Backpackers Tokyo

It’s that magical time of year — go-time for applying for 2022 national park permits for trails and adventures this summer and fall.

Some of the most beautiful parks in the US have an overtourism problem, which is why you may need an advanced permit if you want to hike or backpack through a national park this summer.

If you’re dreaming of a summer camping trip, make sure to pay close attention to that national park’s permit dates — the process for snagging them can be cutthroat. If you miss the application date for a permit for popular hikes like Yosemite’s famous Half-Dome or Zion’s Angels Landing, you’ll have to aim for a last-minute permit — or replan your trip for 2023.

Permits to hike well-known trails and permits for backcountry camping and recreation in the most-visited parks can get claimed very, very quickly. And if it’s a park that uses a lottery system, like Glacier National Park does for backcountry permits, you’ll want to be sure not to miss the entry window. (Oh, and if you win, don’t forget to claim it.)

Below is a list of every permit needed for every national park, along with the dates to know for 2022. February and March are when most permit lotteries happen, and for campsites that book six months in advance, you’ll have to start planning in January if you want to camp in August.

We’ve also included information for permits for the Wave, the Enchantments, and other popular permit-required hikes outside of national parks.

Some helpful tips for using this guide:

  • Know what 2022 national park permits you want? Press CTRL+F (on a PC) or Command+F on a Mac to jump right to your park of choice.
  • Many links below point to Recreation.gov, where many parks manage their permits processes. Though they all say “Recreation.gov” in the text, clicking on the link will take you to that specific reservation page.
  • Dates and policies change! Especially during continued COVID-19 shutdowns, parks may limit the number of passes available, stop in-person distribution, or put limits on party sizes. Be sure to check the permit pages frequently. Everything here is accurate as of publishing.
  • Create an account online in advance. The most in-demand permits usually get taken in a matter of minutes, so create an account online and fill out your form before the application opens. That way, you’ll be ready to hit “submit” right away.
  • Set a reminder for a few days before the application opens to check the website and be sure nothing has changed.
  • Do not camp without a permit (unless you’re allowed to, of course). The fine for camping without a permit can be several hundred dollars and you’ll have to leave immediately, which could be a real pain if you’ve already hiked several miles. Rangers patrol trails and campsites in national parks and regularly check for permits.
  • Wilderness permits (also called backcountry permits) mean different things at different parks. In some parks, a wilderness permit comes with assigned backcountry campsites for specific nights, while in others, it just gets you access to the backcountry trails, and you can camp anywhere you want for as many days as you want. Do your homework to get up to speed on environmental and wildlife regulations, fire regulations, limits on miles you can travel per day, etc. Every park has its own rules.
  • Some parks hire third-party operators to manage their campsites, which you can book online like a regular hotel stay. Only passes managed by the park system are listed below.

Alaska

Denali National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Apply for a free permit no more than two weeks before your trip via email if traveling between October 1 to April 14. For a summer permit, apply in person the day before you want to start at the Backcountry Information Center. Your entire party must be present and permits are first-come, first-served. Come prepared with an idea of what areas you want to camp in with a few backup plans in mind. You can also fill out the backpacking permit form in advance to speed up the process.
  • Denali or Mount Foraker permits: Applications opened Jan. 1, 2022. You must pay a climbing fee online, then apply for a special use permit. Each climber needs to pay the fee and apply for a permit. You must apply at least 60 days in advance of your climb start date, unless you’ve climbed it before, in which case you can apply for an exemption. 1,500 passes are allocated each season. Once the application is done, you cannot switch out or replace climbers, though you may add one person up to 30 days before you begin.
  • Denali Road Lottery: (CANCELLED IN 2022)

Gates of the Arctic National Park permits:

No permits are required for camping or backcountry travel in Gates of the Arctic, though it’s strongly recommended that you attend a safety briefing sand register your trip at one of the park’s visitor centers.

Glacier Bay National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Unlimited, but anyone going into the backcountry (kayakers included) must fill out the permit form and attend a backcountry orientation class.
  • Boating permits: Between May 1 and September 30, boaters must notify KWM20 Bartlett Cove when they’re entering the bay. Between June 1 and August 31, you also need to have a boating permit. 13 advanced permits open 60 days in advance (so a permit for July 15 opens May 16), and 12 permits are “short notice permits” which can apply for 48 hours in advance.
  • Rafting permits: Start by emailing the ranger station and giving them your contact info. Then, go online and pay the $25 fee to hold your spot on the list. In November, everyone on the list will get information about booking dates for the following year. You’ll have to give the rangers your preferred rafting dates for the coming year by mid-December. You’ll find out in late December if you got a permit, at which point you’ll have until mid-January to pay your fee and fill out the paperwork. Permits will be emailed May 1. The higher you are on the waiting list the more likely you are to get a permit, so email now if you’re interested in 2023 dates.

Katmai National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Not required, but you must register your trip at a backcountry information office.
  • Brooks Camp camping permit: Applications opened January 5.

Kenai Fjords National Park permits:

  • No permits/reservations needed

Kobuk Valley National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: No permits required, but you should register backcountry travel with the Northwest Arctic Heritage Center.

Lake Clark National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Not needed, but it’s recommended you fill out the backcountry registration form at the visitor center in Port Alsworth.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Not needed, but it’s recommended you fill out the backcountry registration form at one of the park’s visitor centers.

