So, who are the jerks tagging the Pacific Crest Trail?

Ok, folks, it’s time for a little rant about tagging. Each year, PCTA staff, our volunteers and our partners in public land management spend time and money needlessly because a handful of people feel the need to write on signs, bathrooms, bridges, picnic tables, rocks and other objects with felt-tip pens.

Every person that defaces a sign seems to inspire others to leave their own mark. More and more graffiti appears every year. Ever hear of Leave No Trace? Geesh!

In 2015, a few disrespectful jerks have taken it to a new level. Too many signs to count – in sections from Northern California to Southern Oregon – have been defaced with stupid jokes. Often, they’re offensive. Always, they grab your eye and your attention, pulling you out of your head by screaming “look at me!” Really?

“Vandalizing PCT signs degrades the user experience for every other PCT hiker and horseback rider,” said Justin Kooyman, the PCTA’s Northern Sierra Regional Representative. “Most of us don’t want to see signs that are written on and defaced, especially with offensive and inappropriate language.“


Dumb messages that will detract from thousands of people’s experience for years to come.

We get it. Sometimes, it’s in the spirit of helping. At trail junctions, navigational tips are common. In general, this is rooted in a lack of understanding of the philosophy behind the placement of PCT signs. We’ve written about that in the past. In short, wilderness travel is kind of the point – the Pacific Crest Trail exists in part as an opportunity to develop skills such as map reading and navigation. Also, look for the PCT reassurance markers just past most junctions. The urge for convenience is strong these days and just as soon as a new sign goes up, someone “improves” it with information from their phone or map. Please stop. Give the people behind you the opportunity to find their own way, without your commentary.

We’re not going to let the Pacific Crest Trail be destroyed by vandals and taggers. And that’s where rubber meets the road. Getting rid of PCT graffiti becomes a waste of valuable time and money that we could be spending repairing trail, Justin said. Replacing these ruined signs is expensive.

“With the recent case of someone writing offensive language on many signs in the Northern Sierra, we are asking paid staff and volunteers to hike specific sections and pull and replace the defaced signs,” Justin said. “Defacing PCT signs is inconsiderate to other users and shows a lack of respect for the trail and those who work to maintain and manage it.”

There is another subtlety to point out. This nonsense robs us all of the beauty of having a trail marked by old, cracked, weathered and rustic signs. Instead of those neat old guards, we’ll have more and more fresh, clean and new signs. That’s a shame.

So, please knock it off. If you want to be comedian, find a different stage. If you like making graffiti, take it somewhere else. You’re making PCT hikers look bad, trashing the trail and damaging others’ experience. And you’re wasting money we don’t have to waste.

To the trail lovers who don’t feel the need to leave permanent evidence of their passing, we thank you. We all are stewards of this special place and experience. Please help us keep the Pacific Crest Trail a pristine and beautiful place. End of rant.

A tame message. Most of the jokes written on signs are blatantly offensive and childish.

A tame message. Most of the jokes written on signs are blatantly offensive and childish.

Author: Jack "Found" Haskel

As the Trail Information Manager, Jack works to connect people to the PCT. He's involved with a wide variety of projects that help the trail, the trail's users and the community that surrounds the experience. He has thru-hiked (Pacific Crest Trail in 2006; Colorado Trail in 2008; Continental Divide Trail in 2010) and is an obsessed weekend warrior.