Recreation.gov is a government-managed reservation system for 14 participating federal agencies including the National Park Service. Recreation.gov is the Federal government’s one-stop-shop for trip planning and reservations to explore and discover America’s outdoor and cultural destinations. Visitors can use Recreation.gov to make campsite reservations, secure permits, schedule tours, purchase passes and more for all federal lands and waters throughout the country.
How do I create an account on Recreation.gov
Go to www.recreation.gov and in the upper, right-hand corner click on "Sign Up / Log In". If you have an account, please enter that information. Otherwise, under the Log In title it will say “New to Recreation.gov? Create an account.” Click on “Create an account.” Fill in your legal name, email address and phone number, check whether you want to receive messages from Recreation.gov, then click on Sign Up. The system will send the email account you listed a confirmation email. Click on the confirm button within that email. Creating an account on Recreation.gov is free.
What will the deadlines be for the lottery system?
Grand Canyon Backcountry Monthly Lotteries in 2024
Why a lottery?
The Backcountry Information Center (BIC) currently uses a manual lottery each month to ensure fair (random) handling of all requests received by the earliest date. A lottery on Recreation.gov will replace this manual process and award a date and time when the successful lottery applicant can log into Recreation.gov and with limited competition search availability and obtain a permit if available.
The alternative without a lottery would be a frantic system where thousands of applicants might rush against each other to attempt to claim permits. By using a lottery system for a highly competitive reservation process, Grand Canyon National Park hopes to create a calmer experience where each applicant will have a bit more time to understand what is available, consider options, and carefully make decisions.
How do I create a lottery application?
To create a lottery application, go to www.recreation.gov and login to your account. From there, search for Grand Canyon National Park Backcountry Permits and select that option. Now you are at the Grand Canyon National Park Backcountry Permits page. On the right side of your page you should see "Early Access Lottery" if one is currently open, all you need to do is click on "Register for Open Lottery" at the bottom of that section. From there click on "Register for Open Lottery." It will then give you a chance to update phone and address information, have you check a box that says you understand the regulations, and give you a chance to click on "Proceed to Cart" to enter your credit card information and pay.
What is the lottery charge?
Lottery applicants are charged $10 to apply (whether or not they are awarded an early access time slot).
Do I need to pay a $10 lottery application charge and a $10 basic permit charge?
If you are successful in reserving a permit through the lottery process, you do not pay both. You pay $10 to apply in the lottery, and if you reserve an itinerary during the Early Access Month, that same $10 is counted as your $10 basic permit charge.
If I apply and am unsuccessful in a lottery, will I get priority or extra chances for a subsequent lottery?
No, applicants are not given priority access or extra chances in subsequent lotteries. Each lottery is treated uniquely without concern as to who was successful through previous lotteries.
Can my lottery charge apply to more than one lottery?
No. The lottery application charge is for one lottery, and that one lottery is for start dates within a particular month. If you wish to apply in another lottery for start dates in a different month, you will need to pay separately for that additional lottery.
If I do not secure a reservation via a lottery but in the next month am able to reserve an itinerary due to cancellations, will my lottery application charge still apply to my $10 basic permit charge?
No, your lottery application charge only applies to itineraries reserved during the early access month. Since your new application occurred in a later month, you will be charged the $10 basic permit charge.
Doesn't this add an unnecessary 2nd $10 charge that was not charged by Grand Canyon prior to moving reservations onto Recreation.gov?
Applicants who secure a permit during the Early Access month will pay absolutely nothing more than they currently do - the $10 lottery charge will be taken in lieu of them paying the $10 basic permit charge. However, this is a new charge for lottery applicants who try but are unable to secure an itinerary during the Early Access month.
How many Early Access Lottery applications can a person submit?
Each individual can submit one application per lottery (i.e., one per month). Recreation.gov has taken precautions to limit users to 1 profile each. Grand Canyon will take additional steps to revoke permits from any individual who finds a way to submit multiple applications under their own name. Reservations revoked for this reason will not be eligible for a refund.
Can everyone in my group submit lottery applications?
Yes, each individual can submit their own lottery application through their Recreation.gov account profile.
Can I apply for more than one permit?
Each individual can submit only one application per lottery, and they can obtain a maximum of one permit through that lottery. If an individual wants a 2nd permit for the same time period, for that 2nd permit they will need to wait to apply until after the Early Access month (i.e., wait until advance reservations have opened to the public).
Does the lottery applicant list the itineraries they would accept?
No, Early Access Lottery applicants do not list any itineraries when applying for the lottery. The Early Access Lottery application is simple. The applicant will need an account in recreation.gov (free and easy to create), clicks on a "enter the lottery" button, and then pays the lottery application charge. After the lottery runs, those who are awarded an early access timeslot are told when they can log in to their account and have an opportunity to view availability and potentially reserve an itinerary. This allows the user to have time to check availability for as many itineraries and start dates as desired before reserving the itinerary.