American Samoa

National Park of American Samoa permits:

  • No permits/reservations needed

Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Required. Permits for each month open roughly five months ahead of time. There’s a short window in which to apply for a permit; all applications received in that window have an equal chance of being chosen. It takes about three weeks to find out if you’ve been chosen and permits are highly competitive, so expect to enter a few times before winning a permit. Any permits not used are given out via a waitlist system: numbers are given out on a first-come, first-served basis on the day before. So if you want to start backpacking on Wednesday, go to the Backcountry Information Center as early as possible on Monday to get (hopefully) a good number for Tuesday’s lottery, which takes place at 8 A.M.
  • River permits: For a 2-5 day raft trip leaving from Diamond Creek, you can apply for a permit up to one year in advance. For longer, 15-30 day trips, you’ll need to enter the permit lottery, weighted toward groups that haven’t won before. Applications open in February for the following year’s passes, though additional lotteries are held throughout the year based on cancellations, no-shows, etc. Register on the Grand Canyon permit site in advance. Be sure to sign up for notifications of upcoming lotteries as you’ll need to do a new application for each lottery; just registering on the website does not enter you into the lottery. Here’s the full FAQ.

Petrified Forest National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Permits are required but free and unlimited. Apply in person at a visitor center.

Saguaro National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Required. Build a backcountry camp itinerary at Recreation.gov. Backcountry permits are for specific campsites. Reservations open two months in advance; April permit dates will open on February 1, etc.

Arkansas national park permits

Hot Springs National Park permits:

  • No permits/reservations needed

California

Channel Islands National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: The park has one backcountry site — Del Norde — which requires a permit year-round. Permit applications open six months ahead of time at Recreation.gov (so April permits open October 1, etc.)
  • Camping permits: Reservations required. Dates open six months ahead of time at Recreation.gov.

Death Valley National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Not required, but highly recommended in case of emergency. The park suggests emailing it your plans and details a few days before heading out.

Joshua Tree National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Required, but easy: just register on one of the backcountry registration boards throughout the park before heading out. You must also park at said board (so don’t leave your car on the side of the road elsewhere in the park).
  • Key Ranch tours: Tickets open 60 days in advance on Recreation.gov.

Kings Canyon National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Between mid-September and late May (check here for exact dates), advanced registration is not required — just pick up a backcountry permit at a visitor center. For backcountry travel in the summer, you’ll need to apply for a permit in advance. They open six months ahead of time on Recreation.gov. A small amount of permits are designated as walk-ups and given out on a first-come, first-served basis the day before starting at 1 PM at the visitors center nearest to that trailhead. The number of permits changes based on advance permit no-shows, which get added to the same-day permits for reallocation.
  • Backcountry hikes that start outside the park: If your trailhead is outside the park but will take you into park boundaries, your pass will be issued by the agency responsible for that trailhead.
  • Mount Whitney: Permits are issued via a lottery from Inyo National Forest. Applications are accepted for February 1 to March 15. Any permits unclaimed in that lottery open up for booking on April 1, and any unclaimed permits from that lottery open for booking on May 1. The process is the same for day use and overnight hikes.

Lassen Volcanic National Park permits:

 A smaller waterfall on the trail to KIngs Creek Falls.

Photo: NPS/Public Domain

  • Backcountry permits: Required, but not limited. Fill out a backcountry permit at a self-registration station near the trailhead. (FYI: you must put a tab from the registration form on your vehicle dashboard.)

Pinnacles National Park permits:

  • Camping permits: Required year-round and available up to six months in advance on Recreation.gov. Group sites can be reserved a year in advance.

Redwood National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Required year-round. You can apply up to one month in advance via a google form. Rangers download the forms in the morning, so consider applying the night before the permit date opens. There’s a separate form for the Redwood Creek area. You’ll need to know which area you want to camp in before applying.
  • Tall Trees Trail permits: Apply up to a month in advance using this form.

Sequoia National Park permits:

  • See King’s Canyon

Yosemite National Park permits:

El Cap in the famous Yosemite Valley

Photo: Suzie Dundas

  • Backcountry permits: About 60 percent of the park’s backcountry permits are allocated via a lottery on Recreation.gov, which is held weekly six months in advance of the dates (so permits for the first week of July open the first week of January). Any permits not allocated become available for booking on the same page after the lottery finishes. Between May and October, the remaining permits are issued on a first-come, first-serve basis beginning at 1 PM for the next day (so Tuesday’s permits are given out on Monday). Between the end of October and end of April, permits are issued upon arrival within the park (but much of the park is covered in deep snow).
  • Camping reservations: Reservable campsites open five months in advance on the 15th of every month at 7 AM on Recreation.gov. Sites usually fill up within minutes.
  • Camp Four: Camp 4 is the walk-in camp, also known as the climber camp, and permits are allocated via a lottery held the day before — so apply on Thursday if you want a permit for Friday. Parking is very close to the camp, so while your car won’t be at your site, it’ll be no more than a 5-minute walk away. It’s first-come, first-served outside of the summer season.
  • Half Dome permits: You need a permit to summit Half Dome and walk up the famously steep cables. The day pass lottery for the summer season is open March 1-31 on Recreation.gov. A small number of passes are also available on an ongoing basis through a lottery held two days in advance of the date, so be prepared to get to Yosemite quickly if you win. If you’re willing to risk it, you could hike the trail to the very bottom of the cables, as it’s only ascending the cables that requires a permit. It’s not unusual for hikers to reach the cables and be too tired or scared to climb them, in which case you may be able to use their pass. If you want to do Half Dome as part of a larger backpacking trip, you can add it on when you receive your backcountry permit; you don’t need to also enter the Half Dome day pass lottery.

Colorado

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park permits:

  • North Rim permits: Distributed on a first-come, first-served basis on the day you start hiking at either the South Rim Visitor Center or North Rim Ranger Station. Get there early for the best chance of getting a permit. Permits are required for both day hikers and backpackers.
  • South Rim permits: Distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis one day ahead of time. Permits for the next day are distributed beginning 90 minutes before the South Rim Visitor Center closes. During the slow season (roughly mid-October to mid-April), guests can get a permit the day of their adventure by self-registering at the visitor center.

