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.
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.
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.
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.
Buying Gear in Australia or in USA
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.