PCT Long-distance Permit FAQ

For general information about permits on the Pacific Crest Trail, please visit our permit page.

Do I need to start on the day my PCT Long-distance Permit says? Will it be enforced at the southern terminus?

Yes, you need to start on the day and location that you are permitted for.

The PCT community and most thru-hikers really care about the PCT and the experience it provides. You understand that the best way to minimize the effect of your presence on the environment and other hikers is to voluntarily comply with all best practices, rules and regulations regarding the trail. Having 118 people start their long-distance trip on the same day – as it happened in 2014 – puts significant pressure upon fragile desert ecosystems and the very experience you are hoping to enjoy. The first principle of Leave No Trace is “Plan Ahead and Prepare” and picking a travel time that minimizes the concentration of people (all of who will camp, drink water and leave human waste) is a critical component of being a good steward of the land.

For those that need a little more incentive to “do the right thing”, the Cleveland National Forest, approximately 14 miles from the border, is the first place where travel permits are required. Crest Runners, who are Forest Service employees, will be out on trail making contact with PCT travelers and they will have access to law enforcement officers. Voluntary compliance is by far a better way to operate than a system of increasing regulations and enforcement. It frees up resources for making this experience better, rather than reacting to visitor use problems.

How many Long-distance Permits have been issued?

Permit numbers will be provided at the end of the year. It’s important to understand that the number of permits issued is not the actual number of people who end up starting their trip (or finishing). This year, the Crest Runners will be assisting with monitoring the attrition rate of PCT Long-distance Permit holders.

Thru-hikers sometimes start as late as August heading southbound and we continue to issue permits for the entire trail through June and July. Section-hike permits continue to be issued well into the fall for people hiking long sections in Southern California.

Please read our page on visitor use statistics for more information.

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Photo by: Kern Ducote