Permits for travel along the Pacific Crest Trail are required in some but not all areas of the trail.
Some places on the Pacific Crest Trail require camping permits. Generally, an overnight permit is required in National Forest Wilderness Areas, National Parks and California State Parks. Many places on the Pacific Crest Trail do not require a permit. This is the case on non-Wilderness National Forest land and land administered by the Bureau of Land Management.
Always check the local agency’s website for their specific requirements. You should also know about recreation.gov – the portal for reserving space on much of our nation’s public lands.
In California, overnight permits are generally obtained from the agency that manages the trailhead that you’re starting at. Or, if that agency doesn’t require a permit – obtain it from the first agency that requires one on your itinerary. This permit will cover you for your entire trip, even if you cross management boundaries. Be sure to ask the local agency. Some trailheads have quotas – limits on the number of people per day – but many do not. High Sierra hikers can find further information on our John Muir Trail permit page.
In addition to an overnight permit, Desolation Wilderness requires permits for day trips. It is free, non-quota and self-issued at the trailhead.
In Oregon and Washington, you’ll generally obtain free, self-issue, non-quota overnight permits while already on the trail. As you pass by trailhead kiosks, look around. There may be a box with a permit to fill out. You’ll usually find permit boxes at National Forest Wilderness boundaries. In Oregon and Washington, fill out a permit every time you cross an agency boundary. The National Parks in these states are slightly different: both Crater Lake and North Cascades National Parks require permits that are issued at their visitor centers (PCT thru-travelers can pass through Crater Lake after signing the boundary trail register).
PCT Long-distance Permits
Please read our blog post: An announcement about the 2016 long-distance permit
If you plan on hiking or horseback riding 500 or more contiguous miles along the PCT in a single trip, the Pacific Crest Trail Association can issue you an interagency PCT Long-distance Permit. It is free. Each person must get their own permit.
The PCTA issues permits with the authorization of state and federal land management agencies to simplify your planning and improve service and trail information.
Long-distance permits are for overnight use on the PCT corridor. Users wishing to travel off the PCT corridor must obtain separate permits as necessary. You may travel off the PCT to nearby trailheads for reasons of resupply and reaching or departing the trail. This travel must be done on the most direct trail between the PCT and the trailhead. Long-distance permits do not allow for camping off the PCT corridor, even while traveling to and from trailheads.
Long-distance travelers visit places that require extra permits and fees. Campgrounds, park entrances and other special use fees are not covered by this permit. Please pay the collecting agency directly. Travelers holding Long-distance permits must be flexible if the campsite they are occupying is already reserved by another group.
Opening dates for the PCT long-distance permit
We are only issuing permits for 2016.
Southbound and section hikers (not starting at the southern terminus)
We’ll start accepting permit applications on Feb. 1. These permits are not limited.
Northbound (starting at the southern terminus; either thru-hike or section)
These permits are limited to 50 people per day. There will be a two-phased opening that will give people who missed the first chance at a permit a second chance for one.
- On Feb. 1, 35 permits per day will become available.
- On Feb. 16, the remaining 15 permits per day will become available.
How to apply for a long-distance permit
- Research your trailheads and dates: Please completely fill out your permit application, with start and end locations being actual locations on the PCT. For instance, Seattle is not on the PCT and we cannot issue a permit for it. Similarly, “Sequoia National Park” is not specific enough of a start location. Actual dates must be included as well. Consider hiking at less popular times and locations. In Yosemite National Park, permits will only be issued from Tuolumne Meadows. A limit of 50 people per day is in place at the southern terminus. Read more.
- Apply for a Long-distance Permit: Only valid for people hiking or horseback riding 500 or more contiguous miles along the PCT, in a single trip. People doing a series of section hikes will need to apply for normal short-distance permits from local agencies. Sorry, but we do not expedite permits. Please plan ahead and prepare.
- Do not fill out the application more than once. Doing so may result in the cancellation of your request.
- We’ll review your application. If it has errors, it may be cancelled or delayed. Double check your information before you apply.
- After you have applied: Once your permit application is processed, your permit will be emailed to you. You must print it out. It is required that you carry a physical, paper permit with you on the trail. Digital versions are not allowed.
- You’ll get an email confirming receipt of your application right away.
- We’ll start approving and issuing permits on Feb. 17. We’ll prioritize applications for people starting early in the year. We work as quickly as possible. Please don’t ask for a status check unless weeks have gone by and you suspect something is amiss.
Southbound travel from Canada: Because of U.S. Customs and Border Protection regulations, no permits will be issued originating in Manning Provincial Park, BC, Canada. People wishing to start at the northern terminus will be issued a permit for the US/Canada border and should reach it from a southern trailhead, typically Harts Pass. Travel north to the international border and then back south to your destination. Please read our page on entering the U.S. from Canada via the PCT.