Great Sand Dunes National Park permits:

  • Backpacking permits: Backpacking permits are required year-round for both of the park’s routes. They open at 10 AM PST three months in advance on Recreation.gov. Any available dates will remain bookable on Recreation.gov until they’re taken, meaning there are no walk-up permits offered in the park.
  • Cliff Dwelling tour reservations: Available up to 14 days in advance on Recreation.gov. Tours almost always sell out.

Mesa Verde National Park permits:

  • Camping permits: The park’s single campsite is managed by Aramark Hospitality.
  • Cliff dwelling permit: With the exception of Step House, you’ll need a pass to visit any of the park’s protected ancient cliff houses. Tickets open on Recreation.gov two weeks in advance at 8 AM MST and sell out very quickly.

Rocky Mountain National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Applications open March 2 at 8 AM MST for backcountry camping any time in May through October. The link will be posted here. Outside of that window, you can apply for a permit in person at the Beaver Meadows or Kawuneecher visitors centers, or call to request one. Advanced reservations are highly competitive, so be ready to apply come 8 AM on that day.
  • Park entry: You need a permit to enter the park between the end of May and mid-October.  To enter, you’ll to do two things: secure a timed entry permit (they are reservable one month ahead of time, so July dates open June 1) and pay a park fee (or use your America the Beautiful pass).

Florida

Biscayne National Park permits:

  • No permits/reservations needed

Dry Tortugas National Park permits:

  • Boating permits: Required but free. Stop on Garden Key to fill out your permit form when you arrive.
  • Park ferries: There’s only on ferry to the park — the Dry Tortugas ferry — and you can make reservations for day trips up to six months in advance online. It tends to fill quickly.

Everglades National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Backcountry permits should be reserved in advance, but you don’t need to if you’d rather just show up and take your chances. Reservations open on a rolling basis three months in advance at Recreation.gov. Walk-up permits are issued 24 hours beforehand at the Gulf Coast and Flamingo visitor centers.

 (2013) Bighorn rams on tundra near Trail Ridge Rd.

Photo: NPS/Public Domain

Hawaii

Haleakala National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits:  Backcountry permits are required and open on a rolling passes six months in advance at 10 AM. They aren’t as competitive as sites in Yosemite or Rocky Mountain national parks, but you should still try to plan early as there are only eight total sites available.
  • Sunrise applications: If you want to enter the park between 3 AM and 6 AM to watch sunrise from the Haleakala summit, you’ll need a sunrise permit. They open for reservations 60 days in advance at Recreation.gov.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Permits are required and can be reserved no more than one week in advance. Permits are not issued via Recreation.gov. Instead, you’ll need to call the permit office for your select date. However, your permit is not finalized until you pay the permit fee, which you’ll need to do on Pay.gov unless you’re local. You can also pay with a credit card over the phone when you call.  Any unallocated passes are given out on a first-come, first-served basis at the Backcountry Office (behind the Kīlauea Visitor Center).

Idaho

  • See “Yellowstone”

Kentucky

Mammoth Cave National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Required. Permits open on Recreation.gov six months ahead of time on a daily basis. While it’s always best to make your plans as far in advance as possible, backcountry sites tend not to fill up at Mammoth Cave.
  • Cave tours: Tickets for cave tours open six months in advance and booking is recommended — on-site tickets are few and sell out quickly. However, if the dates you want aren’t available six months out, don’t panic: the park doesn’t finalize the tour schedule until about three months out, so just check back daily as they may add extra tours you can book online between that six and three months window.

Indiana

Indiana Dunes National Park permits:

  • Camping permits: Permits to camp at Dunewood Campground are available on Recreation.gov and open six months in advance. Saturdays in summer tend to fill quickly, but otherwise, it’s fairly easy to find a last-minute spot.

Maine

Acadia National Park permits:

    • Vehicle Pass: If you want to get a permit to drive on the park’s famous Cadillac Mountain Road this summer, write this national park permit deadline down: May 27. That’s the first date for which you’ll need a permit to enter at sunrise or during the day. Permits open 90 days in advance, so check the permit booking website on February 24 to make sure you have your account finalized and date request figured out.  Permits will likely be available starting February 27, but the park hasn’t announced an official date yet for 2022, which is why we suggest checking the page a few days early. If you can’t reserve one, don’t panic: 70 percent of the available daily permits are distributed just two days in advance online, opening for booking starting at 10 AM. So you may be able to snag a last-minute permit if you’re unsuccessful with the 90-day one. You cannot buy any permits in the park, so if you don’t get one, don’t plan to drive Cadillac Mountain Road.
    • Stargazing permits: You do not need a permit to stargaze in the park! But if you want to join a guided stargazing program at the park’s Sand Beach, you will need to purchase a $1 ticket in advance online. Acadia has not yet announced the dates for 2022’s programs.

Michigan

Isle Royale National Park permits:

  • Backcountry camping: Isle Royale calls this “cross-country camping,” but its basically a backcountry permit. Like frontcountry camping permits, you’ll get it when you’re onboard the ferry or when you arrive at a visitor center. They’re required, unlimited, and free.
  • Boating permits: Day boaters do not need a permit, but if you plan to moor overnight, you’ll need to get a boating permit before you leave from one of the three visitors centers.
  • Camping permits: You’ll need a permit to camp at Isle Royale, but here’s no fee or daily limit. Since the park is an island and not accessible by road, most people take the Ranger III ferry to reach the park. Conveniently, you can get your permit while onboard the ferry. If you reach the park by other means, you’ll need to pick up a permit at the Rock Harbor or Windigo visitors centers.
  • Ferry tickets: The only ferry to the park — the Ranger III — costs $70 per person each way and takes about six hours (hence why nearly everyone taking it is camping at the park). Reservations are required and you can check the seating availability here. Tickets opened for booking on January 3 for all trips between May 31 and mid-September (which is the only season the ferry runs). You’ll then pay for your tickets at Pay.gov, but the purchase still has to be processed by a park ranger. So your tickets are not confirmed until you get an email confirmation from the park. It usually takes no more than five business days, but it may take longer in the winter when the park has fewer staff.

