PCT2016 Permits


Long Distance Permit

So you’ve decided to hike 2650 miles (and change) from Mexico to Canada, along one of the most incredible continuous thru-trails in the world. Sounds simple eh. That is until the daunting bureaucracy of multiple agencies, permit systems, time-limits, lottery systems, self check-ins and park regulations begin to make this single trail look more like a game of snakes and ladders.

This is where the PCTA assists in the endeavor greatly, by providing the ability to apply for a single permit, to a single agency, that will cover you for all Federal and State lands covered by the entire length of the Pacific Crest Trail.

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Some of the Federal and State agencies involved in the permit system.

The permit also allows the PCTA to notionally measure the number of thru-hikers (hiking greater than 500 miles in one season) as well as attempt to enforce some limits on the number of hikers starting on the trail at the Mexican border each year. The limit of 50 is strained during the core departure months of April/early May. I will be starting the trail at the out limits of this period in mid-May.


Permit paperwork and welcome letter

California Fire Permit

One of the more interesting aspects of permitting is the California Fire Permit, a means by which the state of California attempts to provide some fire-awareness to those camping in the state. The simple system allows a likely user of campfires or camping stokes to attain a simple permit by watching a move about fire awareness, followed by a simple multiple choice quiz. The information was practical and and seemed like a simple way to spread the message on wildfire awareness in a state parched by continuous drought for many years.

Canada Entry Permit

Whilst entering the United States from Mexico or Canada via the PCT is not possible, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) facilitates US originating thru-hikers with the ability to apply for an entry permit with your notional Canada entry-dates. This allows thru-hikers to avoid a lengthy backtrack in order to leave the trail at Manning Park in British Columbia. In my case hopefully it will allow me to stop off in Vancouver for some R&R at the end of the trail.

Applying for a permit is extremely simple, and involves completing a paper form, containing all of the information ordinarily asked at a physical border crossing as well as providing verification of your personal identity records. In my case the permit was promptly returned to me, stamped by the border agent and ready to go.


The CBSA Canada Entry Permit Form