The long-awaited announcement from the US Forest Service and the Pacific Crest Trail Association is finally here. After not issuing any 2021 permits at the end of 2020 (as would have been done regularly), the PCTA has announced that on January 19 they will be issuing PCT permits for the 2021 thru-hiking season.
Here's what you need to know:
- Online permit applications begin January 19, 2021, at 10:30 am Pacific Time (how to apply – PCTA).
- There will be 50 northbound permits issued per day for hikes beginning at the Southern Terminus between March 1 and May 31 (related reading: why you shouldn't hike northbound)
- There will be 15 southbound permits issued per day for hikes beginning at the Northern Terminus between June 15 through September 15 (related reading: why you shouldn't hike southbound)
- An additional 600 permits for hikers beginning in the southern Sierra
- An additional 1400 permits for section hikers hiking the John Muir Trail overlap
The PCTA and USFS are encouraging hikers planning on getting a 2021 PCT permit this year to do so with a large degree of flexibility in mind. The PCTA states on their blog:
“If you are not prepared to change your behavior to lower the risk to yourself and those around you, this is not the time for a long-distance trip on the PCT. Please postpone your trip.“–PCTA
Yes, according to this year's Pacific Crest Trail Hiker Survey, a lot of those who canceled their hikes in 2020 are hoping to hike in 2021. This could mean stiffer competition for thru-hikes beginning at the northern or southern terminus during the quota system.
What are your odds of getting a long-distance PCT permit this year? Probably not bad. What are your odds for getting a long-distance PCT permit for a specific date this year? Significantly worse. Just remember to be prepared for the permit application process and to follow all of the instructions laid out by the PCTA.
For more on how permits have changed in recent years, read this post.