Minnesota

Voyageurs National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permit: Exactly the same as the above, except you’ll have an option to add on a canoe or kayak rental for certain backcountry sites. Some backcountry sites automatically come with use of a canoe.
  • Camping permits: Camping permits are required and must be reserved in advance. Note that all campsites are accessible by boat only, so you’ll need to use your own watercraft or make plans in advance with an operator approved by the park. Campsite reservations for travel between May and September can be booked as early as Nov 15 of the year prior, and reservations for dates between October and April open March 15.
  • Daily boat rentals: You can rent canoes on some of the lakes around the park in advance. Use this link and click “reserve day use rental” on the right. Reservations are currently open for all dates through the end of September.
  • Ranger-led tours: Tickets for all tours for the entire summer season open on April 15. Reservations aren’t required, but they do usually sell out (so don’t plan on being able to find walk-up tickets every day).

Missouri

Gateway Arch National Park permits:

  • No permits/reservations needed to visit the park, but you will need to buy a ticket in advance if you want to ride to the top of the arch.

Montana

Glacier National Park permits:

Backcountry hiker in Glacier National Park - national park permit dates article

Photo: Suzie Dundas

  • Backcountry permits: The backcountry permit process for Glacier National Park is complicated. Essentially, you’ll need to enter a lottery, which opens on March 15. If you apply on that day, you’ll be entered into a lottery processed that month and have the best chance of getting your preferred dates and route. Applications received March 16 and later are addressed on a first-come, first-serve basis. Applications are on Pay.gov. If you win, you’ll have to pick up your permit in person at a ranger office the day before your trip begins. If you’re applying in advance, have this form filled out and saved — you’ll need to list your top choices for various routes, so you’ll need to do research ahead of time as the parks has hundreds of possible routes. Note that you can get your entire application ready to go before March 15 — you just have to wait until that date to click “submit.”
  • Boat tours: Tickets are usually required and sold by third-party operators.
  • Camping permits: There are 13 campsites in Glacier and only three take reservations. They are highly competitive, so mark this national park permit date on your calendar now. Fish Creek campground is open from late May to early September. Reservations are on a six-month rolling basis on Recreation.gov. Many Glacier is open June 1 to mid-September and takes reservations also on a six-month rolling basis. Same deal for St. Mary campground: it’s open late May to mid-September and takes reservations six months out. All other campgrounds are first-come, first-served. Plan to be lined up in your car before 5 AM if your plans aren’t flexible.
  • Going-to-the-Sun road permits: If you want to drive one of the most famous roads in the country between late May and mid-September, you’ll need a permit. They open two months in advance, which means the first day to get a pass for the 2022 season is probably around March 24, as the park hasn’t announced the exact opening date in May yet (but its always the last week of May). So start checking in late March to make sure you don’t miss your chance. A small amount of last-minute passes open on the same website 48 hours in advance.

Yellowstone National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Backcountry permits are required year-round. To get one for a peak-season trip (mid-May to September), you’ll need to apply for a permit in advance online via a new program the park has yet to announce. However, the park did announce that reservations will begin in March 2022 for summer, so check this page in late February to find the link and details. For trips between April 1 and May 15, you’ll need to call the ranger station to request a permit. If you’re taking a winter trip, you’ll need to contact the backcountry office at least several a week in advance.
  • Camping permits: Five campgrounds are managed by a third-party operator (Yellowstone National Park Lodges). The other seven are managed by the park but only three take advanced reservations. Mammoth Campground reservations open six months in advance for dates between May 1 and mid-October. It’s first-come, first-served outside of that season. Reservations for Pebble Creek (open June 15 to September 25) and Slough Creek (open June 15 to October 15) open six months in advance and are closed outside of those short seasons.
  • Fishing permits: Unlike many other national parks, you do not need a state fishing permit to go fishing in Yellowstone. However, you do need a park-specific fishing pass, which you should buy online in advance.
  • Snowmobile permits: A very limited number of permits to ride snowmobiles through the park are issued annually. It’s one of the most in-demand national park permits available, so if snowboarding is your thing, get your application ready to submit between August 1 and 31 on Recreation.gov. That’s the application window for the snowmobile lottery. Winners are notified early September, and any unclaimed permits are available for immediate booking online on October 1.

Nevada

Death Valley National Park permits:

  • See “California” section

Great Basin National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Not required, but strongly recommended. Pick one up at a visitor center on your way into the park to register your trip in case of emergency. Backcountry permits are free and have no daily limit.
  • Camping permits: Great Basin has three campgrounds with sites that can be reserved online. The reservation season runs May 27 to October 31 and reservations open one month in advance on Recreation.gov, so the first day you can book a site is April 27, 2022. However, the beautiful park is one of the least-crowded in the US, so you can usually find space available pretty last-minute (and almost always snag a site upon arrival if you visit mid-week).
  • Lehman Cave permits: If you want to tour Lehman Caves, set your alarm for one month before you want to go as tickets open 30 days in advance on Recreation.gov. The tour schedule and offerings change seasonally and no day-of or in-person tickets are available. If you’re a qualified spelunker, you can apply for a wild caving permit. Give the park at least two weeks’ notice.

New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Permits are required, but they’re free and you can pick them up when you arrive in the park at the visitor center.
  • Backcountry caving permits: You’ll need a permit to explore any of the park’s caves without a guide. Permits are limited and given out on a first-come, first-serve basis, so contact the Cave Resources Office as far in advance as possible (the park requires at least a month’s notice).
  • Guided caving: Tickets for tours open 30 days in advance on a rolling basis at Recreation.gov. Reservations guarantee your time, but you’ll pay when you arrive at the park. You cannot make a reservation at the park (i.e. you can’t arrive on Tuesday and ask to buy a ticket for Wednesday).

