Guidance for Visiting the PCT During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Staying physically active is one of the best ways to keep your mind and body healthy. In many areas, people are allowed to visit parks, trails and open spaces as a way to relieve stress, get some fresh air and safely connect with others. The PCTA supports single-day hikes and horseback rides and longer, self-sustained trips that don’t require resupply near your home if the trail and trailheads are open, and you follow federal, state, county and city health emergency guidelines and recommendations for physical distancing. Please read our main COVID-19 message.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends you avoid close contact with others outside your household, especially if you are at higher risk of severe illness. Traveling long distances on the trail could expose you to the coronavirus—and if you’re infected, you could put others at risk. This can occur along the way, at your destination and when you return home.

What types of trips can I do?

  • Dayhiking near your home is okay. Backpacking trips where you drive from home to the trailhead and straight back home without resupplying or visiting other communities may also be okay. Please avoid long-distance hikes or rides that require resupplying and interacting with people in other communities along the trail.
  • Keep your goals conservative and your risk low. Avoid crossing flooding streams, having campfires, scrambling, going cross-country, jumping across creeks or doing other things where you might get hurt or require the help of first responders. Accidents place unnecessary stress on first responders, search and rescue teams and hospital staff and could put them at risk of exposure.

Where can I go on the PCT?

  • Access to the trail varies. Do your research and check whether your state and county public lands and developed recreational areas (picnic areas, campgrounds, etc.) are closed to the public or otherwise restricted. In some areas, trailheads and parking lots are closed.
  • Please avoid travel from far away to the Pacific Crest Trail.
  • Have a plan B. If you get to the trailhead and it’s too crowded to maintain physical distancing guidelines, head elsewhere. You may need to cancel your plans and consider returning during a less popular time. Consider visiting during off-peak times.

Who should I go with?

  • Visit the PCT only with your own household members. Avoid gathering with people in your extended social circles or with strangers.

What should I know about when driving to the trail?

  • Bring from home all your own food, water bottles and hygiene supplies (including toilet paper and hand sanitizer) and take your trash with you when you leave.

What should I do when I’m on the trail?

  • Maintain at least six feet of physical distance between parties. Some studies suggest you should allow significantly more than six feet for vigorous outdoor activity like running or hiking. Avoid areas where it is difficult to maintain at least six feet from others not in your household party.
  • If you are downwind from other trail users, allow more distance.
  • Bring a mask. Wearing it is essential if you cannot maintain a distance of six feet apart such as at a trailhead or passing people along the trail.
  • Avoid congregating. This includes parking areas and points of interest like overlooks and waterfalls. Don’t linger if others want to appreciate it too.
  • Avoid shared facilities such as picnic tables, group campsites, cabins, toilets, bear boxes and fire-rings. If they are closed, please don’t use them.
  • Wash hands frequently with biodegradable soap and water, away from a water source, for at least 20 seconds and/or use hand sanitizer often.
  • Take breaks away from the trail so others don’t have to pass you closely.

Can I still provide trail magic?

  • Please avoid providing trail magic during the COVID-19 pandemic. We understand that providing hikers with food, rides, and places to sleep is a cherished part of the PCT experience but it’s still not reliably safe to be close to strangers. And remember it is never okay to leave food and beverages stashed beside the trail, which often becomes food for wildlife.

How can I help?

  • Not everyone will be able to return to the trail at the same time. If you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to safely hike or ride your horse on the PCT in your area, be considerate of those who can’t.
  • Continue to practice Leave No Trace principles.
  • If you’re financially able to, support the Pacific Crest Trail Association. The trail needs your help now more than ever.

When will long-distance hiking and thru-hiking be okay?

  • We don’t know when it will be okay to travel long-distances on the PCT again. We’re closely monitoring the situation and heeding expert advice. At some point, we’ll welcome you back to the trail.
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