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After postponing the decision for more than a month, the Pacific Crest Trail Association and Forest Service announced on January 5 that they will issue permits for the 2021 thru-hiking season.
The agencies said that they plan to issue normal permit numbers this year: 50 northbound per day from March 1 to May 31, and 15 southbound per day from June 15 to September 15. Applications for permits will be open on January 19th at 10:30 am PST. The permits allow long-distance hikers and horseback riders planning on trips of at least 500 miles to access federal and state lands along the way without laboriously piecing together permissions for different areas.
The news comes as the U.S., and parts of the West Coast in particular, face a surge in Covid cases, with California reporting cases of a new, more contagious variant of the disease as ICUs in Los Angeles and elsewhere fill up. Since public health concerns are likely to fluctuate throughout the season, the PCTA is asking permit holders to keep abreast of local regulations throughout the duration of their hikes.
“Currently, states crossed by the PCT (California, Oregon and Washington) recommend against non-essential travel while acknowledging that getting outdoors is one of the safest ways to improve our physical and mental well-being,” the PCTA said in its blog post. Even with permits, the organization noted, hikers could still be affected by closures and cancellations along the way, and may need to pause or even call off their hikes.
If possible, the organization still recommends that hikers delay their journeys.
“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,” the PCTA wrote. “Please postpone your trip.”