White Sands National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Backcountry permits are issued on a first-come, first-served basis at the Dunes Drive entrance station. However, backcountry camping in the park is closed indefinitely as of January 2022, with no proposed re-opening date announced.
  • Sunrise/sunset permitS: White Sands has some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets in the country, but they don’t always coincide with the hours guests are allowed in the park. So if you want to come early to stay late, get an “early entry, stay late” pass. You’ll need to email the park with the relevant information at least one month before you arrive — but you can apply up to six months ahead of time.

North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Backcountry permits are required but no advanced reservations are available — just ask for a free permit at the South Unit or North Unit visitor centers (not the Painted Canyon visitor center) before you hit the trails. The park asks that report back when you’re on the way home.
  • Camping permits: The park’s Cottonwood Campground is reservable up to six months in advance on Recreation.gov. It’s open year-round but only takes reservations between May and September.

North Carolina

Great Smoky Mountains National Park permits:

  • See Tennessee section

Ohio

Cuyahoga Valley National Park permits:

  • No permits/reservations needed within the park, but you will need to buy tickets in advance to ride the railroad through the park from Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway. Tickets go on sale in late December for the following year, but don’t usually sell out quickly.

Oregon

Crater Lake National Park permits:

crater lake national park permit dates 2022

Photo: Suzie Dundas

  • Backcountry permits: Permits are required and only issued in-person at the Ranger Station near the Steel Visitor. Permits are issued only one day in advance, so get to the station during opening hours the day before you want to begin backpacking.
  • Camping permits:  The park has two campgrounds. Lost Creek Campground is first-come, first-served year-round. However, you can reserve sites at Mazama Campground between July and September. It’s managed by a third-party hotelier.

South Carolina

Congaree National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Backcountry permits are only required for those intending to camp wild. Backcountry campers can apply for a free permit by emailing the park and should do so at least 48 hours before their trip to leave ample time for their requests to be processed.
  • Camping permits: Congaree National Park has two established campgrounds: Longleaf and Bluff. Both require reservations, which can be made via Recreation.gov. Sites open on a six-month rolling basis but rarely sell out.

South Dakota

Badlands National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Not required, but it’s recommended that you inform a staff member at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center or Pinnacles Entrance Station of your plans if you intend to camp in the backcountry. You can register your details at the Medicine/Castle Trail Loop, Saddle Pass Trailhead, Conata Picnic Area, Sage Creek Basin Overlook, or Sage Creek Campground.

Wind Cave National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Backcountry campers are required to carry a permit while traveling through the park. Permits are issued at the visitor center information desk at no cost.

Tennessee

Great Smoky Mountains National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: If you’re planning on camping in the backcountry, you’ll need a reservation and a permit, both of which are available up to 30 days before your trip. The easiest way to apply for a permit and secure your reservation is through the NPS website, but you can also visit the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg in person.
  • Camping permits: Great Smoky Mountains National Park has 10 established campgrounds. Most are seasonal, opening between March and May and closing between October and November. Two campgrounds, Cades Cove and Smokey Point, are operational throughout the year. Regardless of when and where you’re camping, reservations are required and can be made via Recreation.gov or by calling 877-444-6777. All standard and horse campgrounds are reservable six months before your intended stay while reservations for group campgrounds and picnic pavilions are accepted a full year in advance.
  • Caving permits: While cave exploration permits are available under normal circumstances, there’s currently a ban on caving in the park due to an outbreak of white-nose syndrome, which is a threat to the park’s bat populations. Check the website before your visit to see if permits are being issued; if they’re not, please keep clear of all caves and mine shafts.
  • Fishing permits: Smokies visitors are welcome to fish in any stream within the park’s bounds between sunrise and sunset, provided they have a Tennessee or North Carolina fishing license or permit. Make sure you sort out your paperwork in advance; neither licenses nor permits are obtainable once you’re in the park, but they’re easy enough to buy online (here for Tennessee and here for North Carolina).

Texas

Big Bend National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Dispersed campers are required to pick up backcountry permits from the Panther Junction or Chisos Basin visitor centers up to 24 hours before their overnights, for a fee of $10 per night. Permits for the most competitive dispersed campsites are available at Recreation.gov up to 180 days in advance of your trip. Backcountry permits are also required if you’re planning a river trip or horse/stock use, whether or not you intend to camp.
  • Campground permits: Big Bend has no first-come, first-served campgrounds, meaning you’ll need to make a reservation if you want to spend the night at a designated site. There are three NPS-operated campgrounds in the park. Two, Chisos Basin and Rio Grande Village, can be reserved year-round, although the latter has limited availability between May 1 and October 31. A third campground, Cottonwood, is only reservable from November 1 to April 30. All campsite reservations must be made through Recreation.gov and open six months in advance, though they rarely fill up.
  • Fishing permits: You don’t need a license to fish within the park’s boundaries, but you do need a permit. Stop by a visitor center on arrival to pick up a free fishing permit.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Wilderness use permits are mandatory for backcountry campers. Online permitting is set to open via Recreation.gov in the summer or fall of 2022, but until then, campers have to show up at the Pine Springs Visitor Center with their driver’s license, license plate number, and itinerary plan to get their permits. This can be done up to 24 hours before a trip, and the overnight recreation fee is $6 per person per night.
  • Camping reservations: Not required, but reservations can be made up to six months in advance via Recreation.gov. There’s almost always room for walk-up visitors.
  • Horseback permits: Horses are allowed on designated trails within the park, provided riders obtain backcountry permits for stock use. These are available at no cost at the Pine Springs Visitor Center and must be picked up either same-day or a day in advance of your trip.

