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This article is regarding normal circumstances and does not consider COVID-19 restrictions.
You DO NOT need a PCTA issued permit. If you're hiking less than 500 miles it's not even available to you. The PCTA issued permit is a convenience only. Further, you can't get a permit for lands that have no permit requirements. It can't be stated more clearly than that.
As of January 5th 2021 the quota limit is 50 permits per day and extend to Sonora Pass. Quotas only apply March 1 - May 31.
Mountain/Sierra snow conditions and your ability to deal with those conditions should be your primary consideration when choosing a start date. The PCTA quota system will blithely force you into a start date that potentially puts you in danger, without regard for your skill-set.
Getting A Permit & Defeating Quotas
Can't get a permit for April 20th at the border? Fine. Get a permit with a start location of Mt Laguna on April 22nd. Or get a permit for Warner Springs on April 27th, or Idylwild on May 3rd or Big Bear on May 10th or Cajon Pass on May 13th or Wrightwood on May 15th. Or anywhere in between or after. You get the idea. Start at the border on April 20th avoiding dispersed camping. Get a self issued permit for San Jacinto.
In fact, you can get your permit with a start location anywhere before Kennedy Meadows (south) and a start date for the date you expect to be there. Use the PCT Planner to determine a location and date that suits you. Start from the southern terminus and use campgrounds the 25 mile section in Cleveland NF.
(Start/End mile are the first/last encounters, every mile is not necessarily on permit required land)
|StartMile (km)||EndMile (km)||Public Lands||Notes|
|13.41 (21.58)||122.09 (196.48)||Cleveland National Forest - USFS||Restrictions on dispersed camping only, not hiking, mile 13 to 52, mile 110 to 122. Legal dispersed camping without permit can be found at mile 25.8, near I-8 and mile 36.7, northeast of Long Cyn ford and mile 40.7, Burnt Rancheria, east side of trail.|
|18.86 (30.35)||23.33 (37.55)||Lake Morena County Park - CNTY||No overnight camping without a permit.|
|164.39 (264.56)||203.14 (326.92)||San Jacinto Wilderness - USFS||Self issue. State park and Feds honor each others permit.|
|178.67 (287.54)||186.81 (300.64)||Mount San Jacinto State Park - SPR||Self issue. State park and Feds honor each others permit.|
|699.31 (1125.43)||719.43 (1157.81)||South Sierra Wilderness - USFS|
|719.44 (1157.82)||748.37 (1204.38)||Golden Trout Wilderness - USFS|
|748.37 (1204.38)||852.37 (1371.75)||Sequoia-Kings Canyon Wilderness - NPS|
|852.37 (1371.75)||902.38 (1452.24)||John Muir Wilderness - USFS|
|901.89 (1451.45)||928.89 (1494.90)||Ansel Adams Wilderness - USFS|
|928.89 (1494.90)||996.60 (1603.87)||Yosemite Wilderness - NPS|
|996.60 (1603.87)||1008.34 (1622.76)||Hoover Wilderness - USFS|
|1008.34 (1622.76)||1014.16 (1632.13)||Emigrant Wilderness - USFS|
|1020.61 (1642.51)||1040.78 (1674.97)||Carson-Iceberg Wilderness - USFS|
|1049.32 (1688.71)||1074.61 (1729.41)||Mokelumne Wilderness - USFS|
|1094.29 (1761.08)||1115.94 (1795.93)||Desolation Wilderness - USFS|
|1348.52 (2170.23)||1362.56 (2192.82)||Lassen Volcanic Wilderness - NPS|
|1567.34 (2522.38)||1584.48 (2549.97)||Trinity Alps Wilderness - USFS|
|1822.86 (2933.60)||1854.42 (2984.39)||Crater Lake Proposed or Recommended Wilderness Area - NPS|
|1857.55 (2989.43)||1883.01 (3030.40)||Mount Thielsen Wilderness - USFS|
|1899.81 (3057.44)||1915.10 (3082.05)||Diamond Peak Wilderness - USFS|
|1939.93 (3122.01)||1993.32 (3207.93)||Three Sisters Wilderness - USFS|
|1993.40 (3208.06)||2006.67 (3229.41)||Mount Washington Wilderness - USFS|
|2010.97 (3236.33)||2048.73 (3297.10)||Mount Jefferson Wilderness - USFS|
|2096.76 (3374.40)||2123.93 (3418.13)||Mount Hood Wilderness - USFS|
|2136.24 (3437.94)||2153.20 (3465.23)||Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness - USFS|
|2211.95 (3559.78)||2225.04 (3580.85)||Indian Heaven Wilderness - USFS|
|2242.70 (3609.27)||2261.77 (3639.96)||Mount Adams Wilderness - USFS|
|2269.48 (3652.36)||2305.80 (3710.82)||Goat Rocks Wilderness - USFS|
|2308.25 (3714.76)||2335.05 (3757.89)||William O. Douglas Wilderness - USFS|
|2345.28 (3774.35)||2358.42 (3795.50)||Norse Peak Wilderness - USFS|
|2406.98 (3873.65)||2475.80 (3984.40)||Alpine Lakes Wilderness - USFS|
|2573.89 (4142.26)||2591.11 (4169.98)||Stephen Mather Wilderness - NPS|
|2626.51 (4226.95)||2650.00 (4264.75)||Pasayten Wilderness - USFS|
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