The PCT Permit Process

The PCT Long Distance Permit

The permit process was certainly something during my preparation for the PCT that I was concerned about. I had heard many stories of hikers last season not being able to get their permit. The system seemed daunting and scary before I understood it. Once I researched it and understood how it works, it was not as bad as I thought! Although it is not the most exciting part of PCT prep, it certainly an element necessary for the protection of the trail.

But Why?

The PCT long distance permit is in place ultimately to protect the trail. The PCT is special to all of us hikers, and we should all do our best to protect the ground that we are placing our feet upon, even if it is a seemingly inconvenient process. The long distance permit essentially strings together multiple individual permits which would be necessary for hiking along the PCT. It is much easier to just acquire this permit than getting 20+ individual permits to be able to hike (and this permit is free, yay!!!)

How the System Changed in 2023

The system slightly changed in 2023 to make it easier for all of us hikers to apply, and ultimately for the PCTA.

In total, from March until May, there will be 50 permits allotted per day (I didn’t mean for that to rhyme…)┬áThe permit is open in these months because for most of the year the PCT is covered in snow, which doesn’t make for the best thru-hiking conditions!

On November 15th 2022 they allotted 35 permits, and then the system reopened on January 10th 2023 for the remaining 15 permits per day.

The system mainly changed with the time slot aspect. All hikers who registered where given a specified time to log on which was emailed to us the day before the portal opened. This was to minimize the chaos of all hikers logging on at the same time and for overall ease.

My Permit Experience

I was reasonably nervous on permit day as the PCTA was allotting out the permits. On November 15th, when most people were waiting to get their Taylor Swift tickets, a small percentage of us were waiting to log on to get PCT permits. I took the day off from work, went on a nice long run in the morning, and tried not to think too much about it.

The stress was mainly coming from the fact that if you cannot get a permit, you can’t legally hike all of it, unless you were to get all the individual permits, which is a huge undertaking. I learned a great lesson in simply trusting the process!!!

My time slot was for 12:04:57 pm on November 15th 2023 (very, VERY specific…)



Since the application system had changed since last year with the addition of the randomized logging on times, I had practiced logging into my account multiple times prior, just to make sure I had it all figured out.

I had reached out to a couple fellow thru-hikers and many of them said they received late log on times in the afternoon and were nervous about the spots not being available. I felt thankful that I had an earlier time to log on.

The Big Day

12:04 showed on the clock… with shaky hands I quickly logged on into my account. I was hoping for a day in early March, but I was trying to keep an open mind because I knew that there were most likely not going to be many spots available.

To my surprise there were MANY more spots open each day than I was anticipating!! My family was there to help and support me, and we all looked at the portal and were very surprised by the amount of slots that were still available. I got exactly the day I had in mind, and the permit process over all went much more smoothly than I was anticipating.

Advice For Anyone Applying for a Permit in the Future

  1. DON’T STRESS!!!!! You will most likely find your date or a time around it that you can apply for.
  2. Keep an open mind. You might not get your “exact” start date that you had in mind, but there should be something available.
  3. Don’t let the experience of past hikers scare you (this goes for permits, trail conditions, weather, etc… HYOH!!!!)
  4. Do the prep you need to do. Log on a couple times before, understand the information you need, and don’t stress too much beyond that!!!

You’ve got this!!!!

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 2

  • Stella : Jan 25th

    Strong, strong disagree. I got 2:29 PM the first time, and 1:35 PM the second time. The first round there was literally nothing left. No dates. Zilch. The second all of April was gone, and the first 10 days of May and the last 10 days of March were gone. Luckily, because I had been super stressed and focused on it, I had already nabbed a May 2nd start date by the day of the second round, but that required a lot of energy, plus I’m a programmer and used an automated script to help me. If I wasn’t stressed, didn’t use programming, and was a little less lucky than I was, it very easily could have been a straight rejection for me. I saw folks online who got 2:50+ on *both* rounds. You got lucky, but your advice definitely does not apply to everyone.

    • Journey : Jan 25th

      I totally understand, I am happy you did get a day!!!! I do for sure recognize that I got lucky!


What Do You Think?