If you are planning on hiking the PCT in 2022 and you missed the initial November 9th permit release, another opportunity is right around the corner!
The second round of PCTA permits will be released on January 11th at 10:30 am Pacific Standard Time. This second round will be for the remaining 15 of the 50 permits per day that the PCTA issues for northbound hikers.
If you did not get the date you wanted the first time, or any date at all, this is the next opportunity to snag your ticket to putting off responsibilities for 6 months.
Visit the PCTA’s website for more information and a comprehensive FAQ.
Essentially they recommend logging on a little bit before 10:30 am to get entered into the queue the day that applications open. Once in the waiting room, you are assigned a random place in line to wait until permits open at 10:30 am PST, which will determine when you are able to start the application process.
The portal limits access to a set number of hikers at a time so as not to crash the site — thus the queues and waiting rooms. Please note that reports from first-round hikers stated that it took nearly 2 hours for them to make it through the queue and into the portal.
The permits are free and there are no stipulations for being able to attain one, like a PCTA membership or pre-registration. They are open to both US residents as well as Internationals.
If you end up missing both PCTA Long-distance permit application dates, or end up not getting one due to them all being claimed, you can still self-permit and thru-hike the PCT. This takes a bit more planning but it is possible. Check out this complete list for individually permitting the 32 natural areas the PCT passes through.
Alternatively, you can periodically check back on the PCTA portal to see if any permits have been forfeited back into the system.
What is the permit that the PCTA issues?
The PCT Long-distance permit is an inter-agency permit. The US Forest Service is the lead administering agency. The PCTA issues the PCT Long-distance permit at the request of the Forest Service and breaks down those permits as follows:
- 50 permits per day for northbound (NOBO) trips starting between the Mexican border and Sonora Pass between March 1 and May 31; northbound section permits will not be issued in this zone during the month of June;
- 1,400 permits for section-hikers crossing the John Muir Trail overlap; and 600 permits for trips starting in the Southern Sierra;
- 15 permits per day for southbound thru- and section- hikers starting between Canada and Stehekin between June 15 and July 31. Then, 15 permits per day starting in the Northern Terminus area for section hikers between Aug. 1 and Sept. 15. This amounts ot 825 total Northern Terminus area permits;
- 8,000 total permits
So, what is the point of the PCTA permit?
Well, concisely put, convenience.
You don’t necessarily need a PCTA Permit to thru-hike, but it does make things much more convenient, as there are 32 different wilderness areas that require permits along the Pacific Crest Trail.
The PCTA doesn’t hold any real authority over the Pacific Crest Trail; they are a group of paid staff and volunteers, who act in accordance with the decisions made by the Forest Service when it comes to permits, and otherwise protect, maintain and advocate for the West Coast’s long-distance trail.
(If you read between the lines during the 2021 permitting process, the PCTA begrudgingly issued hiker permits at the insistence of the Forest Service.)
What if you don’t get the same start date as your partner?
Although the need for the process is understood, it creates a whole slew of challenges for those wanting to do the hike with a partner.
This past year, in 2021, my wife and I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail together. We shared a tent, we shared a cook kit, and most importantly we shared love, damnit! Had we not secured the same start date it would have created a whole slew of logistical challenges.
While working on this article I had the opportunity to speak to Danny and Molly of LetsTrekTogether about their 2022 Permit process experience. Unfortunately, they did not get the same start dates.
Their solution to different start dates?
Danny says, “We’re hoping we can get the dates we want in the second round. Otherwise, we’re just going to self-permit up until the Sierras.”
From there, due to more stringent and difficult to get permits, like the JMT section through Yosemite,, they’ll switch back to their PCTA Permit; this is the main area of the trail where the PCTA Permit is most beneficial due to high demand and limited availability of permits.
Alternatively, the couple could choose to wait it out in trail towns, allowing the other to catch up. My wife and I agreed on this very strategy before starting our PCTA Permit applications last year should it come to be that we did not share starting dates. The major disadvantage of this approach is that it could drastically eat through a hiker’s savings.
All told, the PCTA Permit is meant to create convenience for thru-hikers. There are other alternatives outside of just the PCTA permit; it is just a bit more involved in the planning side as you have to navigate the permitting process individually.
Continue Hiking with Garrett: @somedudewalking