PCT Permits and choosing a starting date!

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On Thursday night I got a message from a fellow PCT hiker telling me that the long-distance permit was now available online (PCTA.org), but with a few changes for 2015…

Since the book, ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed, and subsequent movie starring Reese Witherspoon, there’s been an increase in people hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. In 2013, the PCTA issued a total of 1,879 long-distance permits (section and thru hiker). In 2014, there were a total of 2,655 permits issued. In 2015 there will be??

So for 2015, the PCTA has decided to limit the number of daily permits to 50, hoping to spread out the number of hikers starting on any one day. Sounds fair enough.

It wasn’t the news of this that sent me into a mad panic at 10pm on Thursday night. It was the fact that in order to limit the number of permits per day, you now had to choose a starting day when submitting your application… This might seem like no big deal and you might assume that considering I had already decided to hike the PCT that I had already chosen a starting date… But I hadn’t! (Other than “sometime” in late April!) My ever-growing to-do list for this hike currently has 28 things on it, and choosing an exact starting date was at the bottom of the list! (Or to be more honest, it wasn’t actually written on my list, but had it been, it would have been on the bottom!)

I didn’t know what date to pick, but I had to pick it right then. Panic, stress and anxiety all set in and usually I’m such a calm and collected person! There were so many things to take into consideration – do I start earlier than the “usual recommended” date around the 25th April, do I start around this time, or do I start later?

Yogi’s handbook suggests starting around the 25th April so you make it to the Sierra Mountains (~700 miles from the start point) by mid-June. It’s around this time that the snowfall should have melted enough making for an easier crossing, but this all depends on the year and the amount of snowfall.

The other reason for starting around this date (~25 April) is because there is an annual event called the ADZPCTKO – Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off –  held on a weekend in late April. It’s a weekend where past and future hikers come together to share advice, learn some trail lessons, have a pack shake-down (where past hikers access your gear and tell you what you should leave behind), meet your hiker family who you’ll be seeing along the trail and a chance to buy some last minute gear.

I had always thought that I would like to attend the ADZPCTKO, if nothing else than to meet some fellow hikers. But if I was going to start “early” I would be at least 150 miles further up the trail, so how would I get back to it? Or would I just keep walking, knowing that I’d meet other hikers along the trail? …  More about the ADZPCTKO later in a separate post.

Sometimes things just fall into place (or as I like to think of it “Everything happens for a reason” – but I usually get a few groans from people when I say this!) I belong to a PCT forum on Facebook → someone posted a thread about international hikers → I met a girl also from London → she messaged me telling me the permits were now available → I chose the same starting date she had → (it just seemed so much easier than choosing a date myself!)

Who knows if we’ll walk together but if walking has taught me anything, it’s that I can walk alone and sometimes you meet someone you walk with for a day or a week or even longer and then you say goodbye, and you meet someone else. I wonder if the PCT will be similar?

And now my flight is booked, I’ve met some Trail Angels called Scout & Frodo who I’m going to stay with on arrival in San Diego and everything really seems to be falling into place…

So, one permit down and two to go:

  1. PCT Long Distance Permit – If hiking or horseback riding 500 or more contiguous miles along the PCT, in a single trip

  2. California Campfire Permit

  3. Canada Entry Permit

 * Always check the PCTA for updated information regarding permits


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15 responses to “PCT Permits and choosing a starting date!

  1. We’ve had a pretty severe drought here in California for a few years now. It’s bad for the state, but good for hikers. The last I checked, the snow pack in the Sierras is 40% of what it usually is. This can change rather quickly, but you should have fairly easy going with the high passes. Congrats on the permits!


  2. Does everyone on the PCT choose a “handle” / nickname? That seems like a thing. If so, do you have one? Just curious.
    I’m simply amazed at the logistics of doing something so epic. Husband and I are planning to walk our first Camino end of this year and we’ve been carefully planning & saving up money and time off work & training physically for over 2 years now. I can’t even imagine trying to plan for the PCT. Will you be blogging your experience along the way in real-time? Congrats on choosing your date and making it “official” (I know the feeling, we have our Camino date tentatively discussed but still scared to commit 100% to that date since it’s so many months away and we haven’t purchased our flights yet).
    How do people appropriately wish you well on this trek …. “Buen PTC”? 🙂 – Holly


    • Hi Holly, thanks for your comment 🙂 People do take on trail names but I haven’t got one yet… Maybe I should write a post asking people for a trail name? 🙂
      You’re going to have such an incredible time on the camino, walking the camino Frances was one of the best experiences of my life!
      I’ll try to blog on the PCT as often as wifi allows. Happy Trails as they say and Buen Camino to you! 🙂


  3. Start dates are just an estimate by the way, same with finish dates. In 08 I was never asked to show my permit, not even once. This year things most certainly will be different. I’ve decided to copy both my Ca Fire permit and my PCT thru hike permit on a single sheet of paper, front and back as well as shrunk to the size “only able to read if your eyes are under 40yrs old” and then laminated it. So it’s not much heavier unless you ask a gram weenie but it’s definitely going to make it the entire way. For the record, my start date is April 25th.


      • Finally someone appreciates the details! Hahaha. Thanks. Your PCT adventure starts this year right? Coming to the ADZPCTKO? When is your start date? Let’s connect and have lunch in the shade along the way! I’m so excited I can hardly stand it!


      • Hi Canyon, Yep mid-April this year 🙂 I’m not sure about kick-off because I’ll probably be about 150-200 miles further on… Unless I can figure out a way to get back or hitchhike. Is canyon your trail name? See you for lunch in the shade on the trail! 🙂

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  4. Kat, I’m going to be a few days ahead of you, starting on April 18th, but I still have my VISA to get (its all booked, I’ll get it in time), and the Canada entry permit. If that’s late, my wife will post it on to me. I also have a time limit as I start a new job in early Sept, so I have four and a half months. Your blog has been a very useful resource to remind me of things I still need to do, so thanks. I was wondering if anyone from home was mad enough to do this, and I guess I have an answer!


    • Hi Obvious,
      That’s great that you’re going to be out there as well, hopefully we meet somewhere on the trail. I’ve neglected my blog of late and you’ve just reminded me I have a few posts that I need to write, stay tuned & happy trails!


  5. I’m in the process of planning my trek on the PCT and just found your blog. Hope that it is going well! What is the Facebook PCT group you are part of? Is it useful? Happy hiking!


    • Hi Alex, it’s going great out here, you’re going to love it! There’s a couple of different Facebook groups, I mainly look at the class of 2015, and the women’s group. They’re a good source of info if you do searches for the questions you have. 🙂


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