Local permit areas on the Pacific Crest Trail

Thirty-three places on the Pacific Crest Trail have permit systems in place. Representing about a third of the trail, these are special places, typically designated Wilderness, where a permit helps to protect the area and ensure you have an enjoyable experience. Permits help by:

  1. Protecting fragile areas from overuse and impact
  2. Limiting overcrowding and helping to ensure a sense of solitude
  3. Acting as a tool for providing education to trail users
  4. Tracking visitor use trends to help secure funds and prioritize needed work

Some permits are under quotas that protect an area from overuse and spread people out throughout the season. Other permits are self-issue at the trailhead. Generally, you will need to get a different permit for each area you visit, and a new permit every time you leave the wilderness and come back.

Always check the local agency’s website for their specific requirements. You should also know about recreation.gov – the portal for reserving space on much of our nation’s public lands.

Where are permits required on the PCT?

The map below links to the places on the PCT that require a permit. Please do additional research if you are traveling elsewhere.

Note: the Covid-19 pandemic has closed many ranger stations and moved many permits online. Be sure to check with the local agency for details.

Southern California

Permits are required all overnight use for dispersed camping during Spring. Only one individual can be assigned to each permit. Five (5) permits will be issued per day from March 1, 2021 through May 31. Applications are accepted via email one month prior to their effective date.

The permit is valid for all portions of the Cleveland National Forest: mile 13.5 to mile 53.2 (north of Pioneer Mail Picnic Area), and mile 112.7 to mile 124.8. Dispersed camping is prohibited within the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area (mile 40 to mile 53). Learn more.

Permits are required for all day and overnight use. Both the National Forest and State Park honor each other’s day use permit so visitors only need to obtain one for both wilderness areas. Learn more.

Permits required for all day and overnight use. Day use wilderness permits are free and are available 24 hours a day at the State Park headquarters office in Idyllwild, Stone Creek campground, or at the Long Valley Ranger Station. Applications for overnight permits will be accepted up to 56 days (8 weeks) in advance; if you apply by mail, send your request in at least 10 days in advance. Sorry, no telephone or FAX requests can be accepted. Learn more.

Sierra Nevada

Permits are required on the PCT for overnight use entering from the east side through Inyo National Forest, including heading north from Kennedy Meadows South. They are non-quota. Permits are available at any Sequoia or Inyo National Forest Ranger Station. Learn more.

Permits are required for all overnight use. Some trailheads have quotas. Permits are available at any Sequoia or Inyo National Forest Ranger Station. Learn more.

Permits are required for all overnight use and are subject to trailhead quotas. Permits may be reserved in advance, or obtained on a first-come, first-served basis. They must be picked up from local wilderness permit stations. Learn more.

Permits are required for all overnight use, and for all day use in the Mt. Whitney Zone. Trailheads have seasonal quotas and may be reserved in advance, or obtained on a first-come, first-served basis. They must be picked up from a local ranger station. Learn more here and here.

Permits are required for all overnight use and are subject to trailhead quotas. Permits may be reserved in advance, or obtained on a first-come, first-served basis. They must be picked up from a local ranger station. Learn more.

Permits are required for all overnight use and are subject to trailhead quotas. Permits may be reserved in advance, or obtained on a first-come, first-served basis. They must be picked up from local wilderness permit stations. Learn more.

Permits are required for all overnight use. From the last Friday in June through September 15, permits are limited by a trailhead quota. Learn more here and here.

Permits are required for all overnight use. Pick up a free permit at any Stanislaus National Forest Ranger Station. If you will be arriving outside of regular business hours, please call up to three days in advance to have a permit left in the after-hours pick-up box. Learn more.

Permits are required for all overnight use. On the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest permits are available at Carson Ranger District trailheads, Carson Ranger Station, and the Markleeville Chamber of Commerce/Forest Service Visitor’s Center in Markleeville. Learn more here and here.

Permits are required for all overnight use. Online self-registration for Mokelumne; for Carson Pass Management Area camping is only allowed in designated sites and permits can be reserved by calling (209) 268-0165 the Monday of the week of your trip. Learn more here, here, and here.

Permits are required for all day and overnight use. Overnight permits are subject to quotas that are based upon the zone you will camp the first night and require camping in that zone. Overnight permits may be reserved online via recreation.gov, or you can register in person at the appropriate office during business hours. Learn more here and here.

Northern California

Permits are required for all overnight use. Permits are non-quota and free. They can be obtained at in-park, self-registration stations. Learn more.

Permits are required for all overnight use. They are free, non-quota and self-issued at any Forest Service offices in Weaverville, Fort Jones, the Callahan fire station, and the Salmon River Restoration Council in Sawyers Bar, CA. Learn more here and here.

Oregon

Permits are required for all overnight use. Permits are free and only available at Canfield Ranger Station located at park headquarters. You must have a valid park entrance pass for the entire length of your trip. They do not currently have a quota on the total number of permits given out at any one time, however there are limits to the number of permits issued at the established backcountry campsites in the summer. If the established backcountry campsite you hoped to stay in is full, you may need to make alternate plans for dispersed camping (staying at least one mile from the nearest road) in the area. Permits are not available more than 1 day in advance. Learn more.

