COVID-19 and the Pacific Crest Trail

Last updated July 15, 2020

The presence of COVID-19 in Washington, Oregon and California remains at critical (and in some cases, record high) levels. In many areas of the Pacific Crest Trail, community spread of COVID-19 is present. For these reasons we are maintaining our past guidance below.

Hike locally and help limit COVID-19’s spread.

We support single-day hikes or horseback rides on the PCT and longer, self-supported trips that don’t require resupply if they are in your local area. If the trail and trailheads are open, if your state allows non-essential recreational travel and you observe physical distancing from anyone not in your household, getting exercise outdoors is a good thing. If you live far from the PCT, there are likely many great trails near you—so consider exploring these nearby open spaces and trails.

You can help limit the spread of COVID-19 by avoiding communities other than your own. Being completely self-supported on PCT outings is key: if you bring everything you need, don’t stop anywhere traveling to and from the trail and avoid side trips from the trail to resupply, you limit transmission of the virus between you and others.

If you are a trail angel (or aspire to be) please remember that COVID case numbers are still significant in many counties along the PCT and exposure to anyone outside your household is a risk. We urge you to avoid providing trail magic in-person to minimize your exposure (and please don’t leave food and beverages unattended along the trail).

For more details, read our Guidance for Visiting the Pacific Crest Trail during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Please avoid long-distance travel on the PCT, including Southbound trips from the Canadian border.

We understand how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected this year’s long-distance hiking season on the Pacific Crest Trail. And while there are signs of improvement, we still recommend that PCT users avoid long-distance travel on the trail in Washington—particularly southbound thru-hikes from the Canadian border. The risk of infection in remote communities is still considerable, and COVID-related closures have reduced our ability to prepare campgrounds and facilities, many of which are still closed. Thank you for keeping your travel local and self-sufficient.

Chris Furr, District Ranger

Methow Valley Ranger District
Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

Currently, it’s just not reliably safe to move freely for long distances across states and through small trail towns. Some of these towns have vulnerable populations and are still very concerned about their capacity for healthcare. And search and rescue personnel are equally concerned about being put at risk.

As the June 15 start of Southbound PCT long-distance travel approaches, we urge you to avoid long-distance travel starting at the Canadian border. Harts Pass Campground is not open (and no opening date has been set) and most facilities will be closed.

The PCT in Northern Washington passes through or near relatively isolated towns with limited healthcare services. And trips starting this far north in June and July will require some extended travel over snow and ice—increasing the risk of incidents requiring search and rescue.

Furthermore, there are some extremely popular day and section hikes on the PCT in the Central Washington Cascades—meaning thru-hikers could potentially encounter large numbers of local hikers making physical distancing difficult.

Our choices can influence the length and severity of the pandemic.

It’s possible long-distance travel may not be safe for several months. It’s difficult to predict and depends on the choices we make.

In this challenging and unprecedented time, we hope you can remain flexible and still find time to discover and explore the PCT or other remarkable places close to home. There are many spectacular sections of the trail that can be hiked in a day or a weekend, and the PCT will still be there in the future for your long-distance journey. Thank you for being responsible and taking precautions to keep yourself and others safe.

For the latest information regarding permits, please check our permits page.

Additional Information

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