Sustainable Land Management on the Pacific Crest Trail: A Qualitative Investigation


  • Marni Goldenberg California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo
  • Keri Schwab Cal Poly
  • Terra Bilhorn
  • June Murray



land management, Pacific Crest Trail, Leave No Trace, hiker education, thru-hikers


The Pacific Crest Trail is a National Scenic Trail that runs from Mexico to Canada. Use of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) has increased in the past 20 years. It is important to understand how an increase in use can impact the environment and sustainable practices, land management practices, and the hiker experience. Participants included 15 land managers in California and 25 thru-hikers who completed the PCT. In-depth interviews were conducted, and participants were asked questions about hiker interactions, trail angels, land manager interactions, and the permitting process. Data were transcribed verbatim and coded by three independent coders to reach a 90% inter-rater reliability. Emerging themes included: human impacts, permitting and education, and rule enforcement. Hikers also talked about the benefits of in-person education and the need for consistent communication between thru-hikers and land managers. Recommendations for sustainable practices include improvements to the permitting system, education, enforcement, and communication.

Author Biography

Marni Goldenberg, California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo

Professor, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo


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Special Issue: Fostering a Culture of Sustainability through Outdoor Recreation