PCT Permit Application
So you’ve made up your mind, you’re going to do it. You are hiking the PCT next year! (insert strong arm emoji here).
Step 1. Game plan
Here’s a few things to mull over before applying for your permit. It is a popular trail and many people have read similar blogs/informational tidbits about when is best to start and there are only 50 permits per day to be had!
What are your priorities?
-Travelling with significant other/friends
-Starting before a certain date
-Starting after a certain date
What is your contingency plan, how much leeway do you have with your start date? Why are you fixated on a particular date? If you can’t stay at Scout and Frodos, where will you stay? Do you need to start at Campo? If you get an early date, can you afford to take time off the trail?
Why am i blabbing on about this? Well I did not plan very well. We (all 4 of us) didn’t plan. Our game plan was to apply for any days between the 25th March and the 5th April. What we didn’t do was talk about what would happen if those dates were not available or if anyone ended up outside of those dates. How would we get to the trail head outside of the hiker ‘season’?
Please note: this is not meant as a fear mongering post as all. This is a little heads up that there is a chance that it may not workout as you’d hoped and to be flexible to change of plans. Stay off the facebook page if you feed off other people’s anxieties. This will not be the last time you will need to remain flexible with your PCT plans!!
Step 2. The application
Get your pajamas on, grabs snacks, stay hydrated and make sure if you’re plugged in if you’re on a laptop!!!
Read everything on the page ahead of application date. Apply for your long distance permit here.
The application will open on a specified date, keep an eye out for this date and time. We were told there was a brand new queueing system this year (2019) so if we arrived BEFORE 6:30pm GMT then you would be placed in a random place in the queue.
Step 3. The Count Down
The four of us took the plunge and joined the queue at roughly 6:25pm GMT
Step 4. The Queue
Remember when I said get comfortable and have a contingency plan? Well I damn near fell off my chair when my number in the queue pinged up - number 3618
My friends and I were thousands of numbers apart from each other! This is where the panic set in… (you won’t be panicking though will you? you’ll have planned!)
They didn’t lie when they said 'placed randomly in the queue’
Step 5. The Queue (still)
2 hours later in my case. I felt like I had watched my little guy walk to Canada, in reality he’d just walked across my screen and I’d spent the 2 hours panicking because facebook kept reporting the dates were filling up. By this point one friend was on April 5th and another on the 30th of March. Claire and I were still waiting!
At one point I accidentally hit backspace and thought i’d lost my place in the queue forever. Lots of screaming ensued before realising I could just hit forward and I had not lost my place in the queue. Basically our panicking had hit fever pitch as we were trying to get to grips with the fact that we will be weeks apart. We thought we’d done enough research but hadn’t even thought about any alternatives. **see step 1 to avoid being silly sausages like us**
Step 6. The Start
Take a deep breath, you’re in.
You will need to choose your Start Location and End Location.
The first round of permits are released at 35 a day. You’ll find yourself at a calendar page, with green and red numbers.
Green = available
Red = all 35 gone
Once you’ve selected your start date, you’ve got to pick your end date. This is non-binding but do put a semi-sensible date in so you’re not left panicking when someone on facebook says they know someone whose sister’s friend’s cat got their application denied because they accidentally applied for a sub 34 day PCT.
Step 7. The Details
There’s not rush to fill these bits in so take your time and re-read it before submitting. (I cut past this so you don’t have to watch me type my deets in)
Your permit will be emailed to you.
Travelling on Foot / By Horse
First Name, Last Name, Country, Street Address, City, State, Postcode, Email, Phone, Birthday
Step 8. Hit Submit!
There’s a donation page and terms and conditions. I didn’t record these bits (Sorry!) but you can choose to donate to the PCTA here or go back and do it after. Matt said the page crashed when he tried to donate so I donated after I had submitted my permit application.
Have a quick read though the breakdown (I blanked some bits out with my deets in) and hit submit when you’re 100% happy!
Step 9. Breathe
Step back, take a moment and be happy that your PCT journey has started!
Know that in January you will get another chance to apply again if you missed this one or got a date you weren’t happy with. You also have several months to research alternative start points and plans and to come to terms with YOUR pct. It is your hike after all!!
By the time the 15th of Jan had swung round, i’d taken a ride on the emotional rollercoaster of trying to work out a contingency plan for our varied start date hike. You can’t sit and worry forever can you, especially when you’ve got Canada calling! So I had a good cry and got on with planning alternative permits, flights, hostels in San Diego and the works.
Before i I knew it, permit day 2 rolled in. Unfortunately I was on location with work so had given my details to the guys, our new plan was to try and get closer to Miles’s date of the 5th of April and then try and change each other’s once we changed ours. If that didn’t work, well, see you out there kid.
Spoiler alert: We all managed to change our dates to the 5th!! Claire, Matt, Miles and I will be at the southern terminus together and will begin our journey as a team. Hurray! (More crying ensued)