A vision for the trail experience

Transfixed by the late spring bear grass bloom in California’s Siskiyou Mountains – photo by Aaron Krogh

When addressing the challenges of increased visitor use on the PCT, what vision of the PCT trail experience are we trying to protect?

As described in our Statement of the Trail Experience, when we hike the trail, we seek the freedom of unconfined recreation, and refuge from the sights, sounds and smells of industrialized civilization. We want to be immersed in places where signs of humanity are dwarfed by the grandeur and complexity of the natural world.

The trail’s protected corridor offers a sense of solitude and closeness with nature, evoking extended retreat from civilization—even if venturing out only for a day. The trail’s narrowness and ruggedness offers us the feeling of traveling with select chosen company. Crowds are part of what we seek to leave behind. The trail also stirs our sense of pride in wild and scenic landscapes of global significance. It offends our stewardship sensibilities to see the trail’s natural landscapes abused.

With this vision in mind, we can understand why seeing too many people—or evidence of them, such as exposed waste, fire rings near the trail, and overly impacted campsites—infringes on our sense of refuge from civilization. But it’s not so easy to limit the number of trail users, because stern regulation such as permit quotas and designated campsites infringe upon our sense of freedom and unconfined recreation.

This is the fundamental challenge of Visitor Use Management: achieving the best possible balance between freedom to enjoy the trail and minimizing the impact of the many people who seek that freedom.

To learn more about Visitor Use Management on the PCT, follow the links below.

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