I just received my approved Canada border entry permit in the mail the other day. Woo-ha! Now all the required documents to hike the PCT are on hand: Pacific Crest Trail hiking permit, Canada border entry permit, and U.S. visa.
The Pacific Crest Trail hiking permit is issued bye the Pacific Crest Trail Association in cooperation with and with the authorization of federal and state land management agencies (National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management etc.). The PCTA can issue permits to hikers who are hiking at least 500 miles consecutively along the PCT. Application instructions for the permit can be found at www.pcta.org. The permit is actually free of charge, but PCTA membership and donations are encouraged. Strictly speaking it is possible to hike the PCT without a PCT permit, but that would mean that you have to get separate permits for each and every national park, national monument etc. Unless you are only hiking shorter sections, save yourself a lot of work and just get the PCT permit. The people at PCTA are doing a great job helping us thru hikers and I have of course become a paying member of the PCTA. I encourage everybody else who are planning to hike the PCT to do the same.
The Canada border entry permit is required for anyone who are entering Canada on the PCT. The permit is issued by Canada Border Services Agency, and can be applied for no more than 3 months in advance of you planned departure on the PCT. Link to the application form can be found at www.pcta.org. The permit is valid for entry from the U.S. to Canada only. At the time of this writing there is no legal way of entering from Canada to the U.S. on the PCT.
Most non-American and non-Canadian residents need a visa to go to the U.S. Residents of some countries can also travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program. However, the Visa Waiver Program will only allow you to stay for a maximum of 90 days, including any stay in Canada. Most hikers take 4-5 months to hike the PCT, and also have to calculate for some slack at the beginning and end of the hike. Unless you are going for a speed record 90 days probably won’t be sufficient for a thru hike. Get a visa.
The only permit that I haven’t obtained yet is the California Campfire Permit. This permit is required in order to use campfires, stoves or lanterns outside of developed campgrounds in California. The permit is free of charge. It used to be possible to obtain the permit online, but it now seems that you have to meet up in person at a U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, BLM, or California Division of Forestry office. I will obtain this before I start out from Campo.