Pacific Crest Trail

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Welcome to the Cleveland National Forest Pacific Crest Trail Page

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.


Pacific Crest Trail California Section A

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


Day Hiking

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:


Permit Information

COVID-19 Update for PCT Travelers on the Descanso Ranger District: 

All PCT hikers, section and long-distance, are encouraged to cancel and postpone their hikes in order to reduce exposure to other visitors, Forest Service employees and volunteers, and our local communities. 

At this time, the Pacific Crest Trail remains open through the Descanso Ranger District. Certain recreation facilities on the Descanso Ranger District are closed for employee and visitor safety. Facility closures along the PCT include the following: 

Lake Morena Area: 

  • Boulder Oaks Campground  
  • Cibbets Flat Campground  

Mount Laguna Area: 

  • Burnt Rancheria Campground  
  • Desert View Picnic Area  
  • Laguna Campground  
  • Pioneer Mail Picnic Area   

All issued PCTA long-distance permits are still valid for the portion of the PCT through the Descanso Ranger District. For section hiking, Forest Order No. 02-20-02 is still in place and limits dispersed camping to anyone that does not have a long-distance permit. During this COVID-19 outbreak, the Descanso Ranger District will no longer be issuing PCT Developed Camping Permits due to our campground closures and will not be reinstating Visitor Permits for dispersed camping. Previously issued PCT Developed Camping Permits for future dates during peak season (now through May 31, 2020) are also no longer valid. All section hikers must either start further north along the PCT (past mile 54) or postpone their section hike that goes through the District. 

Additional PCT questions pertaining to the Descanso Ranger District, please call (619) 445-6235. 


LONG DISTANCE HIKING (over 500 miles): Those looking to travel 500 continuous miles or more can apply for a long-distance permit through the 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, please note the permitting system has changed. The Descanso Ranger District will no longer be issuing five (5) visitor permits per day for dispersed camping from March 1, 2020 to May 31, 2020.

Due to continued resource damage, and as an effort to decrease further degradation, the Descanso Ranger District has issued a temporary Forest Order No. 02-20-02, which restricts camping outside developed campgrounds within one-half mile of the PCT. Between March 1 - May 31, 2020, hikers and equestrians will have to have a valid PCT Long-distance Permit issued by the Pacific Crest Trail Association to disperse camp. Hikers and equestrians who do not have a PCT Long-distance Permit are required stay in developed campgrounds during this timeframe and should apply for a PCT Developed Camping Permit. Permit and supporting campground receipts/reservations serves as accepted documentation for staying in developed campgrounds. Forest Order 02-20-02 will not affect day hikers and only applies to individuals along the PCT intending to overnight camp, but do not have a PCT Long-distance Permit. In addition, this closure order only applies to lands within the Descanso Ranger District and does not apply to camping in the USFS Indian Flats area (Section B) north of Warner Springs. For more information and maps please see Forest Order No. 02-20-02


PCT Permit Information:


  • PCT Developed Camping Permits will be issued from March 1 until May 31, 2020. PCT Developed Camping Permit holders must camp in a developed campground and are not allowed to disperse camp within one-half mile on either side of the PCT through the Descanso Ranger District (Forest Order # 02-20-02).
  • To obtain a permit, please fill out the PCT Developed Camping Permit form and email it to: Permits will be issued and approved via email by administrative staff at the Alpine District Office. No permit requests will be processed by phone, fax, or mail. Visitors must print the permit and have it with them on the trip, along with documentation of developed camping receipts and/or reservations.
  • Only one individual can be assigned to each PCT Developed Camping Permit.
  • There are an unlimited number of PCT Developed Camping Permits available. PCT Developed Camping Permit holders can begin hiking any day (unlike in previous years), but are required to follow the itinerary stated on their permit.
  • Available developed campgrounds within the Descanso Ranger District for the first 50 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail include:
    • Lake Morena County Park (20 mi – non USFS land)
    • Boulder Oaks (25.1 mi), Cibbets Flat (31.6 mi)
    • Burnt Rancheria (40.2 mi)
    • Mount Laguna lodges (41 mi)
    • Laguna Campground (46.4 mi) – Laguna Campground is undergoing construction and will reopen April 1, 2020
    • Dispersed camping restrictions begin at mile 13.5 and end at mile 53.2 (north of Pioneer Mail Picnic Area).
  • PCT visitors planning to travel through the Descanso Ranger District before March 1st, 2020 or after May 31st, 2020, are not affected by these forest closure order limits. However, a visitor’s permit is still required to disperse camp along the PCT. Call the Descanso Ranger District Office at (619) 445-6235 or visit the Cleveland National Forest dispersed camping webpage for more information.
  • Those hiking through the San Bernardino National Forest, will require a separate wilderness permit. Contact the San Jacinto Ranger District in Idyllwild at (909) 382-2921 or the Mountaintop Ranger District in Fawnskin at (909) 382-2790. Be aware that Mount San Jacinto State Park has a similar wilderness permit system; they can be contacted at (951) 659-2607.


Must-Know Facts

  • Dispersed camping outside of a developed campground is not allowed in the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area.
  • Wood or charcoal fires are never allowed outside of developed campgrounds or picnic sites. However, portable stoves or lanterns that use gas, kerosene, jellied petroleum or pressurized liquid fuel are permitted unless elevated fire conditions prohibit their use.
  • Few natural water sources are available. Recreation sites with water sources include Boulder Oaks Campground, Cibbets Flat Campground, Burnt Rancheria Campground, and Desert View Picnic Area. Please check the water report for Penny Pines Trailhead.  Pioneer Mail Picnic Area water is non-potable and must be treated if used.
  • Please be prepared with water, food, and equipment. Incidents occur when hikers are unprepared for the challenges of the trip.


Resupply Locations

Along the Cleveland's 110 mile portion, 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:


Additional Resources

PCT Water Report

PCT Maps

PCT Association