Plan Now, Hike Later: Permit Season Is Upon Us
If you have grand plans of conquering Mount St. Helen's, viewing the nighttime sky lakeside in the Enchantments or exploring the Wonderland trail this summer — you're gonna need a permit.
If, in 2019, you have grand plans of conquering Mount St. Helens, viewing the nighttime sky lakeside in the Enchantments or exploring the Wonderland trail this summer — you're gonna need a permit.
To increase your chances of making your dream hikes a reality, start planning now and take note of the permit application dates for different areas of the state.
Backcountry (or wilderness) and day-use permits serve a different purpose than parking passes or entry fees. Permits are a way of regulating the amount of foot traffic in fragile environments that can only handle so much use before they begin to erode. By limiting the number of visitors to an area, permits not only preserve the environment but also the experience of hikers themselves. This allows you to immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of nature in relative solitude.
These lands belong to all of us, and while they may not be a perfect solution, the combination of permits, lotteries, and a limited number of walk-up passes goes a long way toward providing a fair allocation process and ensuring equal access to the opportunity.
Please note: Due to the recent federal government shutdown, the application date for for Mount St. Helens climbing permits will be delayed from the usual February 1 date. Also new this year, permits will be administered by the U.S. Forest Service, rather than the Mount St. Helens Institute (MSHI). Though, MSHI will still be providing climbing and safety information.
This year, permit applications will open on March 18 at 7:00 a.m. at Recreation.gov. Climbing permits cost $15 per person per day. A $6 reservation fee is charged per transaction. Reservations can be made for up to 12 climbers in a group, and the purchaser must provide the names of all group members at the time of purchase.
Permits to climb Mount St. Helens are required year-round — but are only restricted April 1 - October 31.
Permits are required for all overnight camping in the Enchantments between May 15 - October 31. The permit lottery is a two-step process:
- Apply for a permit between February 15 - March 2. The application will open on recreation.gov on February 15. Your application must contain your permit zone and date of entry. You must also pay a non-refundable $6 permit application fee.
After March 14, return to recreation.gov and login to view the results of the lottery. If you request was accepted, you must confirm your permit and provide an exit date and number of persons in the party (up to eight maximum) and pay for their permit ($5 per person/per day) by March 31, 2019. All unclaimed lottery awards will be returned to the reservation system.
Enchantment permits are notoriously rare to come by — so don't let a failed permit stop you from exploring the rest of our state's incredible backcountry (or maybe skip the lottery entirely, and plan for one of these epic trails instead!)
A wilderness permit is required for all overnight camping in the wilderness of Mount Rainier National Park, and hikers planning to camp over 10,000 feet must also pay a climbing fee for their stay.
- Submit a reservation request between March 15-31. (Applying early doesn't give you preference for a reservation, just make sure to get your request in during this window.) An application link will go live on the park’s Wilderness Permit web page on March 15. All advance permit requests must be submitted online (a third of permits will remain available as first-come, first-served walk-up permits.) All requests received on or after April 1 will be processed in the order received, after March requests are processed. Reservation request applications cost $20 per party per trip.
- Accept your reservation. Once park staff review requests, applicants will be updated via email whether they received a permit.
Notes about the Wonderland:
- Only one request for a full-circuit of the Wonderland will be accepted per email address, although hikers can submit several trip alternatives. If more than one full-circuit Wonderland request comes from the same email address, staff will only review the first request received.
- Due to high demand, reservations requests for the Wonderland circuit may not be accepted after April 1.
Since 2017, North Cascades National Park has moved to an online permit reservation process for a number of trails. If you want to get in the running for one of the reserved permits, start with the North Cascades Backcountry Reservation page and then follow these basic steps:
- Submit a reservation request between March 15-31. (Applying early doesn't give you preference for a reservation, just make sure to get your request in during this window.) An application link will go live on the North Cascades National Park Permit Page on March 15. Requests received after April 1 will be processed in the order received, after the priority batch has been processed. You will be charged a $20.00 non-refundable application cost-recovery fee. This fee will cover the cost of maintaining an online application process. Backcountry permits will remain free in the North Cascades.
- Convert your reservation to a permit. Application processing will begin on April 1, and may take up to four weeks to complete. If your reservation is accepted, you will receive an email confirmation with trip details and further instructions. Your accepted reservation must be converted to a permit before you depart on your trip. Permits can be picked up at the closest ranger station and must be picked up by 11 a.m. on the trip start date, otherwise the reservation will be cancelled and made available to walk-ups.
New this year, Olympic National Park will be moving to a new online reservation system utilizing Recreation.gov. Permits will be available starting on March 18 at 12:00 p.m. The new online reservation system will allow backpackers to check the availability of sites in real time, plan their trip and receive immediate confirmation, and streamline the park's wilderness permit reservations.
Wilderness permit reservation requests can be submitted in person at a park Wilderness Information Center during business hours — and will soon be available by phone.
The new reservation fee will be $6.00, and once accepted, hikes will need to pay the additional Wilderness Permit fee of $8.00 per person, per night.
As of last spring, day-use permits are now required to visit Dog Mountain on Saturdays and Sundays. This year, the permit season will shrink slightly to April 20 through June 16, with permits going up for grabs on March 1. The number of permits per day has also increased from 165 to 250. The permitted area will include the Dog Mountain Trail, Dog Augspurger Tie Trail and the lower portion of Augspurger Trail. Hikers will be required to carry a hard copy permit or electronic proof of purchase. There are two permit options:
- Day-use permit is free, when you take the shuttle. On weekends, hikers can park at the Skamania County Fairgrounds and take the Dog Mountain shuttle to the trailhead. The shuttle costs $2.00 for roundtrip travel. By using the shuttle, riders will receive, for free, the day-use permit they need to hike the trail. WTA encourages hikers to use the shuttle, which helps improve safety and guarantees access to the trailhead.
- Purchase a day-use permit for $1.00 online before you go. There will be 250 permits available per day through the national online reservation system. Each hiker is required to purchase and carry a permit with them on trail (either paper or an electronic copy). Forest Service expects demand for permits to be high, and encourages hikers to purchase a permit in advance. A few tips for this option:
- Cell phone reception can be spotty, so WTA recommends purchasing and printing a paper copy in advance.
- Cars wishing to park at the trailhead still need to display the parking permit (either the Northwest Forest Pass, an Interagency Pass or pay a $5 parking fee).
- There will not be guaranteed parking in the Dog Mountain trail parking lot, even if you buy a permit online.