Utah

Arches National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Backcountry travel permits are only issued in-person at the Backcountry Permit Office near Moab. The earliest you can get a permit is a week before your start date.
  • Camping permits: The park has one campsite and it requires reservations for stays between March 1 and October 31. Reservations open six months in advance on a rolling basis and fill up very quickly.
  • Canyoneering permits: Canyoneering permits are required and available online or in-person. The easiest option is to buy one online. They’re only available one day in advance and open for booking at 8 AM. However, there’s no cap to how many are issued, so there’s no rush to wake up early. You can also get a permit in-person at the Backcountry Permit Office or Arches visitor center.
  • Fiery Furnace permits: The Fiery Furnace section of the park isn’t your average trail system. It’s more like a huge maze with narrow canyons, and it’s easy to get lost. You can take a guided tour with a ranger or apply for a self-guided fiery furnace permit. Permits open just seven days ahead of time, so be ready to click “request tickets” early in the morning. It’s just a reservation, so you’ll have to stop at the visitor center to get the actual permit. Bring everyone planning to hike as all members of the group have to watch a safety video before they issue your permit. You can also buy tickets for a ranger-led Fiery Furnace walk. They open six months in advance on Recreation.gov but aren’t currently scheduled/offered as of January 2022.

Bryce Canyon National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Backcountry permits are only issued in person at the Visitor Center starting at 9 AM two days head of time.  So get there for opening on Wednesday if you want to start your backcountry trip on Friday.
  • Camping permits: The only reservable campground is North Canyon, which requires reservations for stays between late May and October 1.  Reservations open on Recreation.gov on a six-month rolling basis, so the earliest you could book reservations for August 10 is February 10.

Canyonlands National Park permits:

  • Backpacking permits: Permits for backpacking open on four dates throughout the year, usually about four months ahead of time.  In 2022, permits for trips between June 10 and September 9 open on February 10, permits for trips between September 10 and December 9 open May 10, and permits for travel between December 10 and March 9, 2023, will open on August 10 but only for The Maze and Island in the Sky areas. Between December 9 and March 9, 2023, permits for The Needles are walk-up only at the park’s Visitor Center. Oh, and permits for trips before June 2022 were already allocated in November 2021. Permits open at 8 AM MST and tend to be highly competitive, depending on where you want to go.
  • Camping permits: Reservations are available six months in advance on Recreation.gov for trips between mid-March and the end of May, or trips between September 1 and November 15. Outside of that window, they’re first-come, first-served. Dates for group campsites vary slightly, and The Needles campground is the only one that accepts reservations.
  • Day-use permits: You’ll need a day-use permit to drive or bike (including road and mountain biking) on four roads in the park: White Rim Road, Lavender Canyon Road, Elephant Hill Road, and Peekaboo/Horse Canyon roads. Permits are available one day in advance starting at 8 AM MST on Recreation.gov. Any permits not allocated in advance, plus an extra 25 permits for White Rim road, are available the day of on a first-come, first-served basis at the park’s visitor centers.

Capitol Reef National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Free, unlimited, and only issued in person. Pick one up before your trip at the visitor center.
  • Camping permit: The Fruita Campground requires reservations between March 1 and October 31, during which time no walk-up permits are available. Reservations open six months ahead of time on Recreation.gov.
  • Rock climbing or canyoneering permits: Email the park roughly a week ahead of time for a climbing or canyoneering permit or get it in-person upon arrival at the visitor center.

Zion National Park permits:

  • Angel’s Landing permits: New for 2022 is the fact that you’ll need a permit to hike the park’s famous Angels Landing Trail. Permits are given out via an online lottery. There are four lotteries per year, and each gives out permits two or three months in advance. You’ll need to have your available days ordered by preference. All entries submitted during an entry period are given equal weight. Here’s the schedule for 2022:

    If you don’t win the advanced lottery, you can enter the day-before lottery at the same link, which starts March 31 for hikes on April 1, 2022. Enter between 12:01 AM (midnight) and 3 PM the day before you want to hike. There will be no day-of permits or permits available in the park.

  • Backpacking permits: Backpacking permits for Zion are managed by a Zion-specific program: ZionPermits.NPS.gov. Rather than getting a general backcountry (or wilderness) permit, you’ll reserve specific backcountry campsites for each night of your trip. Reservations open on the 5th of every month at 10 am MST for the coming month (so April permits are available starting March 5.) Campsites fill extremely quickly, so make sure you already have your account set up before it’s time to book.  If you’re not one of the first to book, you’ll want to check this calendar to see what’s open before you start looking. However, about half of the backcountry sites are reserved for walk-up reservations, which you can get the day of or day before your trip at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center Wilderness Desk. You’ll want to be in line well before opening to snag one.
  • Camping permit: Zion has two campsites reservable in advance: Watchman Campground (which takes reservations on a six-month rolling basis) and South Campground, which is just a few steps outside the park entrance. Reservations for the latter can be made no more than two weeks in advance. The campground opens on March 15, 2202, so the earliest you can book a site is March 1, 2022.
  • The Narrows permits: You do not need a permit to hike the Narrows starting at the Temple of Sinawava (the shuttle-accessed point in the park where most people start). But you will need a permit to hike from the top down either as a day hike or overnight. The advanced process is the same — apply via ZionPermits.NPS.gov.  (be sure to select the correct site/pass on the drop-down menu). However, day hikers who don’t get advanced passes can enter the day-before lottery. The lottery opens seven days before the date and closes at noon two days before the date. The drawing is held that same day at 1 PM, giving you a day and a half’s notice to get to the park and be ready to start. If you want to do it as a backpacking trip, following the walk-up reservations under “backpacking permits” above.
  • Overnight climbing permit: If you’re hoping to do an overnight climb, you’ll need to apply for a permit two months ahead of your start date. Note that you may also need a wilderness (backpacking) permit.

Virgin Islands

Virgin Islands National Park permits:

  • No permits/reservations needed.

