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PCT Thru Hiker Permit: A convenience, not a requirement

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PCT Thru Hiker Permit: A convenience, not a requirement

Postby postholer » Sat Jan 20, 2018 11:09 am

The thru-hiker permit issued by the PCTA is not needed, nor is it required. It is merely a convenience.

Further, if you're a section hiker hiking less than 500 miles it isn't even available to you. Here's what all hikers need to know.

No permit of any kind is required until after Kennedy Meadows. That's 700 miles folks.

Without permit or leaving before permit date:
In the first 700 miles, a 25 mile section between Hauser Creek and Mt Laguna, dispersed camping is not allowed without permit. Hiking in that section does not require a permit. Use one of several camp grounds in that short section. Get the PCTA issued permit with a start location somewhere further up the trail so you're covered after the 700 mile point.

Getting a new permit/start date:
Ideally, get a permit date on or before the day you intend to start with the border as your start location. It's OK to leave after the start date on your permit. Otherwise get a permit for a start date before you intend to arrive at your start location. Use the campgrounds in that 25 mile section.

With or without a permit, using the camp grounds exceeds the intent and spirit of the quota system.

Image

What the National Forests Say:

San Bernardino NF doesn't require a permit for any of its wilderness areas:

"The San Bernardino National Forest has eight designated Wildernesses: San Gorgonio, Cucamonga, San Jacinto, Santa Rosa, Bighorn Mountain, Cahuilla Mountain, South Fork San Jacinto, and part of the Sheep Mountain wilderness, area. Maps of these areas are available for purchase at ranger stations.Wilderness permits are not required, but the Forest Service strongly recommends you to obtain a Wilderness Permit before going into any of San Bernardino National Forest’s eight wilderness areas. The permit system benefits both you and the wilderness area by helping the Forest Service monitor visitor usage and environmental impacts."

The Angeles NF doesn't require a permit for the PCT hiker:

"A Wilderness Permit is required for entry into the Sheep Mountain Wilderness from the East Fork Trailhead only.This area has traditionally received heavy water-related recreational use. The permit system allows the Forest Service to make decisions to ensure better protection of the wilderness resources in this area."

Cleveland NF requires a permit ONLY for dispersed camping, NOT hiking. No permit? Use one of several campgrounds:

"Visitor’s permits are required for dispersed camping in the Hauser Wilderness and upon Forest lands along the PCT up to the southern boundary of the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area."


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Re: PCT Permits: The dirty little secret

Postby Miner » Sat Jan 20, 2018 4:43 pm

As someone who has been hiking and camping there for 20 years, you need a permit for the San Jacinto Wilderness and San Jacinto State Park which is less than 200 miles into a thru-hike. This applies to both day hiking and overnight camping. In fact, the first ranger a thru-hiker is likely to encounter on a PCT thru-hike will be at the top of Devil's Slide Trail where it meets the PCT (popular side trail for resupplying before the Mountain Fire Closure was put into place) where they check permits on a regular basis once winter leaves the trail and the demand for the limited trailhead quotas starts to be exceeded. They hike up in the morning and leave in the afternoon.
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Re: PCT Permits: The dirty little secret

Postby postholer » Sat Jan 20, 2018 6:18 pm

Miner wrote:As someone who has been hiking and camping there for 20 years, you need a permit for the San Jacinto Wilderness and San Jacinto State Park which is less than 200 miles into a thru-hike.


The Forest Service doesn't require a permit for that 10 mile stretch of wilderness, State Parks does. Should you decide to bother, a day use permit is freely available in Idyllwild: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=636

San Bernardino NF doesn't require a permit for any of its wilderness areas:

"The San Bernardino National Forest has eight designated Wildernesses: San Gorgonio, Cucamonga, San Jacinto, Santa Rosa, Bighorn Mountain, Cahuilla Mountain, South Fork San Jacinto, and part of the Sheep Mountain wilderness, area. Maps of these areas are available for purchase at ranger stations.Wilderness permits are not required, but the Forest Service strongly recommends you to obtain a Wilderness Permit before going into any of San Bernardino National Forest’s eight wilderness areas. The permit system benefits both you and the wilderness area by helping the Forest Service monitor visitor usage and environmental impacts."


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Re: PCT Permits: The dirty little secret

Postby kirninco » Sun Jan 21, 2018 4:30 pm

Is this possible loophole something that's new this year?
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Re: PCT Permits: The dirty little secret

Postby gg-man » Mon Jan 22, 2018 9:20 am

I love that graph on where permits are needed. I thought a permit was needed on both sides on San Jacinto State Park in the Wilderness area. I didn't look much beyond mile 152. It would be great to see a graph of the whole trail showing permit requirements like you did for the first 150 miles. It would really bring this nebulous permit situation out into the light of day. I also think some transparency to the permit requirements in Cleveland would allow hikers to minimize impact without restricting timing.
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Re: PCT Permits: The dirty little secret

Postby postholer » Mon Jan 22, 2018 10:53 am

gg-man wrote:It would be great to see a graph of the whole trail showing permit requirements like you did for the first 150 miles. It would really bring this nebulous permit situation out into the light of day. I also think some transparency to the permit requirements in Cleveland would allow hikers to minimize impact without restricting timing.


