Many hikers will begin their Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) journey on the Cleveland National Forest heading north, and in many instances, they have questions about the road ahead. Below, you will find tips, must-know facts, permit information, gear recommendation, and proper trail etiquette as it related to the trail along the Cleveland. Many of the hikes listed can be done in one day.
Though not officially finished until spring of 1993, the Pacific Crest Trail was deemed a National Trail System in 1968. Spanning a vast 2,663 miles in length, the PCT begins on a low hill near Campo (elev. 2,915′) and runs northbound towards the Canadian Border in British Colombia. The first 110 miles of this trail is known as Section A, which starts in Campo and traverses through the Cleveland National Forest. It then passes through Lake Morena County Park, tunnels beneath Interstate 8, and climbs through chaparral, scrub oak and pines to the rim of the Laguna Mountains. Along the way hikers get rewarding views of San Diego, Mexico, the Anza-Borrego Desert, several mountain ranges, the Pacific Ocean and vast open meadows and cattle ranges.
For those interested in backpacking long distances along the PCT on the Cleveland, it is advisable to consult various resources before beginning. Those looking for permits or proprietary information can contact the Descanso Ranger District at (619) 445-6235. They can further advise on seasonal expectations, good overnight camping options, current trail hazards, and what to expect. Permits are required to hike the PCT through the Cleveland and beyond. For more information on permits please see below.
There are a variety of entry and exit points, each one offering different mileage and level of difficulty. These can be done as day hikes, or multiple day hikes. The PCT spans 110 miles through the Cleveland but many hikers choose to hike point to point, or trailhead to trailhead. To select the correct hike for you, please see some of the popular options below:
LONG DISTANCE HIKING (over 500 miles): Those looking to travel 500 continuous miles or more can apply for a long-distance permit through the PCTS.org website. Long distance permits are limited to 50 individuals per day to start from the Southern Terminus during peak months (March-June).
SECTION HIKING (less than 500 miles): For those looking to hike less than 500 miles with a starting point located near or within the Cleveland National Forest boundaries, a visitor’s permit can be obtained locally from the Descanso Ranger District on the Cleveland National Forest. The visitor’s permit is required to disperse camp within the Hauser Wilderness and on all Cleveland National Forest lands outside of the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area. Dispersed camping outside of a developed campground is not allowed in the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area.
Due to continued resource damage, and as an effort to decrease further degradation, the Descanso Ranger District has placed a seasonal limit on Visitor Permits for the section of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT) crossing District lands. Visitor’s permits are required for dispersed camping in the Hauser Wilderness and upon Forest lands along the PCT up to the southern boundary of the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area. If a PCT section hiker plans to disperse camp within these areas, they are subject to this seasonal limit. Seasonal limits do not apply to camping in the USFS Indian Flats area (Section B) north of Warner Springs.
Visitor permits will be limited seasonally from March 1st until May 15th starting in 2017, continuing annually at the discretion of the District Ranger.
For those starting their section hike closer to the San Bernardino National Forest, contact the San Jacinto Ranger District in Idyllwild at 909-382-2921.
Along the 110 miles, you may need to resupply your stock, find lodging, or pickup goods at a USPS. Below you will find a list of locations that offer a variety of services: