Covers all forest and wilderness areas along the PCT. Free, but a $5 donation is suggested. Download here and mail to the address shown.
Time for submission: after January 31
Mt. Whitney permit
The tallest mountain in the lower 48 states requires a permit to climb. This can be acquired for $15 using the general PCT permit form. It is dubious whether you really need this permit, as it covers the climb in from Whitney Portal, on the east side of the mountain. Some people say that this is a way of "fishing for money." This seems to be true; further research reveals that the permit is for entering the "Whitney Zone" (see map), which one would never formally enter climbing up the mountain from the west. However, a visitor has commented:
I noticed on your PCT blog that you have the Whitney Zone only including the Whitney Portal side of the mountain. I was up there last year and the Whitney Zone now starts outside of Crabtree Meadow on the backside. They also require wagbags in that area which are available as you enter the Whitney Zone.
But after this, I read on postholer.com:
Note: The Mt. Whitney permit is only required if one is exiting and re-entering the PCT through Whitney Portal to the East; it is NOT required for climbing Mt. Whitney from the West (PCT, Crabtree Meadows) and returning to the PCT.
This is all really confusing...!
ADDED LATER: I ended up getting the $15 Whitney permit just in case.
Application to enter Canada
Download free application here, send it to the address shown. It's not clear whether you only mail part A or the entire thing. In a podcast I heard that they mail a letter back to you, and you'll need to have that with you as you cross the Canadian border.
Time for submission: 2-3 months before you begin your trek (so right now for me)
*Note: you must have a U.S. passport to reenter the U.S. from Canada!
California fire permit
This is "strongly recommended," but is it required? I don't know. You can download it and read instructions here, and you apparently don't have to send it anywhere, but just carry it on your person. Also, it is almost certain that thru-hikers will be able to get a permit at the annual ADZPCTKO event on April 25 (see previous post).
So, to summarize, I need to get moving and send in 3 permits (PCT, Canada, CA fire). Total cost = $5 (or $20 if I get the Whitney permit). Easy enough!
ADDED THREE WEEKS LATER:
Permits received! Read about it here.