Pacific Crest Trail

Pacific Crest Trail permit (address blanked out!)

Information for Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail
Updated for 2017

For an overseas hiker there are many things that need to be done prior to hiking Pacific Crest Trail.  There are visas and various permits that have to be obtained prior to setting off. What kind of resupply strategy will the hiker use. It is already difficult to plan and pack up all the meals months in advance.  Want to know just how much planning there is to do, keep reading.

Visa for USA

The first thing is first. The overseas hiker on the Pacific Crest Trail needs a visa that allows them to stay in the country longer than 3 months. To get the visa the hiker is required to attend a consulate for an interview. The only consulates available for interviews are only located in Sydney, Melbourne or Perth. For me that required a 4.5 hour flight from my home in Northern Territory to Sydney.

I got my visa last year when I planned my 2014 cycle trip from Alaska to the Mexico border. They were gracious enough to give me a 5 year visa. Beware, Thru hiking is addictive. Get a longer visa if possible, you might want to hike another long distance trail such as the Continental Divide Trail. Of note, you can only enter USA for a maximum of 6 months on any one visit. That should be enough time to complete the Thru Hike.

USA visa information here

Permits

Secondly the hiker needs Pacific Crest Trail hiking permit. Apply online at the PCT website. They normally open their permit registrations early in the year. My permit was approved in about a week. It arrived via email which I printed and laminated. As the permit was a large A4 size I shrunk it to the same size as my passport.

Click here to apply for PCT permit

To light an open fire in California the hiker needs a California Fire permit. Using a stove requires this permit. Simply watch the video and answer some questions. Even with the permit there may be Total Fire Bans. It is the responsibility of the hiker to be aware of this and make other arrangements.

Click here to get a California Fire Permit

The Pacific Crest Trail crosses the international border into Canada at a location that doesn’t have a recognised border crossing. Apply for a Canadian Entry permit prior to setting off on the trail. The application is simple and speedy. My permit arrived in the mail within two weeks. Hikers with criminal convictions may be refused entry.

PCT Canadian Entry Permit.

Buying Gear in Australia or in USA

Shop Wild Earth, Australia's #1 Online Adventure Store, for high quality outdoor gear at great prices. Click here!The are many ultralight gear makers in the USA. Most of them produce and sell quality gear, sometimes at a premium price. Almost all of them ship to Australia. Probably the best online retailer in Australia is WildEarth.com.au. I have purchased lots of gear through them over the years and can highly recommend them. When in USA I almost exclusively used Amazon.

Resupply

The most difficult thing for the overseas hiker is the constraints on planning and sending food in resupply boxes to themselves on the trail. It is common practice for hikers to buy and post all their food to post offices or other hiker friendly locations along the trail. Overseas hikers must plan a couple of preparation days in USA buying and packing boxes if they choose this method. It can be cheaper to do this but it can also be a big mistake. The hiker might buy six months worth of Pop Tarts for breakfast only to be sick of them after the first week. Yes, it happens a lot.

Buy as you go

A great option is to buy as you go. Sometimes that means paying a premium in small towns. I like to support local business when and where I can so I don’t have to much of a problem with that. The best situation for me was a combination of resupply boxes which I purchased at the larger towns on trail and sent to myself in the small towns.

Resupply companies

Another option is to make use of a resupply company. Sign up, add food or provisions to your cart and have them delivered to you at a reasonable cost. The big advantage of such companies is the ability to only order food when you require it and you can order a week or so in advance which means you can update your meals as your diet changes. Here are two resupply companies. Zero Day Resupply and Sonora Pass Resupply.

Bounce Box

A ‘Bounce Box’ is very common among overseas hikers. It may contain your computer, passport, food, toiletries, town clothes when used to enter and exit USA and more. The hiker sends it to themselves along the trail. I used USPS priority mail to post my large bounce box. It normally cost about $2o to post. If I didn’t pick up my box at the post office I would advise them to on send it to the next post office. They do this for free and provide a tracking number.

Click here to read more about my Resupply Strategy

Getting to the start of the trail

Whether you choose to hike northbound or southbound all the information you will need about transport to the start of the trail is listed on the PCTA website.

Click here for Transportation to the start of the trail

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is needed when traveling to USA. There is nothing for free over there, that includes medical costs. A simple broken arm could cost $15000. I spent many hours scrolling through all the different companies and many hours on hold to speak with consultants to explain my trip to ensure that they would cover me. I checked, double checked and confirmed everything before I settled on using them as my insurer. Insurers change their policy regularly. Just because a hiker used a travel company last year doesn’t mean it will be the same this year. Read the Policy first. When you are finished read it again. Have a look at World Nomads travel Insurance.

16 Responses

    • BikeHikeSafari

      Cheers mate. I had a look a southern cross but will not work for me on this trip. I’ll check out that blog site, thanks.

  1. Scott Turner

    I’ll likely be doing some hiking in the area toward the end of April. The San Diego section is a real challenge with lack of water and heat, especially in this extremely hot and dry year. Let me know if there’s any way I can help.

    • BikeHikeSafari

      I live in the tropics and love the heat, but I will struggle in the cold. Hopefully I’m ok with the logistics at this stage, thanks for the offer. Most people seem to fear the desert, I’m really looking forward to it. Hope to see you on trail. Cheers.