Permits are required for all day and overnight use from Memorial Day Weekend until Oct. 31. Permits are non-quota and free and are self-issued at the trailhead. Learn more here, here and here.

Permits are required for all day and overnight use. Permits are non-quota, free and self-issued at the trailhead. Learn more here and here.

Permits are required for all day and overnight use as part of the Central Cascades Wilderness Permit system. Learn more.

Permits are required for all day and overnight use as part of the Central Cascades Wilderness Permit system. Learn more.

Permits are required for all day and overnight use as part of the Central Cascades Wilderness Permit system. Learn more.

Permits are required for all day and overnight use. Permits are non-quota, free and self-issued at the trailhead and Wilderness boundaries. Learn more.

Permits are required for all day and overnight use. Permits are non-quota, free and self-issued at the trailhead and Wilderness boundaries. Learn more here and here.

Washington

Permits are required for all day and overnight use. Permits are non-quota, free and self-issued at the trailhead. Learn more.

Permits are required for all day and overnight use. Permits are non-quota, free and self-issued at the trailhead. Off the PCT, a Cascade Volcano Pass is required for climbing above 7,000 feet on Mt. Adams. Learn more.

Permits are required for all day and overnight use. Permits are non-quota, free and self-issued at the trailhead and Forest Service ranger stations. Learn more here and here.

Permits are required for all overnight use. Permits are non-quota, free and self-issued at the trailhead and local ranger stations. Learn more here and here.

Permits are required for all overnight use. Permits are non-quota, free and self-issued at the trailhead. Learn more here and here.

Permits are required for overnight use. Permits are non-quota, free and self-issued at the trailhead. Learn more here and here.

Permits are required for overnight use. They are site-specific, free, quota, first-come, first-served and must be picked up in person. Long-distance permit holders may use specific drop-in campsites within the park. The Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount issues permits for all areas of the park. Users can pick up permits at the Golden West Visitor Center in Stehekin if entering via the PCT from the south or arriving by ferry. Methow Valley Visitor Center, Winthrop (USFS) – issues permits for trips beginning along the Twisp River Road or entering the park via Winthrop on SR 20. Learn more.

Permits are required for overnight use. They are non-quota, free and self-issued at the trailhead. Learn more here and here.

Canada

Permits are required for all overnight use. Backcountry camping during the summer is allowed only at designated backcountry campsites. Backcountry camping fee is $5.00/person/night and applies to everyone 6 years of age and older for all locations within E.C. Manning Provincial Park. Payment can be made online prior to your arrival, through Discover Camping’s Backcountry Registration System, or, at the Manning Park Visitor Centre, or the Manning Park Lodge and/or the Lightning Lake gate house; payments are cash or travelers cheques only. Learn more.

Frequently asked questions about permits

Decide where you’re going, and then check the website of the local land management agency. It’ll have detailed instructions.

It’s a different system depending on where you’re hiking. In places that have quotas (limits on the number of people per day), you can often apply in advance for a permit reservation. Plan well in advance if you’re hiking in a popular area that has visitor use quotas, as reservations can fill up months in advance. You’ll usually need to stop by the local ranger station on your way to the trailhead to pick up your permit.

Start by going to the local land management agency website and reading their permit instructions. Sometimes you’ll apply for a permit at recreation.gov, sometimes you’ll fill out a form and fax or email it in, and some places only issue permits in-person.

Generally, if there is no limit to the number of hikers per day, you’ll just pick up a permit on your way to the trailhead. Reservation systems only exist for places that have limits. Once you have a reserved permit, you’ll usually need to go to the ranger station to pick up your actual permit.

It’s time to think about hiking somewhere else that’s less busy.

But if you’re flexible, you might try for a walk-up permit. At popular trailheads, the reservation quota might fill months in advance. It’s best to plan far in advance and research your summer trips 6+ months ahead and calendar out when you need to apply for a permit.

The rest of the permits (perhaps a third of them) might be saved for “walk-ups”. Sometimes you need to get in line very early in the morning if you’re aiming for an extremely popular trailhead. You might need to try multiple days in a row or be willing to hike somewhere less popular.  The best thing is to be flexible if trying to hike in a popular area.

If you can’t get a reservation, and don’t want to risk a walk-up permit, we recommend going somewhere less popular or trying again next year. Luckily there are thousands of other miles of Pacific Crest Trail that you can go hike when places like the John Muir Trail segment are full.

Yes, many places require day hike permits. Along the PCT, Mount San Jacinto, Three Sisters, Mount Washington and Mount Jefferson have quotas on day hike permits.

Ask local land management agencies about any other permits that you might need. Ask them if the wilderness permit that they issue you will cover you all the way to your destination. Sometimes, you’ll need to get a few separate permits from different agencies to cover your entire trip. If you’re in California, you’ll likely need a California Fire Permit, even if you’re not going to have a campfire. If you’re entering Canada, you’ll need the Canada PCT Entry Permit. If you intend to make use of public lands for business or financial gain, hold a large event, or a number of other reasons, you may need a special-use permit.

This is a pretty typical wilderness permit box. When you see something like this, please fill out a permit.

This is a pretty typical wilderness permit box. When you see something like this, please fill out a permit.

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