When can Early Access Lottery applications be submitted?
The deadline matches the current lottery application deadline. Lottery applications can be submitted through Recreation.gov over a 2-week period that begins on the 16th of the month and ends at 5pm MST on the first of the month, 4-months prior to the desired start month:
When will the lottery be run, and how many dates and time slots will be awarded?
The lottery will take place on the 2nd of the month. It will randomly re-order all applicants and give the top 750 of these applicants (in groups of up to 15) a specific date and time (early access timeslot) when they will have an opportunity to log in to Recreation.gov, view availability, and reserve an itinerary. Applicants can also call the Backcountry Information Center during this time if they need Ranger assistance.
There will be a total of 5 timeslots per day (at 8am, 10am, 12pm, 2pm, and 4pm MST) over 10 days between the 4th of the month and the 17th of the month (skipping weekends), accommodating up to 750 applicants. Before a lottery applicant's timeslot comes up, they will be able to view availability so they can adjust their plans if needed. Only lottery applicants whose timeslot has come up will be able to reserve an itinerary.
When an applicant's timeslot comes up (or any time or day after through the 19th of the month), they will be able to login to Recreation.gov, have the opportunity reserve an itinerary, and pay the permit charge. Applicants may call the Backcountry Information Center for Ranger assistance if needed. Applicants will be limited to securing a maximum of 1 reservation through this process. Applicants should be prepared with alternative trip itineraries as their preferred start date and itinerary may not be available.
Will all 750 of those what are awarded an early access timeslot in the lottery be able to secure the itineraries and start dates they desire?
It all depends on how flexible the group is with itineraries and start dates. Ranger experience shows that most of the top 750 will end up with a permit.
Of course, it is unlikely that all 750 early access awardees will get exactly what they want. For example, Grand Canyon National Park has some areas that allow just one group per night - once one group reserves that site, it will no longer be available for others.
The great benefit of this early access lottery process is that applicants do not have to decide on an itinerary prior to applying or feel so rushed. Instead, when the early access lottery-awarded timeslot comes up, applicants can look up options, see what is available, and decide if the space will work for their group. Applicants from later timeslots will not be online competing for itinerary space.
Why are only 750 applicants awarded an early access timeslot?
Experience has shown that most highly desired sites are claimed by the time 750 requests have been considered.
What if I submit a lottery application but it is not one of the 750 awarded a timeslot?
Interim Process for March and April 2024 Lotteries: After the first 750 applicants have been awarded a timeslot, the lottery system will continue going through the applicant list and award timeslots on each subsequent weekday through the end of the month. On the last weekday of the month, all remaining lottery applicants will be given an opportunity to view and reserve an itinerary before reservations open to the non-lottery public.
Process for May 2024 and Later Lotteries: Lottery applicants not part of the 750 awarded a timeslot will be given an opportunity to view and reserve an itinerary before reservations open to the non-lottery public. This opportunity will take place starting on or shortly after the 20th of the month and run through the end of the month.
Can I check availability if I am not awarded an early access timeslot in the lottery or before my application date and time?
All who entered the lottery can check availability at any time during the early access month. Only those whose lottery-awarded early access date and time (timeslot) has arrived have the opportunity to reserve an available itinerary.
Why hold lotteries for low volume months?
Even for slower months, releasing initial availability through an Early Access Lottery is a desirable alternative to allowing hundreds to apply at the same time. There is also something to be said for remaining consistent with the process and have the same system used for all months of the year. Grand Canyon National Park does recognize that the lotteries for start dates in January, February, July, August, and December are likely to be low volume months where well under 750 applications may be submitted in each lottery.
If I missed the lottery and assuming desired itinerary space remains available, when will I be eligible to view and book a reservation?
After the Early Access Month, the rest of the public can begin looking at remaining availability and start reserving itineraries. For example, applications for the Early Access Lottery for May start dates are due by 5pm MST on January 1st. During January only applicants from the May Early Access Lottery are eligible for an opportunity to reserve an itinerary. Beginning February 1st everyone is eligible to view availability and, when desired space is available, reserve an itinerary for a May start date.
What are the charges?
Lottery/Basic Permit Charge: $10 per permit (non-refundable)
Nightly Charge: (refundable until 30 days before permit start date)
January 2024, February 2024, and March 2024: $12 per participant or stock animal for below rim use
$4 per participant or stock animal for above rim use
The above rim charge used to be $12 per group - why is this changing?
Recreation.gov can accommodate only one type of nightly charge for our backcountry permit system - it can either be a per person charge or a per group charge. Looking at the two, managers decided it made most sense to replace the per group charge.
Won't large groups be disproportionately affected by the $4 per person above rim charge?
