Application dates for the 2020 interagency PCT long-distance permit

We’re excited about the 2020 season on the Pacific Crest Trail and we hope you are too. Some of you will be taking very long hikes or horseback rides on the trail next year. This information is for you.

The 2020 permit season opens on October 29, 2019, for trips starting at the Mexican border. All other itineraries will open on January 14, 2020.

It’s important that you read, understand and follow all the information outlined on our permit page. You’ll also find answers and important trip planning information in the Discover the Trail section of our website.

The PCT long-distance permit is only for people who are traveling 500 or more continuous miles in a single trip. If you are doing a series of section hikes, or not hiking 500 continuous miles in a single trip, you’ll need to apply for permits from the local land management agency where you will start your trip. We’re happy to explain how to do this if you need help.

Pacific Crest Trail hikers pose for photos at the Southern Terminus near Campo, CA. Photo by Lon "Halfmile" Cooper

Pacific Crest Trail hikers pose for photos at the Southern Terminus near Campo, CA. Photo by Lon “Halfmile” Cooper

The PCT long-distance permit is an interagency permit that allows people to travel through areas where local wilderness permits are required.  Through our partnership with federal and state land management agencies, PCTA issues this permit on behalf of the government.

Opening dates for the PCT long-distance permit

Starting at or near the Mexican border (both thru-hikes and section hikes)

These permits are limited to 50 people per day. We will release these permits in two phases, so if you miss getting a permit in the first phase, you’ll have the opportunity to try again.

  1. On October 29 at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time, 35 permits per day will become available.
  2. On January 14 at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time, the remaining 15 permits per day will become available.

Starting elsewhere (Southbound thru-hikers and other section hike itineraries)

We’ll start accepting permit applications on January 14 at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time.

How it works: a waiting room system

On permit launch days, October 29 and January 14, you’ll see a waiting room system on our website. It’s there to improve the experience for everyone.

When you visit the permit application on one of those days, you’ll be automatically assigned a place in line. You’ll see how many people are in front of you and how long the expected wait time will be. When it’s your turn, you’ll have 10 minutes to enter the permit application and start applying. Then, you’ll have 20 minutes to fill out the application, and it typically takes less than 8 minutes.

Be advised that due to the high interest in these permits, it may take up to 3 hours for applicants to navigate the queue. Plan on that when scheduling your day.

Prior to 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time on October 29, the permit application will not be available. If you arrive early, you will be assigned a random place in line (alongside everyone else who also arrives before 10:30 a.m.). Anyone who arrives after 10:30 a.m. will get a place at the back of the line. We encourage you to arrive a couple of minutes before 10:30 a.m. but there is no benefit to arriving much earlier than that.

If you are not applying for a permit for a trip starting at the Mexican border, we request that you do not visit the permit application on October 29 to reduce the number of people attempting to access it at the same time.

Other basic information about the permit application

Have you read the long-distance permit page? It’s full of important information.

To fill out the application, you’ll need your name, address, start and end date and start and end location. Not sure when or where to start? Check out our page with information about when to hike the PCT. Please carefully choose a start date that meets your level of experience and ability; many people who start too early or too late run in to challenges beyond their skill level.

While applying, you can also decide whether you want to make a donation to the trail. The interagency PCT long-distance permits are free.

Submitting an application secures your requested reservation date. We’ll review applications in the days and weeks following the permit opening. Do not submit more than one request. You are advised to wait until your application is reviewed and approved before making travel arrangements.

While you are waiting, this is a great time of year to learn about the trail

Please take a moment to check out our PCT specific Leave No Trace information. It’s up to all of us to take care of the trail and the surrounding landscape.  Following LNT practices is important for protecting the environment along the trail and ensuring that the PCT provides a wild experience for all hikers and horseback riders for years to come.

After you’ve studied up about Leave No Trace, keep learning about how to have a wonderful and safe time on the trail in our Backcountry Basics section.

Have a wonderful year on the trail!

Author: PCTA Staff

The mission of the Pacific Crest Trail Association is to protect, preserve and promote the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail as a world-class experience for hikers and equestrians, and for all the values provided by wild and scenic lands.