Updates on Pacific Crest Trail Closures Due to COVID-19

(Updated 12:50 p.m. MT, March 29) The Pacific Crest Trail Association has asked thru-hikers already on trail to go home, and asks those waiting to start to postpone their thru-hikes.

Yosemite National Park, which the PCT passes through, announced Friday, March 20, that the park will be closed to all visitors until further notice.

“This closure will be enforced 24-hours a day/7-days a week and there will be no access permitted to Yosemite National Park,” the park said on its website.

Additionally, the US Forest Service on Wednesday, March 25, ordered all Forest Service developed recreation sites in California closed. That includes campgrounds, day use areas, and picnic sites. Trails through Forest Service lands will remain open.

The Forest Service has also limited use in the following areas:

Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California announced Friday, March 27, that it will be closed to all park visitors until further notice.

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest will close trailheads, campgrounds, and day use areas until Sept. 30.

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest has closed campgrounds, snow parks, restroom facilities, day use areas, recreation rental facilities including cabins and fire lookouts, and trailheads.

California announced Sunday, March 29, that all state parks are temporarily closed to the public.

The PCTA’s message Thursday night, March 19, asking thru-hikers to get off trail came as California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide order for the state’s almost 40 million residents to stay home except for essential trips. The order took affect March 19.

In the PCTA’s message on its website, the organization said: “The PCTA asks all those who are already on the trail—as well as those waiting to start—to cancel or postpone your journeys.”

“The choice is no longer only personal, but one of social responsibility,” the PCTA said. “We all must do everything we can to get beyond this pandemic as quickly as possible.”

“Primary administrative authority for the PCT lies with the U.S. Forest Service and not with the PCTA, so to be clear, the trail is open and if you have received a long-distance permit it is still valid at this time, but PCTA requests that you postpone or cancel your plans.”

The PCTA issued the following information on its website. The guidelines come from the US Forest Service, which oversees most of the PCT.

  • All canceled PCT long-distance permits, regardless of direction and starting location, will not be reissued for others to use.
  • New or pending PCT long-distance permits requests are not being accepted or approved. See CDC and state guidelines for local travel on the PCT. Contact local US Forest Service or National Park Service offices regarding local permits.
  • There has been no decision made on whether to re-open the permit process later this year.
  • There has been no decision made on transferring canceled permits from 2020 to 2021.
  • We hope to announce when you can apply for 2021 permits sometime in August; this is tentative. We hope to address canceled 2020 permits at that time.
  • Cleveland National Forest campgrounds and picnic areas are closed and they are no longer issuing PCT Developed Camping Permits. Previously issued PCT Developed Camping Permits for future dates during peak season (now through May 31, 2020) are also no longer valid. All section hikers must either start farther north along the PCT (past mile 54) or postpone their section hike that goes through the  District.
  • California State Park campgrounds are closed.
  • Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are closed.
  • Crater Lake National Park is closed.

On March 16, the PCTA sent a message to all PCT long-distance permit holders that said although the organization could not give a definitive answer as to whether to cancel or postpone a thru-hike, they are urging hikers to “exercise personal responsibility in (their) decisions.”

According to the CDC, COVID-19 has a longer-than-normal incubation period. Since an undetermined number of people can be carrying the virus without showing symptoms, they have the potential to come in contact with the virus without knowing it. As of now, the leading method to limit the spread of COVID-19 is social distancing, which includes avoiding nonessential travel.

Please think of the impact your choices have on others, and consider whether traveling during an unprecedented global health pandemic is the right choice. -PCTA

Related

The USFS released updated permit information, summarized below.

“We understand that many of you have had your travel plans disrupted and have asked what to do if you cannot start your long-distance travel on your permitted start date. Please review the following adaptations we have implemented for the permitted 2020 season:

1. We urge you to exercise personal responsibility and consider the impacts you could have to the larger trail community if you are, or become, a COVID-19 carrier. Please follow CDC guidelines; the CDC is recommending people avoid all nonessential travel, apply rigorous personal hygiene, and practice social distancing. To cancel your permit, email the Pacific Crest Trail Association at [email protected]; due to the high volume, please do not call about your permit.

2. For currently permitted northbound travelers starting at the Southern Terminus who cannot start on your permitted start date you may:

  • Obtain a developed camping permit from the Cleveland National Forest and start on the date permitted.
  • Obtain a wilderness permit from San Jacinto State Park for San Jacinto State Wilderness.
  • Obtain a wilderness permit from the Inyo National Forest for travel on the John Muir Trail section that overlaps the PCT.
  • Your PCT long-distance permit will be valid for the rest of your trip north of Sonora Pass (PCT mile 1016.9).”

Hikers with further questions can email [email protected].

Read the PCTA and USFS’s full COVID-19 message and permit info here.

In addition, on March 17 Inyo County, CA has asked hikers to stay home. Inyo County is located in eastern California, along the Sierra Nevada and includes PCT popular resupply locations like Lone Pine, Independence, and Bishop. Their Facebook post elaborates:

“Your adventure can wait. We want to extend our thoughts and concern to everyone during this time of adjustment and remind you that your next adventure to our backyard can wait! We don’t want to get sick nor do we want to get anyone else sick. The consequences of a contagion like COVID-19 taking hold in a small town like Lone Pine, Independence, Big Pine, Tecopa, or Bishop, with our limited resources and substantial elderly population, could be devastating. The mountains will still be there when this storm passes. So stay home for now and we’ll keep you updated with how things are playing out on the East Side.”

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