New Rules Will Help the PCT Combat Overcrowding

On October 1, 2019, the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) announced a new permitting system that will affect all of the trail’s prospective thru-hikers starting in the 2020 season. Stricter regulations have been added to both north- and southbound hikes to more evenly distrubute crowds in both directions. The changes are intended to combat the significant increase in long-distance trail use over the past five years.

Perhaps the most surprising change for the incoming class of PCT hikers is the addition of a required southbound hiking permit. Previously, only northbound hikers needed one, but now, so will those who wish to hike 500 or more continuous miles starting anywhere from Canadian border through Stehekin, Washington.

A minor tweak to the northbound permitting season has also been made: in addition to the 50-hikers-per-day quota that was first implemented in 2013, all thru-hikers starting at or near the Mexican border between March 1 and May 31 will need a designated permit.

But hands down, the biggest change to hit the PCT next year will be the requirement that all hikers travel the 250-plus miles between California’s Kennedy Meadows South and Sonora Pass in one continuous trip. In other words, hikers can no longer skip the Sierra Nevada due to high snow or bad weather, fly north to hike in Oregon or Washington, and then zip back down south to finish the Sierra in late summer, when conditions are more favorable.

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