Happy PCT Permit Application Eve

Updated: Mar 25

On January 5, 2021, the PCTA announced they will be issuing long-distance permits for the 2021 PCT season (sigh of relief). I’ve been holding my breath since they announced in August that the permit application process was being postponed.


Since the postponement announcement I had numerous alternatives swirling in my head;

  • Hike SOBO?

  • Hike NOBO and obtain section specific permits as needed?

  • Hike another trail entirely, like the CDT?

  • Drive my wife insane by cancelling and talking about the PCT for another year? (Not the best option)


Looking back on all my fears and worries about potentially not being able to obtain a long-distance permit for this year, I realize I was just writing fictional scenarios due to something I had no control over. It’s not worth worrying about factors out of your control. It’s easier to say that in hindsight, but something to remain mindful of when things don’t go to plan.


Tomorrow morning I’ll get my electronic place in line to apply for my long-distance permit. There are two important caveats to the permits being issued this year; 1) If there is a shelter-in-place order on the start date of the permit, then the permit is invalid. 2) If a shelter-in-place order goes into effect during my hike, then the permit is invalid. So I’ll continue to hope for the best that neither of those exceptions occur.


Permits are issued for NOBO hikers beginning March 1st and through May 31st. When will I start my hike? My sort-of-calculated, sort-of-arbitrary start date will be April 15th. That’s the date I hope will be available tomorrow when I apply - unless 50 other hikers before me select that date first.


Why April 15th? I’m actually evading taxes and running from the law. They’ll never be able to catch me out on the trail - insert Louis L’amour Western plot here. Okay, the real reasons are; 1) My wife and I are leaving for Mexico at the end of January, and plan on staying for two months. I. Can’t. Wait. Feed me all the tacos. I’ll plan to return to the States on April 1st so I can self-quarantine for 2 weeks before beginning my hike. 2) I loosely calculated that I want to arrive in Kennedy Meadows June 1st to begin the Sierra section. I figure with a conservative pace to start, I can hike from Campo to Kennedy Meadows, 700 miles, in 6 and a half weeks. 3) I am hoping to finish the entire hike by the end of August in anticipation of my sister-in-law’s wedding in October. I will be officiating the wedding too, so I really need to avoid getting lost on the trail. Well, that’s just a good goal regardless of what lies ahead after my hike. This will allow me an entire extra month in case I sorely underestimated my hiking ability - which is very probable. 4) It's been a lower than average snow year - so far. They say the ideal day to enter the Sierra is June 15th - a.k.a. Ray Day. With lower snowfall levels thus far, I am hoping that it will be okay to enter the Sierra if I do manage to arrive by June 1st.


Last call for anyone wanting a long-distance permit for 2021. Tomorrow is the day. 10:30am PST the application page will be open. Let’s go!