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Backcountry Permits

Secrets Revealed: How to Score Backcountry Permits for Your Dream Hike

Secrets Revealed: How to Score Backcountry Permits for Your Dream Hike

Are you planning your dream hike in the backcountry but struggling to secure a permit? You’re not alone. The popularity of hiking and backpacking has grown exponentially in recent years, making it increasingly difficult to obtain backcountry permits for some of the most sought-after trails and destinations. But fear not, as there are ways to increase your chances of scoring the backcountry permit you need for a memorable hiking trip.

Plan Ahead

One of the key factors in securing a backcountry permit is planning ahead. Most parks and wilderness areas have a limited number of permits available each day, so it’s important to do your research in advance and determine when the permit application process opens. Some parks and wilderness areas have an online application system, while others may require in-person or mail-in applications. Be sure to check the specific requirements for the area you plan to visit.

Be Flexible

Flexibility is another factor that can increase your chances of obtaining a backcountry permit. If you have a specific trail or destination in mind, it may be more difficult to secure a permit, especially during peak season. Consider alternative routes or destinations that may be less popular but still provide a rewarding hiking experience. Additionally, consider hiking during the shoulder season when there may be fewer crowds and permit availability may be higher.

Join a Group

Many parks and wilderness areas give priority to groups when issuing backcountry permits. Consider joining a hiking or backpacking group for your trip to increase your chances of obtaining a permit. Not only will this increase your chances of obtaining a permit, but it can also enhance your hiking experience by providing a sense of community and camaraderie.

Check for Last-Minute Availability

If all else fails and you haven’t been able to secure a permit in advance, check for last-minute availability. Parks and wilderness areas may have a limited number of permits available for walk-ins on a first-come, first-served basis. Additionally, some permit holders may cancel their trip, opening up availability for others. Check with the park or wilderness area ranger station for up-to-date information on last-minute permit availability.


Scoring a backcountry permit may seem like a daunting task, but with proper planning, flexibility, and persistence, it’s possible to obtain the permit you need for a memorable hiking trip. By following the tips outlined in this article, you’ll be on your way to securing the backcountry permit you need to experience the beauty of some of the most sought-after hiking destinations in the world.

Secrets Revealed: How to Score Backcountry Permits for Your Dream Hike FAQ

What is a backcountry permit for hiking?

A backcountry permit for hiking is a legal document that authorizes backpackers and hikers to access and stay overnight in federally designated wilderness areas, national parks, and forests. These permits are necessary to ensure that the number of people in a given area does not exceed the ecological capacity of the environment, protecting both the area and its visitors.

When and where should I apply for a backcountry permit?

You should apply for a backcountry permit as early as possible, usually between two and six months in advance, depending on the location and season. Most wilderness areas require permits from a ranger station or visitor center, which may have different application schedules and procedures. Check the regulations and guidelines of the specific area before making any plans, and be flexible with your dates and routes.

Who needs a backcountry permit for hiking?

Anyone who plans to hike, camp, or spend a night in the wilderness areas and national parks that require backcountry permits needs to obtain one before entering. This includes individuals, groups, and families, regardless of their experience level, age, or purpose of the trip. Exceptions may apply for day-use only or for certain activities such as climbing or fishing, depending on the area.

What information do I need to provide to apply for a backcountry permit?

You will need to provide basic personal information such as your name, address, phone number, and email address, as well as the group size, dates, and detailed itinerary of your trip. You may also need to specify the intended campsites or zones, emergency contacts, equipment, and experience level. Some areas may require additional permits, fees, or reservations for certain activities or campsites.

How long does it take to get a backcountry permit for hiking?

The processing time for a backcountry permit for hiking varies depending on the area and the season, ranging from a few hours to several weeks. Most areas prioritize first-come, first-served permits, which means that you may need to wait in line or apply early in-person or online to secure your permit. Some areas also offer lottery or reservation systems, which require advanced planning and sometimes incur additional fees.

What happens if I hike without a backcountry permit?

Hiking without a backcountry permit is against the law and can result in fines, confiscation of equipment, or even criminal charges. It also puts you and others at risk of accidents, injuries, or emergencies, as the rangers and rescue teams may not be aware of your presence or location. Always follow the regulations and guidelines of the wilderness areas and national parks you visit, and be respectful and responsible towards the environment and other visitors.

How can I increase my chances of getting a backcountry permit for hiking?

You can increase your chances of getting a backcountry permit for hiking by being prepared, flexible, and respectful. Research the area carefully in advance, and have a few alternative routes and campsites in mind, in case your first choices are already full. Apply early and during off-peak seasons if possible, and consider mid-week or shoulder seasons instead of weekends or peak seasons. Be honest and accurate about your experience level and intentions, and follow the Leave No Trace principles to minimize your impact on the environment.

What are some popular wilderness areas and national parks that require backcountry permits for hiking?