Ironically, the restrictions in Cleveland NF are on dispersed camping, NOT hiking. By using the campgrounds you exceed the intent and spirit of the quota system, it's a win/win. Who knew?

Due to the needed and justified quotas in SEKI and YNP, getting the permit through the PCTA is the way to go. So, it's kind of pointless to do the whole trail for a thru-hiker. You will need a permit.

Transparency. Yeah. Why aren't we hearing about this on the PCTA web site instead of my crappy little web site? Informing the public of changes along the trail, isn't that what they do???
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Re: PCT Permits: The dirty little secret

Postby Gary Schenk » Mon Feb 05, 2018 12:49 pm

postholer wrote:Should you decide to bother, a day use permit is freely available in Idyllwild: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=636


Please bother to get the permit. It makes us look good on the trail. We need more of that.
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Re: PCT Permits: The dirty little secret

Postby postholer » Mon Feb 05, 2018 1:49 pm

The San Bernardino NF does not require a permit for that 10 mile stretch of trail, State Parks does. Again, don't bother, it won't have any impact on the trail one way or another. Simplifying a convoluted permit system; we definitely need more of that.

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Re: PCT Permits: The dirty little secret

Postby violetc » Wed Mar 07, 2018 11:08 am

Hi everyone,

I have a long-distance permit beginning on the 16th of May at Tehachapi Pass. I'm aiming to be there on that day, but I may be a few days late. Is it OK to arrive there and start hiking AFTER the 16th May, or do I have to start on the exact date specified?

Thanks in advance for any advice! And sorry if this has been answered elsewhere...
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Re: PCT Permits: The dirty little secret

Postby postholer » Wed Mar 07, 2018 11:47 am

violetc wrote:I have a long-distance permit beginning on the 16th of May at Tehachapi Pass. I'm aiming to be there on that day, but I may be a few days late. Is it OK to arrive there and start hiking AFTER the 16th May, or do I have to start on the exact date specified?


Absolutely not. You are good to go!

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Re: PCT Permits: The dirty little secret

Postby violetc » Fri Mar 09, 2018 3:59 am

postholer wrote:
violetc wrote:I have a long-distance permit beginning on the 16th of May at Tehachapi Pass. I'm aiming to be there on that day, but I may be a few days late. Is it OK to arrive there and start hiking AFTER the 16th May, or do I have to start on the exact date specified?


Absolutely not. You are good to go!

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Thanks for the reply! :-)
But do you mean 'absolutely not' as in you DON'T have to start on your specified date, or 'absolutely not' as in it's NOT OK to start after the 16th May? Sorry if I'm being thick, I just want to be sure!!
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Re: PCT Permits: The dirty little secret

Postby postholer » Fri Mar 09, 2018 10:16 am

violetc wrote:But do you mean 'absolutely not' as in you DON'T have to start on your specified date, or 'absolutely not' as in it's NOT OK to start after the 16th May? Sorry if I'm being thick, I just want to be sure!!


You are perfectly fine starting after your permit start date.

Should you start before your permit date, technically, you'll have to camp in one of the 4 campgrounds in the 25 mile section between Hauser Creek and Mt Laguna. Dispersed camping in that section requires a permit, hiking does not.

Other than that, you don't need a permit at all for the first 700 miles.

Have a great hike!
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Re: PCT Permits: The dirty little secret

Postby violetc » Sat Mar 10, 2018 11:22 am

postholer wrote:
violetc wrote:But do you mean 'absolutely not' as in you DON'T have to start on your specified date, or 'absolutely not' as in it's NOT OK to start after the 16th May? Sorry if I'm being thick, I just want to be sure!!


You are perfectly fine starting after your permit start date.

Should you start before your permit date, technically, you'll have to camp in one of the 4 campgrounds in the 25 mile section between Hauser Creek and Mt Laguna. Dispersed camping in that section requires a permit, hiking does not.

Other than that, you don't need a permit at all for the first 700 miles.

Have a great hike!
-postholer


That's great to know, thanks so much!! Your website has been such a great help in planning :-)
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Re: PCT Permits: The dirty little secret

Postby gsamelon » Thu Apr 05, 2018 6:29 am

Where is the appropriate place to camp at Lake Morena area that is not considered dispersed camping and not in the pay-for-use RV campsite. Thanks in advance!
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Re: PCT Permits: The dirty little secret

Postby postholer » Thu Apr 05, 2018 6:49 am

gsamelon wrote:Where is the appropriate place to camp at Lake Morena area that is not considered dispersed camping and not in the pay-for-use RV campsite. Thanks in advance!


When you come down off the hill, cross the road into the park, follow a low fence that's on your right, you'll come to a water faucet and table. You have arrived!
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