Three COVID-19 Messages to All PCT Long-Distance Permit Holders

A Message to Long-Distance Permit Holders

March 16, 2020
ALSO: Read our General COVID-19 Message to the PCT Community

With the continuing spread of COVID-19, we understand that many of you are struggling with difficult decisions regarding your planned PCT journeys. We know many of you currently cannot travel to the United States, and others, for a variety of reasons, are not able to begin on your permitted start date. We also recognize that some of you have planned a long-distance trip for years, left jobs, sublet apartments and more to realize your PCT dreams. Foremost among your questions is confusion over whether to continue, postpone, or cancel your journeys completely?

All of us are in unknown territory with this pandemic. As you have likely seen, the situation nationwide is extremely fluid and changing daily. It is difficult to provide detailed information or guidance today, because it will be different tomorrow, and again in a week.

What we can offer is information regarding your long-distance permits. Below is a message from the U.S. Forest Service, the lead management agency for the PCT. Please read this information carefully. If you still have permit-related questions, email us at [email protected]. We have also included (below the USFS message) some guidance for PCT users to reduce your chances of contracting any illness.

Regarding the question of whether to begin, postpone, or cancel your hike—we cannot answer this question for you. There are simply too many variables and too much volatility in the day-to-day situation nationwide regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. What we can say is the following:

We urge you to exercise personal responsibility in your decisions. According to the CDC, COVID-19 has an unusually long incubation period. This, combined with the fact that some people may carry the virus while showing no symptoms, means that you could come in contact with the virus without knowing it. This is why the leading method to limit the spread of the virus is social distancing (which includes avoiding non-essential travel).

Please think of the impact your choices have on others, and consider whether traveling during an unprecedented global health pandemic is the right choice.

We take this pandemic seriously and are extremely concerned not only for your health and safety, but for society’s as well. Review the CDC Guidelines, practice social distancing (to include avoiding mass public transit), and make the most responsible decisions you can.

This is a difficult time, and we are monitoring the situation in partnership with other National Scenic Trails so that collectively, we can do everything possible to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Thank you,
Liz Bergeron
CEO and Executive Director
Pacific Crest Trail Association


USFS Guidance for Long-Distance Permits

March 16, 2020

March 23 UPDATE: For currently permitted north-bound long-distance hikes starting at the Southern Terminus, be advised you can no longer complete a planned long-distance trip due to public land and facility closures. Your PCT long-distance permit is valid only on public lands that are open for travel.

Land managers are making daily decisions on access, as of March 23, 2020, the following closures are in place:

• Yosemite National Park is closed to all public access.
• Cleveland National Forest is no longer issuing developed camping permits.
• California State Park campgrounds are closed.

Local conditions are changing daily. Please contact the local agency unit for the most current information. With the rapidly changing situation, PCTA asks those who are on the trail—as well as those waiting to start—to cancel or postpone your journeys.

As the lead administrator for the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, the Forest Service takes seriously our agency’s motto: “Caring for the land and serving the people.” That enduring value guides us as we face the difficult challenge of responding to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Our hearts and thoughts go out to the people who have been affected by this unprecedented event and we appreciate the magnitude of the impact on healthcare workers and communities around the globe. It will no doubt touch each of you as well.

As you are likely aware, the terms and conditions of your PCT long-distance permit require you to start at the permitted location on the permitted start date. This allows the distribution of hikers and equestrians in a manner that minimizes your impact to the trail and maximizes access opportunities.

We understand that many of you have had your travel plans disrupted and have asked what to do if you cannot start your long-distance travel on your permitted start date. Please review the following adaptations we have implemented for the permitted 2020 season to respond to this extraordinary travel challenge:

1. Your health and the health of the PCT community is a priority. We urge you to exercise personal responsibility and consider the impacts you could have to the larger trail community if you are, or become, a COVID-19 carrier. Please follow CDC guidelines; the CDC is recommending people avoid all non-essential travel, apply rigorous personal hygiene, and practice social distancing. To cancel your permit, email the Pacific Crest Trail Association at [email protected]; due to the high volume, please do not call about your permit.

2. For currently permitted northbound travelers starting at the Southern Terminus who cannot start on your permitted start date you may:

  • Obtain a developed camping permit from the Cleveland National Forest and start on the date permitted.
  • Obtain a wilderness permit from San Jacinto State Park for San Jacinto State Wilderness.
  • Obtain a wilderness permit from the Inyo National Forest for travel on the John Muir Trail section that overlaps the PCT.
  • Your PCT long-distance permit will be valid for the rest of your trip north of Sonora Pass (PCT mile 1016.9).

Please be patient, as the situation is unprecedented, dynamic and rapidly changing. In this climate, we know that these changes are stressful and whether you are traveling now or in the future, your safety and wellbeing is our highest priority.

Thank you,

Beth Boyst
USFS Pacific Crest Trail Administrator


Guidance for Pacific Crest Trail Hikers and Horseback Riders to Reduce Your Chance of Contracting Illness

(With thanks to our colleagues at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.)

Distancing yourself from others and maintaining good hygiene is the best defense for reducing your chances of contracting any illness:

  • Wash your hands frequently with biodegradable soap at least 200 feet from water sources. When soap is not available, use hand sanitizer that contains 60-95% alcohol.
  • Avoid sharing food. Do not eat out of the same food bag, share utensils or drink from other hikers’ water bottles.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing. Use the crook of your arm (inner elbow) or use a tissue and dispose of it using Leave No Trace principles.
  • Keep some distance between you and other hikers whenever possible, especially if anyone shows signs of being sick. Avoid shaking hands or other close contact — instead, elbow bumps or waving are safer ways to greet others.
  • Avoid congregating in groups along the trail.
  • If you are an older adult or have serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes or lung disease, you are at a higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19 contraction. Hike and camp away from others to minimize the likelihood of infection.
  • If you begin feeling sick, stay away from others and get off the trail until examined and cleared for return to the trail by a medical professional.
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