  • Yosemite National Park, California
  • Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
  • Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
  • Glacier National Park, Montana
  • Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
  • The Enchantments wilderness area, Washington
  • Mount Whitney, Inyo National Forest, California
  • The Wave, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona
  • The Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah
  • The Appalachian Trail, various states on the East Coast

Related Products for Backcountry Permits for Hiking

If you are looking to embark on a dream hike, you need to obtain backcountry permits to access these areas. Here are some recommended products to enhance your hiking experience and to help you score backcountry permits.

  • Backpacks
    A sturdy and reliable backpack is essential for any backcountry hiking trip. Look for one with a comfortable fit, waterproof material, and ample storage space to carry all of your hiking essentials.
  • Hiking Boots/Shoes
    Invest in a good pair of hiking boots or shoes that provide support, durability, and traction. Look for ones that are specifically designed for backcountry hiking.
  • Trekking Poles
    Trekking poles can help reduce strain on your knees and improve stability on steep or uneven terrain. Look for adjustable, lightweight, and collapsible options for easy packing.
  • GPS/Navigation Devices
    When hiking in remote or backcountry areas, it is essential to have reliable navigation tools. Consider investing in a GPS or other device to help you navigate and track your progress.
  • Water Filtration System
    Access to clean drinking water can be limited in backcountry areas. A water filtration system can ensure that you have access to clean water throughout your hike.
  • Emergency Gear
    Always be prepared for the unexpected while hiking in the backcountry. Consider carrying a first-aid kit, waterproof matches, a fire starter, a whistle, and a signal mirror.
  • Bear Spray
    Some backcountry areas are home to bears and other wildlife. Bear spray can provide an added layer of protection in case of an encounter with a wild animal.
  • Guidebooks and Maps
    Guidebooks and maps can offer valuable information about the route, terrain, and potential hazards of your hiking trail. It is important to familiarize yourself with the area before setting out on your hike.
  • Camping Gear
    Some backcountry hiking trips require overnight camping. Invest in lightweight and compact camping gear such as tents, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads to make your trip comfortable.
  • Portable Chargers/Power Banks
    Keep your devices and gadgets charged throughout your hike by investing in a portable charger or power bank. These can be easily recharged using solar power or other means.
  • Extra Clothing Layers
    Weather conditions can change quickly in backcountry areas. It is important to pack extra clothing layers such as rain gear, warm layers, and dry socks to stay comfortable and dry.
  • Pros & Cons of Scoring Backcountry Permits for Your Dream Hike


    • Guaranteed Access – By obtaining a backcountry permit, you are guaranteed access to designated backcountry areas, ensuring that you can embark on your dream hike without any obstacles.
    • Better Experience – When you score a backcountry permit, you get to enjoy a more immersive experience because you can stay for multiple days or longer, which means you get to experience the full range of backcountry adventure.
    • Safety – Backcountry permits are designed to ensure you have a safe experience. Information on the permit helps park officials and rangers know where you are and where you’re supposed to be, so it allows them to monitor your safety and wellbeing.
    • Environment and resource protection – Backcountry permits help limit the number of people in a designated area, which aims to protect natural resources, ensure an enjoyable natural experience, and prevent overuse of the area by visitors.
    • Less Crowded – By requiring that visitors obtain a backcountry permit, it helps regulate the number of visitors, preventing overcrowding. This makes the experience less crowded, and you have the opportunity to enjoy secluded, beautiful, and peaceful surroundings.
    • Better for Planning – Planning a backcountry trip takes time, effort, and good logistics. By getting a backcountry permit, you can not only save time but also make sure you secure a spot on the desired date with assurance, this allows you to plan and prepare more for the adventure.


    • Competitive reservation process – To score a backcountry permit, you need to go through a competitive reservation process, which can make it difficult to reserve a permit for your preferred date, especially in the peak season.
    • Rules and Regulations – Obtaining a permit means you have to follow the rules and regulations set by the park authority, which may limit your freedom somewhat. Failing to comply with the rules and regulations can lead to serious consequences, which can jeopardize your trip and safety.
    • Strict Itinerary – Once you score a permit, you may have to follow a strict itinerary, even if the conditions change. If you fail to follow the plan, you could receive a penalty or even face punishment, which could ruin your entire tour.
    • Additional Cost – Some parks require fees to obtain backcountry permits, which can be additional expenses and may even be relatively high, which could be a setback to some visitors depending on their budget.
    • Less Spontaneous – By securing a permit, you’re committed to the planned hike route, date, and destination, which can reduce the spontaneity of your trip; you might miss out on unexpected natural wonders outside of your planned route or discover hidden gems that might require an extended stay that you can’t commit to due to the permit’s strict schedule.
    • Weather Chaos – If there are weather changes, the park authorities may shift your backcountry permit to another spot. Changing your itinerary can lead to missing out on seeing everything on your plan or further planning and traveling can lead to additional expenses and time.

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