Updated: Jul 2, 2019 @ 3:56 pm

Australian hiking the Pacific Crest Trail

Pacific Crest Trail permit (address blanked out!)

 

Australian Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail

  • Most of this information is useful if a hiker is planning to hike any other long trail in USA such as the Appalachian Trail or Continental Divide Trail.
  • For an Australian hiker there are many things that need to be done prior to hiking Pacific Crest Trail.
  • Visas for USA for an Australian hiking the Pacific Crest Trail
  • 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

Step 1.

  • The Australian 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 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 or Appalachian 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.
  • You should make a booking to get your visa AT LEAST 6 months before the start of the hike. Remember there is no guarantee that you will get the visa.

USA visa information here


Permits

Step 2.

  • 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

Step 3.


Travel Insurance for Hikers

Step 4.

  • 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 always check, double checked and confirm everything before I settled on using them an 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. I use World Nomads travel Insurance. I’ve used them for many years and they covered my thru hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail.
  • Check out their prices below.

 

 


Getting to USA

Step 5.

  • I will assume that most people reading this have traveled overseas. But nonetheless I will pass on some small bits of wisdom.
  • I’ll just put it out there that I like Qantas. If you are starting the PCT hiking northbound then you will want to arrive in Los Angeles, not Dallas or San Franscisco. From there it is a short flight to San Diego. Even better, take the train. It is easy and cheap.
  • Also, make sure you let your bank know that you are going overseas. Some banks get all security conscious when your card is used in another country. And take two credit cards. It would suck if you lost one and had no cash.

Resupply

Step 6.

  • Now comes the fun bit. Or stressful bit for many people.
  • 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. There multiple blogs that advise to do this. IT IS NOT NECESSARY. You can buy food from local stores as you go. Don’t worry and don’t stress. trust me it will work out.
  • If you choose to make up resupply boxes, then all I can do is wish you luck. You will need a couple of preparation days in USA buying, packing and sending boxes. It can be cheaper to do this (sometimes) but it can also be a big mistake. What if you buy six months supplies of Pop Tarts for breakfast only to be sick of them after the first week. If you don’t know what Pop Tarts are then you will within your first week of hiking the PCT.
  • So here are your options…

Buy as you go

  • A great option, the best option in my opinion. 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 spending a bit more.
  • The best situation for me was a combination of resupply boxes (only when needed) 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. Note: I have not used any of these companies.

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 $20 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. I found them very reliable and never had any problems.

Click here to read more about my Resupply Strategy on the PCT


Getting to the start of the trail

Step 7.

  • We are almost there. All we need to do is make it to the start of the trail. I’d love to help you out with the planning but the best resource is the PCTA website. Check out the link below.

Transportation to the start of the trail


Step 8.

  • Chill out, grab a drink and read the daily blog of my hike. Beware, it might be addictive. Thru hiking might be addictive. Really it is.

Are you an Aussie or Kiwi and planning to hike the Pacific Crest Trail? If you have any questions let me know in the comments section below.


Next you should read about:

Training and Shakedown hikes
Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail


Where to buy all the best gear for hiking:
REI | Moosejaw |Wild Earth Australia |Amazon


Traveling Overseas to go Hiking?
World Nomads Travel Insurance

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31 Responses

  1. Blake

    Hey, thank you this was very helpful. Just wondering how much did it cost you. Including: gear, food and travailing there and back.

    Reply
    • BikeHikeSafari

      I found New Zealand to be expensive due to the lack of free camping in many places. I spent about NZ$10000 for the hike including everything. Many people did it cheaper and many spent more. The North Island is more expensive than the south due to so many towns that you hike through and having a place to buy food every other day made a burger all the more appealing. The wilds of the south island will be cheaper. Some hiking gear is much more expensive than other areas in the world but take into account the exchange rate when working that out.

      Reply
  2. Darrell

    Hey Brad,
    Great site. Very helpful.

    We are doing the Oregon section of the PCT this year. How did you pack you gear for the flight. I’m thinking we will carry on our packs (Zpacks, so I think they will be OK for carry on) and inside the packs we will carry most of our items. I was thinking of checking on a suitcase with the items that might not make it as carry on (poles, cook system etc) and then bin the case once we reach the trail. Although reading your post I guess we could send the case as a bounce box.

