Fees, Permits, Reservations, Oh My!

Back in 2011 when I hiked all of Glacier’s trails, Glacier was busy to be sure, but you could drive up to Logan Pass and still find a parking spot at 8am. My goodness has that changed! That issue isn’t unique just to Glacier (if you haven’t noticed). All across the park system, it’s gone crazy with the influx of visitors.

On the front lines is the National Park Service who are trying to manage the influx of people. They are dealing with people parking everywhere, trails getting trampled on, tempers flaring, etc. This is not to mention the impact on the natural resources: the land, the flora and the fauna.

While building more parking lots, carving out more trails, and making more backcountry sites seems like an easy, obvious thing to do (it’s not), it’s only a temporary measure and it will continue to make the wild places, well, less wild.

The lever that the park service is pulling more and more is the less popular option of limiting people (and you know how much we like to be told “no” as adults). Unpopular as it may be, the result, however, is less impact to the parks and a much better experience for the millions of visitors a year that are still visiting the parks.

The park service has been experimenting with many options since the onset of the pandemic and are refining them each year to try and optimize the system. The problem with constantly tweaking the system is that it becomes difficult to know what permits/reservations/passes you may need for each park. There are different opening dates, advanced reservations, timed entries, etc.

I’ve finally sat down and started to compile a page that lists all of these dates and permits and reservations for each park so that you can plan your trip a bit better. It’s still a work in progress to get all of the backcountry and front country campgrounds up, and it will be moving forward as each park changes how they’re implementing vehicle entry systems and adding hikes/climbs to permit restrictions.

Head over to my National Park Fees, Passes, Permits, and Reservations page and let me know what you think. If you think of ways I can expand the page, make it more accessible, add something, or if you find errors, please shoot me a note on my contact page.

Hope the page helps you in your planning and leads to grand adventures!


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2 responses to “Fees, Permits, Reservations, Oh My!”

  1. Martin Schoen Avatar
    Martin Schoen

    Thank you so much for the very helpful compilation, Jake!

  2. ann r froschauer Avatar
    ann r froschauer

    Hi Jake! I’m trying to plan a few 2 night backpacking routes to try to get permits for sometime between July 21-26. I will be with my 15yo nephew, it’s his 2nd trip so don’t want to do too much mileage! First trip last year in North Cascades at about 12 mi/2 nights). I’m looking at Gunsight Pass (GUN night 1, SPE night 2) and Pitamakin- Dawson (OLD night 1, NON night 2). I am unsure about likelihood of snow that time of year on those routes, and am open to some of other ideas if you might have a few suggestions? We will only have one car! Thanks for any help. I’m trying to be well prepared for when permits open March 15 and just discovered your site and videos!

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