Be Prepared for Trail Closures on the PCT in 2021

We’re only a week away from the beginning of the 2021 PCT long-distance hiking season. Soon, people will start their long-distance journeys from the PCT’s Southern Terminus in Campo, California. And while it’s an exciting time for aspiring section and thru hikers, it’s just as important as ever to take the COVID-19 pandemic seriously; your safety and that of others will depend on all of us following the COVID-19 Federal, State, and local guidelines.

The new normal: masked up on the PCT. Photo by Alice Kettering.

Be Aware of Covid Orders and Guidance

It is essential that PCT long-distance travelers stay aware of and follow all federal, state, and local orders while on their trips. As we head into the NOBO thru hike season, people should monitor the California Covid-19 website for statewide or regional orders that prohibit outdoor recreation or non-essential travel. PCT travelers should also be sure to read PCTA’s COVID-19 Guidance to make sure we’re all being as responsible as possible this year to reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19 to other trail users or communities.

Plan Ahead for Transportation Around Closures

A key aspect of following the core guidelines of wearing masks, social distancing, and avoiding close contact with others, is planning ahead; trail closures are a part of the PCT experience everyone should plan for. Each year, sections of the PCT are closed due to wildfire or other natural events. 2021 will not be an exception, and there are multiple closures in effect in Southern California due to last year’s wildfires.

The PCTA and our land management partners work together every time there is a trail closure to identify walking detours. But sometimes there aren’t realistic walking options for every closure; walking highway shoulders with fast moving traffic is not a safe way to get around a trail closure. When this is the case, it’s important that people plan ahead and arrange for transportation around the closure.

In normal years, we often recommend that people get off the trail and take public transportation around a closure area; but, in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic some public transportation systems may be running with reduced services. Even if some public transportation is available along the trail, it may not be a responsible option, as it may put people in close contact with others in an enclosed area for an extended amount of time. Hitchhiking isn’t a good option either this year, as you’d be in close contact with someone and put them and yourself at risk of transmitting COVID-19.

Check Our Trail Closures Page

For information on the Snow, Bobcat and Lake fires in Southern California, check PCTA’s Trail Closure page, as we will have updated information about these closures in the coming weeks. NOBO thru-hikers should already be thinking about transportation around these areas.

Not planning ahead will likely lead to increasing your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. Imagine a hiker coming to a closed section of trail with no plan; that person will likely go to the nearest road crossing and hitch a ride into the closest town, unnecessarily coming into close contact with multiple people. Instead, ask a friend or family member to give you a ride around these trail closures.

2021 is going to bring extra challenges for PCT long-distance hikers to travel safely and responsibly. It will require more planning, less resupply stops, taking zero days on the trail or other outdoor spaces, and generally being more self-reliant. We want everyone to have a wonderful time on the PCT this year—and prepare for the extra time and effort it will take to minimize everyone’s risk of transmitting COVID-19. We wish everyone a wonderful and safe experience on the PCT this year.

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.