Start Date and PCTA Permit

My PCTA Long-Distance Permit

On November 1, 2017 at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time, with a cup of strong coffee in hand, I  applied for my desired start date of May 14, 2018.  I completed my application online through the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA).  Since this is a later-than-usual start date, I didn’t have any doubts about getting my requested date, especially since I was filling out my application for the permit as soon as registration opened.  Only 50 long-distance permits (500 miles or more) are issued per day by the PCTA beginning November 1.  These permits are issued in two phases.  Once issued the permit, I would have to carry it with me at all times.

Here are the official PCTA rules on getting a free interagency permit for 2018 from the PCTA website:

Opening dates for the PCT long-distance permit

Starting at or near the Mexican border (both thru-hikers and section hikers)

These permits are limited to 50 people per day. We will release these permits in two phases, so if you miss getting a permit in the first phase, you’ll have the opportunity to try again.

  1. On November 1 at 10:30 a.m. PT, 35 permits per day will become available.
  2. On January 17 at 10:30 a.m. PT, the remaining 15 permits per day will become available.
Permit Confirmation
Letter I was sent showing permit is available. The nice thing about having this available through the PCTA website is that if I were to lose my permit, I could retrieve it online and produce a new copy for a ranger.

Hikers typically finish their thru-hike in 5 months.  They leave northbound from the Mexican border anywhere from the beginning of April until the middle of May.  This timing allows for snowmelt in the Sierra Nevada mountains so that by the time I get to Kennedy Meadows (“Gateway to the Sierra”), I’ll have a safe (cross my fingers!) passage through the mountains.

PCT Permit
The long-distance permit must be carried at all times by thru-hikers and available upon request for park rangers.

My Canada PCT Entry Permit

In addition to my long-distance permit, I had to apply for a Canada PCT entry permit 8-10 weeks before the start of my hike but no earlier than six months.  This is required to enter Canada by way of the Pacific Crest Trail.  The Canadian government has sent me my stamped approved copy of the application.  Since I might be flying home from Vancouver International Airport (YVR), I made this a priority.  Although the U.S.-Canada border is the official northern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail, many thru-hikers choose to hike 8.8 miles north into Canada to Manning Provincial Park to end their trip instead of turning around at the border and heading south 30 miles to Hart’s Pass which is the nearest United States road.  This is the crazy thing…if you have a proper permit, it is legal to cross from the U.S. to Canada; however, it is actually illegal to cross from Canada into the U.S. heading southbound along the same route.

My California Fire Permit

To use a camp stove in the state of California, I am required to have a California Fire Permit.  Basically, I just had to watch a video on campfire safety in the wilderness and then take a quiz on what I had learned.  Upon completion of the quiz, I was issued the permit.  Easy as that!

So with these 3 permits, a passport, and an official start date, I’m legit and ready to hike!

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