, this is actually not the case. Approximately 10 percent of the trail traipses through private land where campfires are not typically allowed. Additionally, a large portion of the trail going through Southern California crosses dry deserts, where wildfires are terribly common and campfires can prove deadly. 

Before hitting the PCT, ensure you have all the necessary permits for each point of the journey, especially if you plan on venturing off the trail to explore other wild areas.  

If you plan on leaving the PCT at any time or camping farther than 15 miles away from the trail, additional permits may be necessary. In the Yosemite Wilderness, for example, a separate permit is required for those wanting to hike off the PCT and camp overnight, ascend the Half Dome cables, or visit Yosemite Valley. So, make sure to do your research.

Once all of your permits are in order, you’ll be ready to set off for the trail! 

Rachael Medina

WRITTEN BY Rachael Medina

See full bio


author photo
Please enter text

You may also like

Health & Fitness

Here's How We're Staying Positive During COVID-19

Physical boundaries may make us feel more isolated and lonely these days, but there are ways to stay connected and …...Read more

Health & Fitness

Keep Calm and Carry On: Easy Ways to Meditate at Home

Meditation is an ancient practice with many health benefits. Here are tips on how to meditate and ways to add …...Read more

Health & Fitness

The 7 Best Hiking Trails in Contra Costa County

Whether you're looking for a dog-friendly trail or a family-friendly outdoor excursion, here are the best East Bay hikes....Read more

Health & Fitness

California’s Best Virtual Workouts: The Exercise Classes To Do at Home

From barre workouts to Pilates sessions, here are best online workout classes by California-founded fitness studios....Read more