Forest Service Will Issue Pacific Crest Trail Permits in 2021 After All

The PCT through Yosemite. Photo by Jeffrey Keenan.

Amidst the global Covid-19 pandemic, the USDA Forest Service has made the controversial decision to issue long-distance travel permits at normal levels this year on the Pacific Crest Trail.

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.

Although the forest service will issue the permits, they still urge hikers to postpone any PCT trips.

“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,” wrote the agency in a statement. “Please postpone your trip.”

Here are the details of obtaining a PCT permit in 2021:

  • 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 September 15.

The USDA Forest Service also authorizes the PCTA to issue:

  • 1400 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, 2021 at 10:30 a.m. Pacific TimeLearn about how to apply for a permit.

It is very important to read, understand and follow all the information on our permit page as well as all state and federal COVID-19 guidance. Answers to many of your questions and important trip planning information can be found in the Discover the Trail section of our website.

Please take special note of the first term of the long-distance permit: “By using a PCT Long-distance Permit, you agree to abide by all terms of the permit, and all laws, rules and regulations which apply to the areas that you pass through on the Pacific Crest Trail.”

That means that you must follow all local, state and federal regulations related to COVID-19. These regulations can change at any time and could range from mask requirements and camping restrictions to travel bans.

NOTE: Permit holders should be advised that permits may be cancelled if state travel restrictions limit backcountry 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 your requested date but your permit still needs to be approved. We’ll 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.

Active NorCal

Northern California's Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine

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