A note about large trail running events on the Pacific Crest Trail

Trail running is an activity that the Pacific Crest Trail Association fully supports on the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. It’s a form of foot travel and provides a unique experience for people interested in escaping to beautiful peaceful landscapes. We encourage that recreational experience.

However, organized trail races with hundreds of participants cannot help but disturb the tranquil backcountry experiences sought by individuals and families out for a run, hike or horseback ride on the Pacific Crest Trail. We are concerned about the effect large crowds can have on these experiences.

Our concern is not with the activity of running but with any type of event that concentrates crowds and detracts from peaceful experiences. We’d have the same concern if large crowds of hikers and horseback riders were disrupting the solitary runner.

To date, the U.S. Forest Service has granted permits that allow more than 3,000 people the opportunity to run in foot races on the trail every year. PCTA supports the continuation of permits for these events.

Trail running on the Pacific Crest Trail.

However, PCTA is very concerned about the increasing rate of requests to hold new racing events on the trail. If left unchecked, it could soon reach a point where those taking their precious vacation time to have a tranquil experience on the PCT would instead find themselves swimming upstream, on more than one occasion, against hundreds of racers.

For comparison’s sake, there’s only one race permitted on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, and it’s important to note that this single race is still controversial.

We appreciate the stewardship race organizers and participants bring to the PCT and that is why PCTA supports current events at their current size. PCTA does not support adding new race events or expanding the size of current events. PCTA will continue to work with land managers and our partners to protect the trail experience.


With the passage of the National Trails System Act in 1968, Congress designated the Pacific Crest Trail for hikers and horseback riders. The Pacific Crest Trail Association partners with the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and California State Parks to protect and maintain the trail.

Author: Liz Bergeron

Liz Bergeron has served as the Executive Director and CEO of the Pacific Crest Trail Association since 2001. When she’s not working diligently to protect, preserve and promote the PCT, you may find her taking long walks in her neighborhood, day hiking on a local trail or introducing new hikers to the PCT.