The Waiting Room for PCT NOBO Permits

On Sept. 29, 2018, the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) announced details for obtaining permits for the 2019 thru-hiking season, especially for those starting at the US/Mexican border. PCT Class of 2019 NOBO thru-hikers have anxiously been awaiting this news. The date: Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time (PT).


And for the first time, the PCTA introduced an online waiting room system. New this year, the PCTA said. Designed to reduce frustration and improve the experience. On the day the permits are released, the PCTA gives out 35 permits a day, with April being the most popular month followed by March and May. In the past, applying for a thru-hiking permit has caused stress levels to run high due to system crashes and system timeouts, leaving many hikers upset and venting their anger at the PCTA. And if you persevered with the system, just hopefully, you were successful in securing the date you wanted or any date just to get a permit. And those who missed out on one of the 35 per day permits in the first round, your next opportunity was January for the remaining 15 permits per day.

Waiting Room System

The PCTA website advised that the waiting room would open at 10:30 a.m. PT. There was some confusion as when to join the queue. Before, on, or after the release time. The PCTA website advised that if you arrived just prior to 10:30 a.m., you will be assigned a random place in the queue and those who arrive after 10:30 a.m. will get a space at the back of the line. The PCTA suggested for everyone to arrive a couple of minutes before 10:30 a.m.

For me in the state of New South Wales, Australia, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 10:30 a.m. PT was Thursday, Nov. 15, 5:30 a.m. and I took the day off work. For the purpose of this blog, I will use Pacific Time. Armed with a cup of tea and vegemite on toast, I joined the queue at 10:25 a.m. and was alarmed that the website said that there were already 2,000 people in the queue and itโ€™s increasing rapidly. I had my desktop set and ready for action. I noticed at the very bottom of the countdown page there was a unique queue ID number.



Let the Games Begin!

At 10:30 a.m. the event started. Once your page refreshed at this time you were advised of your number in the line, number of users in line ahead of you, expected arrival time on the website, and your estimated wait time. On my desktop I was number 348 with a wait time of 30 minutes. Wow! There was a bar at the top of the page, with a hiker walking in animation to simulate the progress of your wait time. Super fancy! You could also enter your email address and get an alert when it was your turn.

It was exciting watching the little hiker progress and then it was my turn. I entered the permit page, selected start new application, and entered start and finish locations. I was then directed to the calendar, and for me there were only a few people against each date. My start date, Tuesday, April 9, 2019, was available, and I selected that date, then my date for completion, how will you be traveling, foot or horse/mule, entered my details, paid a donation to the PCTA, and my application was complete. At 10:59 a.m. I received my email from the PCTA confirming my PCT permit.

Zero stress, fun experience, and well done to the PCTA for trying a new system.


Within two hours of the permits becoming available, all of April’s 35 permits per day had been taken with people then selecting March and April and many people obtaining permits for early March or late May, and unless you are experienced, this can be a dangerous time to start your thru-hike. Recommend that you check each day for available dates, as people cancel their permits. And if still unsuccessful, on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time, the remaining 15 permits per day will become available.

Good luck and happy trails!

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Comments 10

  • Vince : Nov 16th

    Not sure if you actually received a permit yet. Mine says “pending approval” and I was #728 I believe. Took about 45 minutes wait time. No doubt you’ll get what you want though. See you on the trail, maybe. I’m looking at March 18 take off myself.

    • Vanessa Dodd : Nov 18th

      Hi Vince, yes correct, pending approval. Oh I think you will be ahead of me by a long shot. Happy Trails!!

    • Yermo Adam : Nov 26th

      As of today, a few minutes ago, I see you are all approved for the 9th. Excellent.
      Please read your email if you get a chance

  • Yermo Adam : Nov 16th

    Oh I am so glad all went well and in your favor! EXCELLENT. Some of my fellow United Staters didn’t have such a good go of it–will have to come back and keep trying for the dates they want.
    Regardless ! Hoo-RAY for Vanessa!
    Good to go!!

    • Vanessa Dodd : Nov 18th

      Thanks Leo. I know of a few Aussies that were also not successful. I say, check each day for cancellations. Yes good to go…flights next ๐Ÿ™‚ Happy Trails!!

  • Lenny Smith : Nov 16th

    I logged on at 12:28 Central Time(10:28 Pacific) and was “randomly” assigned spot #3577 in the “queue.” I didn’t log in earlier because the PCTA website there was no need. Needless to say, after waiting over 2 hours to be allowed to access the permit the date I wanted was filled. All of April was filled, most of May was filled, and the earliest date available was March 11. So I took that date as I felt I didn’t have much choice. I’ll make the best of it.

    • Vanessa Dodd : Nov 18th

      Hi Lenny. You know I really think it was random, no matter where you were in the world. I would check every day for cancellations and then you hopefully can change your date in January. Happy trails!!

  • David Bell : Nov 17th

    The PCTA did a wonderful job with the application process as far as I’m concerned. Now, I had a low number, and might be grumbling a bit if had been given a number in the 2-3k range and I hadn’t got the date I wanted (or any date), but I think everything worked as they said it would, and the system let you know where you were throughout. I actually enjoyed it…ok I was playing hookey from work for the morning so that may have added to my glee a bit.

    • Vanessa Dodd : Nov 18th

      At first I thought you were playing hockey! I concur that the PCTA did an amazing job with the new process. And yes, it may have been a different story if I missed out, like some. But a great system. Happy Trails!!

      • Lenny Smith : Nov 18th

        Oh, I’m not really that upset. It’s all good. I was just hoping to start sometime in April and coordinate with a friend to start at the same time. He was able to choose the date we had agreed upon(he logged on 3 minutes before I did). I figure now I’ll be able to go a lot slower now and not try to push too big a miles before the Sierras.


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