    Darrell

    Reply
    • BikeHikeSafari

      Lots of options for flights. Zpacks might be a bit fragile for check in but also might be a but too big for carry on depending on the airline. I’ve bought check duffel bags at OP shops in the past for check in bags then dumped them when I arrived at my destination. Just make sure to check your stove and trekking poles, tent and pegs etc.
      I used a cardboard box from a grocery store as my bounce box. They don’t last long so I’d get a new one every month. I usually packed my travel clothes, spare tent pegs, computer etc and send it up the trail every couple of weeks to towns I’d stay at. I guess much easier if only doing the Oregon section. I found the post service very reliable and had no issues.

      Reply
  3. shannon

    Any ideas on what to say for an address within the USA to put on my visa application?
    I’m stumped hahahaha

    Reply
    • BikeHikeSafari

      I honestly can’t remember having to put an address on the visa application. When arriving by plane I would use either friends address or the address of a hostel/hotel that I was staying.

      Reply
  4. Sue

    Hi Brad

    I have found your site informative. I have a son hiking the PCT at the moment, about to enter Oregon. He has a 5yr B2 visa with a maximum 6 months stay at a time. He is hoping to make it to Canada by then where he will spend some time there – he has a Canadian visa.
    As there is no border station where the PCT enters Canada and it is most likely that he will finish within the six month deadline (just), how does he let US authorities know that he has left US so that his visa is not affected on future re-entry into US

    Reply
    • BikeHikeSafari

      Hi Sue,

      Firstly, I assume your son has already applied for and is carrying his Canadian Entry Permit. I applied for mine while in Australia it was very quick and simple.
      https://www.pcta.org/discover-the-trail/permits/canada-pct-entry-permit/

      The link to the information is on the pacific crest trail website, link above.

      If he has that approved permit with him then that is all he will need. When I re-entered USA after spending some time in Canada I tried to show the border officer but they didn’t even care.

      If re-entering USA after the 6 months has expired then they issue another 6 months at their discretion. Many people are refused as it may be considered that they are jumping across the border just to get another 6 months. If there is still time on his visa they usually don’t issue another 6 months. I tried this twice while going across the border into Canada. Once I got another 6 months. Another time I was refused. Having a confirmed onward flight ticket helped.

      Basically if he has the entry permit to Canada he will be fine. When you leave USA it is normal not to get stamped out. I also had that happen twice when going to Mexico. You don’t clear customs on the USA side. So I thought, how do they know I left!!! Should not be a problem for your son.

      Reply
  5. Jerry McHire

    Hey Mate! Cracking site. Wondering if you have any recommendations for a fellow Aussie in regards to picking up a SIM for hiking the PCT. Any tips? Cheers.

    Reply
    • BikeHikeSafari

      Thanks for the kind words. Definitely pick up your SIM at either the airport when you arrive or even better get it from a Walmart store (search in google to find the nearest). The two best networks are ATT and Verizon. Forget the other options.
      Verizon is kinda like Telstra, so much bigger and better with great coverage almost everywhere, however, ATT has better coverage in the Californian desert. I used ATT which was great on the PCT but on the other trails (CDT and AT) Verizon was much better. Oh, and ATT can be used in Canada free of charge (no Roaming charges).
      Good luck.

      Reply
  6. fran white

    Hi thanks for the info you’ve shared! I’m a kiwi hiker and just wondering what you did for money – cash, oz card, did you open an account in the us?

    Reply
    • BikeHikeSafari

      Hi Fran, I used my Oz Visa and MasterCard to withdraw local money in USA. I always kept my account in credit to stop excessive daily interest charges. Also, it is normal in USA to pay for everything, no matter how small with credit card so no need to carry too much cash on you. I just reviewed my account every month to keep track of expenses. It worked well for me.

      Reply
    • Robert

      You need a US Social Security Number to open a US bank account.

      Slow and Steady
      PCT Thru-Hikers 2010
      Perth, Australia

      Reply
      • BikeHikeSafari

        Why open a USA bank account if you are an Aussie or Kiwi hiking the PCT, would be a waste of time. Just use your home account, just make sure they know you are traveling overseas, some banks are very security conscious.

  7. 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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  8. 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?

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply
    • 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 !!

      Reply
      • 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

  9. 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

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  10. 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. ?

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply
      • 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

  11. 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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  12. dandru

    Lots of good info there, I use Southern Cross Travel Insurance but another for checking prices is a plus. Here’s some inspiration, Swami is an aussie guy and his blog is great. –

    Reply

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