Virginia

Shenandoah National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Required, but free. You can fill out a permit upon arrival at one of several trailhead locations or save some time by filling out the form in advance online.
  • Camping permits: Reservations open six months in advance for park campgrounds. They’re required between early May through the end of October. It’s first-come, first-served outside of summer, though all campgrounds close in the winter. You can usually find permits somewhat last-minute.
  • Rapidan Camp: If you want to tour President Hoover’s vacation home, you can make reservations up to six months in advance (or up to four hours before the tour begins) on Recreation.gov. Tours run several times a week summer through fall.

Washington

Mount Rainier National Park permits:

    • Backcountry permits: Wilderness permits are required for overnights in Mount Rainier’s backcountry. You’ll need to pick these up in person at one of the park’s wilderness information or visitor centers. Self-registration is possible during winter and spring — from now until May 26, 2022 — but only if you’re departing from the park’s northeast or southeast entrance (where there are self-registration stations). To get a permit during peak season (May 27 to October 10), particularly along the 93-mile Wonderland Trail, you’ll need to enter the lottery. It’s a two-step process:  first, submit an application between February 21 and March 7. Lottery winners will be notified on March 14 and will be able to book their reservation (or “cash in” their winning lottery status, so to speak) starting March 21. Lottery winners are given a specific time and date to book their reservations; the higher your name is pulled in the lottery, the earlier you’ll get to make your official reservation.If you don’t win or don’t participate in the lottery, you may still be able to reserve a permit via Recreation.gov after April 25. And one-third of the total summer permits are put aside for first-come, first-served walk-ups, distributed at the park’s Wilderness Information Centers 24 hours in advance. The earlier you get there, the better your chances of getting the permit you want.
    • Camping permits: Most of Mount Rainer’s campsites are first-come, first-served, but reservations are accepted at the Cougar Rock and Ohanapecosh campgrounds. Reservations are mandatory between June 24 and September 6, 2022. They open six months ahead of time on a rolling basis.
    • Climbing permits: If you plan on climbing Mount Rainier, which includes both skiing or climbing on a glacier and exceeding 10,000 feet of elevation on the mountain itself, you’ll need to get a climbing permit and pay the $53 annual climbing fee ($37 if you’re 25 or under) via Pay.gov. A single permit is good for an entire group of up to 12 people. Solo climbers must fill out a separate application to get a solo climbing permit. Like backcountry permits, roughly two-thirds of Mount Rainier’s climbing permits are reservable at least two days before trips that fall between June and September, which is especially recommended if you intend to visit during a holiday weekend.

North Cascades National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits and reservations: If you plan on camping wild in the North Cascades National Park Service Complex, which includes the national park as well as the Ross Lake and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas, backcountry permits are required. These can be obtained at the Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount, although winter permits will need to be self-issued at the Marblemount or Stehekin ranger stations or via email. On March 3, 2022, the park will open reservations for the summer backcountry lottery on this page. It’s a complicated, multi-step process. If you don’t win a spot in the lottery, you can try to get an allocated available permit via the same website starting in mid-April. Pacific Crest Trail hiking permits are also accepted at the Six Mile and Bridge Creek camps in lieu of the park-issued backcountry permit.
  • Campground reservations: North Cascade’s campgrounds are reservable six months ahead of time through Recreation.gov. They’re first-come, first-served outside of the reservation season. Each campsite’s reservation season is a little different, but it’s generally late May to early September.

Olympic National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: You need a wilderness camping permit to overnight in the backcountry. You can only get these via Recreation.gov at 10 AM PST exactly six months before your trip. Once reserved, your permit will be issued online five to seven days before your trip begins for you to print out and bring with you to the park. Note that there are fewer permits available for high-elevation areas during summer, between July and October, so it’s recommended you reserve your permit as far in advance as possible. Some of the lower-lying areas of the park are reservable year-round. The Hoh River Trail and the surrounding area tend to be most popular.
  • Camping permits: The park has many campsites, but only four are reservable online during peak season only. Reservations open six months in advance on Recreation.gov. The vast majority of visitors visit during summer, so try to make your plans in advance as much as possible if visiting during June, July, or August.

West Virginia

New River Gorge National Park and Preserve permits:

  • Backcountry permits: not required, but only a few areas in the park are suitable for wilderness camping.
  • Camping permits: Standard campsites are first-come, first-served, but reservations are recommended for group sites at the Burnwood and Dunglen campgrounds. To make a reservation, you’ll need to call the park’s permitting office at (304) 465-6517.

Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park permits:

  • Backcountry permits: Permits are required to overnight in Grand Teton’s 11 backcountry camping zones. Roughly two-thirds of each zone is first-come, first-served, with walk-in permits available at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center, Colter Bay Visitor Center, and Jenny Lake Ranger Station for a $35 fee. The remaining third of every camping zone is reserved. If you plan to camp during peak season, from July to August, it’s highly recommended that you secure a backcountry permit in advance via Recreation.gov. Applications for the summer season opened on January 5 at 8 AM MST. They close in May.
  • Camping permits: The park has seven developed campsites (Jenny Lake is the most popular) and they all require reservations. There’s no first-come, first-served availability during peak season (mid-June to mid-September). Reservations open on a rolling basis six months ahead of time at 7 AM PST (not MST) at Recreation.gov. Permits for summer stays get taken very quickly.
  • Boating and floating permits: To launch a boat in Grand Teton’s waters, you’ll need to get a permit, display an aquatic invasive species (AIS) decal, and pass a boat inspection. Permits can be obtained at the Craig Thomas Discovery Visitor Center, Colter Bay Visitor Center, or via Recreation.gov.  The same rules apply to non-motorized boats, which include canoes, kayaks, drift boats, and SUPs. Permits should be displayed on the back left of your craft. Other craft such as inner tubes, kick boats, and float tubes do not require permits. AIS decals are also available online via the Wyoming Game and Fish Department website. Motorboats are only allowed on Jackson and Jenny lakes (up to 10 horsepower for the latter), while sailboats are only allowed on Jackson Lake. Human-powered craft are welcome on several lakes: Jackson, Jenny, Phelps, Emma Matilda, Two Ocean, Taggart, Bradley, Bearpaw, Leigh, and String.

