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Sections of Pacific Crest Trail Poached by Mountain Bikers; Could Problems Arise in National Parks?


Mountain bikers have been poaching sections of the Pacific Crest Trail in California. USFS photo.

The Pacific Crest Trail ranges from Canada to Mexico, running through Washington, Oregon, and California along the way, traversing not one but seven units of the National Park System in the process.

On its way north and south portions of the trail touch or run through parts of Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, Devils Postpile National Monument, Crater Lake National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, Lassen Volcanic National Park, and North Cascades National Park.

While mountain bikers are not supposed to use the Pacific Crest Trail, recently some have been poaching sections in California. While the poaching did not occur in any national park sections, some have concerns that a rule currently pending in the Interior Department could open more national park trails to mountain bikes and, in the process, lead to the following scenario.

In its February issue, the PCT Communicator, the magazine of the Pacific Crest Trail Association, reported on trail damage committed by mountain bikes near the Parks Creek Trailhead in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in California.

From Big Bear to the Tehachapi Mountains in southern California, to Donner Summit and the Sierra Buttes north of Lake Tahoe, to Castle Crags and beyond, mountain bikes on the trail are causing damage and creating a number of "PCT Places in Need."

According to the trail association, "under U.S. Government regulation, bikes are prohibited in the PCT. The rationale for the prohibition of bicycles is based on the "nature and purpose" of the PCT, as dictated by the intent of Congress with the National Trails System Act and subsequent regulations designed to protect the experience of the primary users. The Code of Federal Regulations (36 CRF 212) directs that "The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail as defined by the National Trails Systems Act, 82 Stat. 919, shall be administered primarily as a footpath and horseback riding trail."

"Unfortunately, however, U.S. regulations and regulators have not, thus far, been able to fully curb the illegal use of the PCT by mountain bikers," adds the article. "The resulting trail damage and user conflicts can't be taken lightly. To complicate matters, bikes are permitted on many trails that lead to the PCT, resulting in bikers reaching the PCT on such trails and then proceeding along the PCT to pick up another feeder trail. Given land management agency staffing and budget issues, policing and enforcement is sorely lacking."

The article goes on to point out the problems associated with mountain bikes on the Pacific Crest Trail: the trail was not engineered to handle mountain bike traffic, it can be easily and quickly ripped up by bikes riding in wet and muddy conditions, erosion problems can arise.

"I can't stress enough the importance of responsible trail users reporting illegal uses of the PCT," says Ian Nelson, the trail association's regional representative for northern California and southern Oregon. "It is crucial that we hear from concerned users so that we and our agency partners can strategize as to how to curb the illegal use."


Unfair rules and laws are rarely followed. Many cyclists have figured out already that they're better off riding the PCT rather than waiting for the elusive time when it will become legal (although that time might be approaching faster than you think). Whether anonymous thinks that the cyclist is an idiot or not is completely irrelevant to the cyclist. Cyclist got to have fun without harming anyone.

So, who's the idiot? The cyclist grinning from ear to ear, or Anonymous seething with anger over some trivial violation?

While i too would like to see more ( not all) trails opened to biking, i strongly disagree with your ignoring the rules just because you believe they are "ridiculous". If everyone did that, we would have no rules (laws). Work within the system to make change. ignoring the rules just makes people think more deeply that you are a "collective mass of idiots".

I have found that when confronted by trail users adverse to my cycling on the PCT, the closer I am to a trailhead, the more vile, hate filled and angry the offended hikers are. I have found through my own extensive experiences on the trail that your typical thru hiker is less likely to have issues with sharing the trail. The fact that the PCT travels through a very large amount of wilderness and also huge expanses of desolate lands void of another human for miles and miles, that encountering bikers on the BLM sections would not jeapardize or minimize a thru-hiker's experience. Typically, your thru hiker is motivated by adventure and acomplishment of completing an extremly difficult task rather than being driven only by a peaceful, serene experience. Most hikers looking for a serene and quiet experience will rightfully choose trails in the wilderness areas and are able to plan accordingly. Split-mode (Ron 10/10/12) I suspect that you are far from a thru hiker (perhaps I am wrong, but I doubt it). Quite frankly, while we all are throwing out our generalizations, I suggest a vast majority of the anti bike posters here log very few miles on the trail. It amazes me when I speak with trail users from other areas in the country (CO, ID, UT, NM) they can not relate to the elitist mentality of excluding a user group from trails based on your mode of transportation.

As for the "legal" aspect (Marc Taylor 9/28/10) suggests we are "a collective mass of idiots" all breaking the law and satisfying our soft, self absorbed interests. Marc, REALLY? Your post concerns me. It is ovious you have some control issues. God forbid a child misbehaves in a public forum, rather beat them into submission so that they obey your commands - you must be a joy to live with/be around. Your mentality sums up the elitist and narrow minded approach to THIS issue. No-one is getting killed here, no one is endangering lives (contrary to some of the extreme posts here)' we are speaking of the rights for all to enjoy equal rights to a TRAIL. I suggest we resist being soft and just adhere to a mismanaged rule just because that is the way it is. We are Americans and therefore instead of putting our heads down and being ushered around like sheep, we need to resist ridiculous restrictions, question why those rules are being enforced and do what we can to adjust our rules and laws to ensure that we are on the right track.

We will get there. Times are changing. While I believe that trail users in populated areas (Southern California) have a challenge in their attempts to co-exist, the "laws" are being looked at and I truly believe that forward thinking minds will acknowledge and address the user issues/restrictions and change the restrictions.

Please take note of the Colorado Trail/Continental Divide Trail, similar issues with a rational multi-use mentality (non-wilderness areas).

Mode separation is required. It is not possible to have a pleasant thru-hike of the PCT if mountain bikers are part of the equation. Equestrians simply do not seek every opportunity to gallop their steeds, while many mountain machine riders do. Sad but true. What cyclists need to have a great trail experience is much different than what quiet recreationists need. And that is all right. Mountain bikers should harness their community and build a Mexico to Canada bike only trial. Go for it.

I'll even support the effort by making a donation. Likewise, I helped start the Trail Skills College in Cascade Locks, Oregon and mountain bikers have always been made welcome.


Because horses damage trails far worse doesn't mean that mounatin bikes don't. Use of both should be limited if, when, and where damage to trails begins to occur.

mountainbikes damage trails? in my experience horses are far far worse and nobody seems to have issues with them. it's the cuteness factor horses have and mountainbikes lack.

Mtn bikers shoulder be allowed on all trails, they cause no more damage than any other activity. If damage is caused, it could be from any disrespectful hiker, equestrian, or biker. If everyone resected one another and whatever there passion may be, we all could enjoy the beautiful trails and parks that this country has to offer.

Does your own statement above not list the PCT shopudl be available for all? MTB users/riders are a large segment of the outdoor populace.

Also, equines do far more environmental damage than mountain bikes do.

I say share the trail and all trails for ALL just as you state in your article.

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