National Park Backcountry Permits: All the info and deadlines you need!

Updated for 2016!


Why did I create this (nerdy) spreadsheet? 

Ah-ha! This basic spreadsheet will help you get a high-level understanding of the permitting process for each national park. Information simplified, ready at the scroll of your finger. 

When I first started backpacking, I basically had no idea how the permitting process worked. In fact, someone else got the permits for our group. All I had to tell him was my availability and voila, we had permits! Magic!

I've learned a bit more since that magical moment. Now I know that at some popular national parks, getting a backcountry permit can be highly competitive. There are even deadlines for when you need to submit your application by. But then there are some national parks that don't require any fees or permits. How do you keep track of what each park requires?

This spreadsheet will be most helpful if you know where you want to go.

You can quickly get a basic overview of what it'll take to get a permit, or if you need one at all. It also calls out any noteworthy dates right away so you don't miss your opportunity to enter the permit lottery.

If you don't know where you want to go, then start by looking for national parks in your state

Click on the image or link and see if it seems interesting to you at all. Google that park and look at the images that pop up. Get a sense of if it's a place you'd like to see with your own eyes. If it is, reserve a backcountry permit. :-) 

Click here for the sortable google doc version.

*Notes:

  • This list only includes National Parks (not National Historic Parks, National Monuments, etc).
  • Some National Parks are included multiple times, depending on the number of states they exist in. 
  • This is by no means an exhaustive list of ALL the wilderness, national forests, state parks, etc to backpack in.
  • Only the permit fees are listed. Keep in mind there may be park entrance fees, parking fees, transportation fees, or no fees, depending on the park.
  • Make sure you ultimately verify info with the NPS. I got the info below straight off their website, but it's usually a good idea to talk to the rangers anyway!

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