  2. kelliemarquet

    I look forward to following your trek, I live in British Columbia about 90 minutes from where you will finish in Manning Park…..if you need anything, let me know, even a ride back to civilization… Happy trails. ?

    • BikeHikeSafari

      Thank you. I appreciate the offer, very nice of you. Hopefully through that part of the world late September. Not sure how I’m getting off the trail yet, it seems like such a long way away. Cheers

      • kelliemarquet

        You will be in for a beautiful finish at that time, lovely forests and rivers….the walk to Hope BC is mainly downhill, but on a dangerous stretch of highway, be careful if you choose to walk it….offer of the ride is just one option for you…cheers

  3. from.africa.to.ecuador

    So glad I stumbled across your blog. I’m also Australian and am planning to hike the PCT in 2016. Having never hiked in the US before I’m hoping I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew. I’m spending every waking minute reading as much info as I can & have ordered Yogi’s Guidebook. Any suggestions you could give to a fellow Aussie would be greatly appreciated.
    Best of luck on your hike. I’ll be following you along the way.
    Hayley

    • BikeHikeSafari

      Hi Hayley, I say go for it and don’t be too overwhelmed. Yes it’s a big hike, yes it’s harder coming from overseas but you still need to put one foot in front of the other for months on end just like everybody else. If you are on Facebook there are several pct sites that are full of people asking and answering questions. ‘Class of 2015’ is a closed group on Facebook that have 1000s of hikers that have been asking and answering questions, maybe join that group. By October when I have hopefully successfully completed the hike I should be in a better position to answer questions. I plan to be very honest in my blog about the good, bad and otherwise of the hike. Enjoy your planning.

  4. Daniel Mckinnon

    Hey, mate. I’m a fellow Australian looking to do PCT and have found this page very informative. I know its been a while since you finished, but looking back was there any other tips or info you could think of that you haven’t published that you could pass on?

    Also, where did you get the information for meal preps, to ensure your body got all the nutrition it needed for the trek? and was what you were able to eat enough to sustain energy?

    • BikeHikeSafari

      I think I covered enough info. I guess the best advice is to just do it. You will work out all the details in trail, specially with the food. It doesn’t matter what you eat when you are on trail because eventually you will get sick of it

    • Michael

      Hi Daniel. Was just googling “PCT Australian” and found this link. Are you looking to do the PCT next year? As a fellow Aussie it would be great to bounce things off each other as we go…

      I hope I don’t need to fly to Sydney just to apply for a travel visa… seems ridiculous !!

      • BikeHikeSafari

        Hi Michael, not sure if Daniel will see this message, unless he clicked the box to receive email about these comments. I’m not sure where you live but the interviews for the visas only take place in the USA consulates. Do a google search. When I applied for my visa that meant flying to either Sydney, Melbourne or Perth. All were a long way from my home in Darwin. If you have any further questions that I could help you with let me know. Always willing to help a fellow Aussie hiker. Cheers Brad

  5. Daniel

    Hi there Brad,

    Your information is really helpful for us aussies wanting to do this. I don’t have much hiking experience compared to most that would attempt the PCT, the only hike Iv’e done is the Gillispie & Rabbit Pass in NZ. One thing that is daunting and confusing is the resupply, knowing how much I will need to get me to the next resupply, when I will reach the next resupply place..things like this. Do you order resupplies for EVER spot along the trail or do you skip and order for every second spot along the trail. I really want to do this, I’m a nomadic guy and doing this is really something I find exciting, but it’s the planning side which holds me back. What is the best order to plan my trip….ie: permits first, visas first, flights first….etc. Thanks for taking the time to get back to me if you can, I appreciate it. I would love to go this year April/May 2017.

    • BikeHikeSafari

      Lots to answer but I will try. First thing is the visa. It is annoying and depending where you live you might need to travel. I had a 4.5 hour flight from Darwin to Sydney. Info on my website.

      Second would be the permit. It is available on the PCTAssociation website. It’s an annoying process to get the dates you want, specially when coming from overseas, when the time comes and you don’t get your desired date just pick one nearby and go for it.

      Then flights, then planning resupply ect. I bought almost all my food locally while hiking the trail. I would hitch hike into the nearest town, eat at a restaurant, find a grocery store and buy my resupply from there. Some places were better than others. I packed resupply boxes fir some small places but not many.

      At some large towns I would pack up a resupply box with nice food and post it to myself in a small town that might only have a gas station that sells grocery food.

      Further info on resupply can be found in ‘yogis guide’ an expensive guidebook in the trail. You can get it on Amazon, I think I have a link on my website.

      I also used a bounce box, which is just a cardboard box I picked up at a grocery store with all my excess items. Passport, computer, extra food, town clothes to look good on the airplane ect. I constantly posted this to myself as I hiked up the trail. If I needed it I would get it from the post office, sometimes just to pick out some good food that I had there like freeze dried meals etc. other times I would bounce the box further up the trail. Which means telling the post office I don’t want my box and can they forward it to the next town or two away. If you don’t pick up the box it’s free to bounce it to another location.

      As for experience it helps a lot but is not a requirement. Try to get some hiking experience in the next 12 months it might help you from making silly mistakes. We all make them, it’s not if, it’s when. You will learn on the trail. There are many hikers on the pct with no hiking experience and they complete the trail. Mental strength is the thing that will keep you going. Can’t teach that.

      Good luck in the planning. Any more help I can give let me know.

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