Areas of special concern where additional permits may be needed for camping: Please read about the importance of not camping on the rim of Crater Lake, the Obsidian Limited Entry Area, the Pamelia Limited Entry Area and the need to obtain a North Cascades National Park permit. Hikers and equestrians are requested to obtain self-issued trailhead wilderness permits to assist land management agencies with monitoring visitor use and impacts.
Group size: Long-distance Permits are valid only for the individual whose name appears on the permit. In other words, one person per permit.
Minimum age: Will you be under 18 at the start of your trip? You’ll need to include a written and signed letter of consent from a parent or legal guardian. The letter must state the dates and location of your proposed trip. You must carry this letter at all times while you’re on the PCT. Permit applications for unaccompanied minors under 16 years old will be reviewed by the U.S. Forest Service.
Animals: National parks, state parks and wilderness areas have varied restrictions on pets, llamas and pack goats. These animals are not authorized through this long-distance permit. Additionally, there may be grazing and feed restrictions for stock.
* Sorry, but we do not expedite permits. Please plan ahead and prepare.
From the west side and the PCT: PCT hikers and riders may dayhike from the PCT to the summit of Mount Whitney and back to the PCT. There is no fee, nor any additional permits needed. Long-distance permit holders should camp west of the Crabtree Ranger Station. Do not camp between Crabtree Ranger Station and the summit of Mt. Whitney. Stock is not permitted beyond the base of the switchbacks on Mount Whitney.
To/from the east near Lone Pine, Calif.:
The PCT long-distance permit does not provide access east from the summit to Whitney Portal. Additionally, the PCT long-distance permit does not provide access to the trail from Whitney Portal. Access into the Inyo National Forest Mount Whitney Zone and down the Mount Whitney Trail requires an addition to your permit. It costs $21 and is non-refundable. Holders of the Whitney Zone permit should re-enter the wilderness within 48 hours of when they exit to resupply.
No PCT long-distance permits will be issued for trips originating from Whitney Portal. For information about the Inyo National Forest Whitney Zone, visit www.fs.usda.gov/inyo or contact Inyo National Forest Wilderness Permit Reservation Office, 351 Pacu Lane, Ste 200, Bishop, CA 93514 or (760) 873-2483
Hikers and equestrians who plan on entering Canada via the PCT must obtain permission from the Canada Border Services Agency. Carry a paper copy of your approved “Application for Entry into Canada via the Pacific Crest Trail” form with you at all times while in Canada.
Apply for this permit at least two weeks before the start of your hike (and no further in advance than three months beforehand). Please fill out the application form completely. Print the application, sign, then scan and submit your application materials to the email address listed on the form – or mail it in. It is preferred that you type your application with the online fillable form. Otherwise, please print clearly in block letters. If you submit your application by email, your approved permit will be returned to you by email as well.
Questions? Email the Canada Border Services Agency at [email protected] or call them at 1-866-496-3987, Press “0”, then ask for the Pacific Crest Trail Coordinator.
Please note that there is currently no legal way to enter the U.S. from Canada (Manning Park) on the PCT.
You must have a California Campfire Permit to use a stove, lantern, or campfire outside a developed campground or recreation area. The permit is your agreement to follow the campfire restrictions and regulations in effect. Campfires are not allowed and are not appropriate on much of the PCT. Please read our page on fire information for details.
The PCTA strongly urges all hikers using the California backcountry to obtain a California fire permit. They are free and valid for one calendar year. These permits should be acquired before the start of your hike or ride. Permits can be obtained at any California U.S. Forest Service, BLM, or California Division of Forestry office. Ranger Stations and Visitor’s Centers are convenient places to obtain them in person, or you may take a simple quiz and print one off the internet.
If you are creating photographs or videos with the purpose of generating income, you may need a special permit. Please visit the websites below for information. To obtain these permits, or find answers to your questions about special use permits, we recommend asking the agencies directly.
- U.S. Forest Service film and photography guidelines
- National Parks Service film and photography guidelines
- Bureau of Land Mangement film and photography guidelines
- California State Parks film and photography guidelines
International visitors and U.S. visas
PCTA is not an official source for information about visas. We recommend reading usvisas.state.gov and that you consult a visa adviser. Long-distance hikers and riders may find useful information on our page about B-2 visas.
Permit numbers and visitor use statistics
Are you interested in how many people hike and horseback ride the Pacific Crest Trail? How many thru-hikers there are? Please visit our PCT visitor use statistics page.