Yellowstone National Park permits:

  • See “Montana”

Popular permits outside national parks

The Wave permits (Utah/Arizona):

  • Hiking permits: Permits for The Wave are highly limited and highly coveted. Each day, 64 people are allowed to make the trek, but only 48 are available in advance online. They’re distributed via an online lottery that opens four months in advance, opening on the first of each month. The lottery entry period runs from the first to the last day of the month, and all entries have equal weight. So if you want to visit in July, you’ll want to enter the lottery sometime during March. You can include a few different date choices with your application. Lotteries are held on the first of each month, and you have until the 15th to claim and pay the fees. You can enter every month, but you’re only allowed one entry. The remaining 16 permits are issued one day ahead of time at 9 AM in person at the Kanab Center in Kanab, Utah. Applications are accepted between 8:30 and 9:00 AM; the lottery begins at 9:01 AM. There are a number of ways to get yourself disqualified, including having multiple people in your group enter, so read the FAQ for walk-in permits well ahead of time. By the way, you need a separate permit to camp in Paria Canyon at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.

Bears Ears National Monument permits (Utah):

  • Backpacking permits: Backpacking permits are limited to 20 people per day. That permit is also on Recreation.gov. Permits open 90 days in advance for travel between March 1 and June 15, and September 1 and October 31. During those times, an additional eight same-day walk-up permits are available at the Kane Gulch Ranger Station. But on all other dates, all permits are issued in advance online; no walk-ups are available.
  • Day hiking pass: Required, but unlimited. Buy in advance at Recreation.gov or use a self-pay station at one of the monument’s trailheads. However, hiking in the Moon House are requires a separate permit, which follows the same procedures as backpacking permits.

Havasu Falls permits (Arizona):

  • Camping permits: Havasu Falls is on land owned by the Havasupai Tribe, which manages the permitting process. The tribe announced that all tourism is suspended until at least June 1, 2022, and hasn’t announced details for future trips. However, permits are usually issued online. The permit is for the campground, as overnight campers are the only people allowed on the trails. If you want to visit Havasu Falls, you need to camp for three nights, and it’s usually at least $100 per person per night. In past years, reservations opened at Havasupaireservations.com on February 1 for reservations later that summer. Set up your account ahead of time so as soon as it does open, you can make a reservation. It’s first-come, first-served and permits are gone for the year in a matter of minutes, so set up your account and payment details ahead of time.  No one knows when (or if) the Tribe will open permits for 2022, so check the site frequently in case they announce a date.
  • Hiking permits: No day hiking is allowed

 Conundrum Hot Springs permits (Colorado):

  • Wilderness permits: Wilderness permits are required for anyone who wants to camp at the all-natural Conundrum Hot Springs (in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness). 2022 permit dates haven’t yet been announced, but they always open six weeks ahead of time, not on a rolling basis. Based on past years, the application date will probably be sometime around February 14 for all trip dates in April, May, or June — so check the permit website in early February to make sure your account is set up. Permits for August, September, October and November will be issued mid-June, and permits for December-March will open mid-October. Permits open at 8 AM MST and get taken very, very quickly.

The Enchantments permits (Washington):

  • Day use permits: You need a day-use permit from mid-May to the end of October. Fortunately, day use permits are unlimited. Just fill out a day use form at your trailhead of choice.
  • Wilderness permits: If you want to camp in the Cascade Mountain Range;’s Alpine Lakes Wilderness, you’ll need to hope you win a pass in the online lottery — they’re very popular. You can enter the backpacking lottery between February 15 and March 1, 2022. The lottery happens on March 8 and winners have until March 31 to claim their pass. Be sure to log in after March 8 to see if you won; you will not be emailed with the results. Any unclaimed permits are available first-come, first-served online starting at 7 AM PST on April 1. If you don’t win the advanced lottery, you may have a chance: instead of doing walk-up permits, the Forest Service releases a small amount of permits one week in advance for last-minute planners, also on Recreation.gov. EightMile/Caroline Lakes is the least popular area, if you want to maximize your chances.

Maroon Bells permits (Colorado):

  • Parking permit: Maroon Bells is the most well-known hike near Aspen and has an extensive shuttle and reservation system in place to manage crowds. You need a parking permit to park at the trailhead between mid-May and the end of October. Reservations open here in early April, though the exact 2022 day is yet to be announced. Make sure you also have a wilderness permit if you’re planning to camp in the Conundrum Hot Springs area.
  • Shuttle permit: Reservations for the shuttle are required between early June and mid-October. Reservations also open for the season early April at this site.

John Muir Trail permits (California)

One of many backcountry lakes that serve as popular offshoots on the JMT

Photo: Suzie Dundas

  • North-to-South wilderness permit: The north end of the JMT is in Yosemite National Park, so you’ll need a Yosemite backcountry permit. Follow the instructions for “Yosemite National Park” in the California section.
  • South-to-North wilderness permit: If you want to hike north along the trail, you’ll need a permit from Inyo National Forest for the Mount Whitney Trailhead. Enter the online lottery between February 1 and March 15, 2022.

Kalalau Trail permits (Hawaii)

  • Day use permit: Hā’ena State Park has a very fixed number of guests allowed per day. Parking, shuttle, and walk-in or bike-in permits open 30 days in advance on the park’s website at 12:01 AM, Hawaii time. There are no day-of or walk-up passes sold at the park.
  • Overnight permit: You’ll need a permit to park on the Napali Coast from Napali Coast State Wilderness Park. They open 30 days in advance at e-hawaii.gov. Note that you will still need a shuttle or parking pass as detailed above to enter the park.

Something you’re interested in not on here? Here’s the full link of available BLM permits.