The Cleveland National Forest is the gateway for a short or long multi-day overnight experience on the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT). Spanning a vast 2,663 miles in length, the PCT begins on a low hill near Campo and runs northbound towards the Canadian Border in British Columbia. 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.
Those looking to travel 500 continuous miles or more on the Pacific Crest Trail can apply for a long-distance permit through the PCTA.org website . Long distance permits are limited to 50 individuals per day to start from the Southern Terminus during peak months (March-June).
For those looking to hike less than 500 miles with a starting point located near or within the Cleveland National Forest, please use this webpage to obtain a permit for the 2024 season.
For more information or help planning your trip, please call the Descanso Ranger District Office at (619) 445-6235 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reservations open for permit dates 1 month prior. Reservations for permits on Mar 1 open on Feb 1 at 10am EST/7am PST.
Permit allows visitors to disperse camp on the Pacific Crest Trail through the Cleveland NF. Permit is valid for all portions of the Cleveland NF: mile 13.5 to mile 53.2 (north of Pioneer Mail Picnic Area), and mile 112.7 to mile 124.8. Permit does not authorize access across non-forest land. There is a 59 mile gap (miles 53 to mile 112) of non-forest land between the Descanso and Palomar Ranger Districts. Map
Permit is only valid to start on the entry date listed. Permit allows stays for multiple nights and may exit at other locations or trails.
Trips sponsored by organizations or commercial groups must contact the Descanso Ranger District for special use permit.
During non peak months (Jun-Feb), a non-quota dispersed camping permit is required and can be obtained by contacting the Descanso Ranger District office or by visiting the Cleveland NF dispersed camping page.
Cleveland National Forest Overnight PCT Permits are by reservation only.
Permit is only valid to start on the entry date listed.
No refunds for Cleveland National Forest Overnight PCT Permit reservations. Permit start dates cannot be changed once the reservation is made.
One week before the trip you can print the permit at home or have it saved on a mobile device that is accessible without cell coverage while on the trip.
The permit must be in the group leader’s possession during the trip and must be presented to rangers upon request. The group leader signing the permit is accepting responsibility that everyone in the group will follow the rules and regulations on the permit.
A $6.00 non-refundable reservation fee is required for each permit reservation. The reservation fees are used to finance the online reservation system.
No recreation fees are charged for the permit.
Permits can be cancelled prior to permit printing. No refunds are provided for cancellation of a permit reservation. Once the permit is printed, the permit is considered issued and any modifications or cancellations will not be allowed.
Modifications to a permit planned exit date, travel method, and vehicle information is allowed. Permit start dates cannot be modified. If you would like to change your start date, you will need to cancel your existing reservation and book a new reservation.
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