Whether you’re a seasoned backcountry rockstar or it’s your first foray off the campground, planning ahead is always important when it comes to wilderness exploring. While many national and state parks grant same-day permits to backcountry hikers, there are some whose popularity makes the process a little trickier.
Where You Need to Reserve Backcountry Permits
If you want to venture away from crowded campgrounds next summer, now is the time to start thinking about your backcountry permits. Here are 5 backcountry permits you will need to apply for in advance.
1. Glacier National Park, Montana
While Glacier National Park does allow same-day and next-day permits, it has what is called a ‘50-50 policy’, meaning only half of the permits are held for backcountry campers who wait until the day of. Since this is one of the most sought-after wilderness camping locations in the whole of the United States, it’s recommended that visitors take advantage of the advance reservations system. All you need to do to secure a permit of your own is apply online at least one month ahead. In the high season, it’s a much safer bet than rolling the dice!
Backcountry permits for Glacier National park can be reserved starting on March 1 for groups of 9-12 campers and on March 15 for smaller groups.
2. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
You have a better chance of securing a same-day permit at Grand Teton National Park than Glacier. But this is another park that is extremely popular during the high season. Unless you want to show up at the backcountry permit office at 5 am, it’s a good idea to reserve your permit online in advance.
You can reserve your Grand Teton National Park permit starting on the first Wednesday of January.
3. John Muir Trail, California
Hiking the John Muir Trail is a thrilling challenge to undertake. It might also be the most confusing backcountry experience when it comes to permits. Spanning 211 miles from Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney, the trail covers multiple national parks. If you’re entering at the northern terminus, you’ll need a Yosemite Wilderness Permit. If you’re starting at the southern Terminus, you’ll need a permit for Inyo National Forest. Once you’ve selected your route, check the national parks you’ll be crossing for more information on the necessary permits.
4. Sequoia and Kings Canyon, California
“The Land of the Giants,” is actually two national parks, located side by side. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks provide double the drama for scenery and adventure, with their massive trees, rugged mountains, and seemingly endless backcountry trails.
If you want to surround yourself with the giant sequoias in the backcountry, you’re going to need a permit. The two parks have a backcountry permit quota system that is used during crowded times, including the summer months. During these quota periods, campers hoping to nab a same-day permit are at the mercy of the rangers, and there is really no good method in place that will alert campers on whether the quota has been hit or not. That’s why campers should skip the stress and take advantage of their advance reservation system.
Reserve your backcountry permit for Sequoia and Kings Canyon starting on March 1.
5. Yosemite National Park, California
Like all of the other parks we’ve mentioned, Yosemite National Park is extremely popular and almost always full during the high season. While the park does grant same-day permits, they do not start issuing them until 11 am, meaning you could be wasting precious trail time while you’re waiting in line! Luckily, Yosemite now allows backcountry campers to place reservations a full 24 weeks in advance. Protip: If you are planning to hike Half-Dome, you will need to apply for a special day-hike permit.
Nab your wilderness permit reservation for Yosemite National Park 24 weeks before you want to hit the trail.
Don’t miss out on these awesome adventures because you forgot to reserve a backcountry permit. There’s no guarantee that you’ll get one, even if you do try to reserve in advance, but mark your calendar to increase your chances. You’ll be glad you did.
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