Larger groups will pay more, but what they will be paying will now be proportionate - i.e., based on the group size. In many ways this is more equitable than charging a 1-person group the same charge as an 11-person group.
Here are some quick statistics for above rim use to help put all this into perspective. Most people (70%) will pay less (26% of rim permittees are 1-person groups and 44% are 2-person groups). 10% are 3-person groups (they will pay the same as current). Another 10% are 4-person groups (each member will pay $1 more per night). Another 7% are 5 or 6 person groups (members will pay up to $2 more per night). And for 11-person groups, members will pay $2.91 more per night.
Why is the above rim charge less than the below rim charge?
Above rim itineraries are less time consuming for the Permit Office. Therefore, we charge less for these above rim areas. Together, all Permit Office charges are designed to recover Permit Office operation costs.
Reservations and Permits
When can I apply?
For the Early Access Month, priority will be given to applicants who have entered the Early Access Lottery and are awarded a timeslot (date and time) for an opportunity to make a reservation. The rest of the public can begin applying on the first of the subsequent month (i.e., the rest of the public can begin applying on first of the month that is three-months prior to the month of the desired start date). See "Deadlines" at the top of this document.
The latest one can reserve an itinerary directly on Recreation.gov is five-days prior to the start date. For the remaining four-days, reservations can only be made in-person at the Backcountry Information Center.
When do I list my trip size, start date, and itinerary?
You have the opportunity to list the details of your itinerary when you make your permit reservation. For lottery applicants, these itinerary details are entered during their timeslot (awarded through the Early Access Lottery). All others can check availability and reserve itineraries starting the first of the subsequent month. See "Deadlines" at the top of this document.
Do trip participants or alternate permit holders need to be listed on the permit application?
When a reservation is first being created, applicants have the option to list an Alternate Permit Holder - this cannot be modified once the reservation has been created and charges paid. Applicants decide on their group size when creating their reservation - participant names do not need to be listed.
Does the trip leader need to be on the trip?
Yes, the permit is valid only for the trip leader, campsites, dates, number of people, and itinerary specified on the permit. The permit is void if the trip leader listed on the permit is not present with the group.
Are permits transferrable?
Permits are transferrable only to the Alternate Permit Holder listed by the applicant when the reservation is first created - this cannot be modified once the reservation has been created and charges paid. Transfers must be made through Recreation.gov prior to the trip taking place - the revised permit can then be printed with the Alternate Permit Holder listed as the trip leader.
I'm at the application screen, what do I do now?
Start by selecting a starting area - most people will pick "GC Hike - via S. Rim". Enter your preferred start date and how many people will be in your group. The system will then populate a list of available campsites for your first night. Within the grid, click on the available campsite and date you want for your first night:
The system will add that site as your first night and repopulate the list to show you your options for the next night. You can pick one of those options if you want a 2nd night or click on "Book Now" if all you wanted was 1 night. You need to complete the application and pay for your reservation to be held for you.
Can I change my permit after I have made the reservation?
The permittee (trip leader) can cancel their permit at any time. While the permit cannot be changed further during the lottery month, itinerary and group size changes can be made in subsequent months if itinerary space is available and only if the permit has not yet been printed. Start dates cannot be changed.
Can I have more than one permit for a start date within the same month?
Yes, you can have more than one permit provided it does not overlap with any of your other permits. Only one of these permits can be obtained through the Early Access Lottery. Any additional permits will need to be obtained during subsequent months when the rest of the public has access to view availability and reserve itineraries.
Once a reservation has been made, when can the permit be printed?
Permits can be printed one-month before the permit start date. Once a permit has been printed it cannot be refunded.
Do I have to print my permit? Can I just bring an electronic copy?
Yes, you are required to print your permit, have a paper copy in your possession, and have it available to Rangers to see and review.
What happens if I forget to print my permit?
The system is setup to send reminders to those who have not printed their permits. Permits that remain in non-printed status three days before a permit start date are subject to cancellation so the itinerary space can be made available to other hikers.
Will permits for start dates in 2023 be moved into the Recreation.gov system?
Permits for start dates in 2023 that do not overflow into 2024 will continue to be managed under the old system. Permits for start dates at the end of 2023 that do flow into 2024 will be manually entered by Rangers into Recreation.gov so availability will be displayed accurately.
What backcountry use areas will be available online?
Itinerary space that will be directly available to the public through Recreation.gov includes:
South Side Above Rim Areas
North Side Above Rim areas for June through late November
Specific Threshold Areas from September through May
Other itineraries and use areas can only be entered into Recreation.gov by a Grand Canyon Backcountry Information Center Ranger.
Will there be constraints in the system to discourage aggressive itineraries?
Yes, the system is programmed to look at the previous night or trailhead and only allow a pre-approved list of areas or trailheads for the next day.
I am a highly experienced Grand Canyon hiker and ultra-runner - how can I get my itinerary approved?
When your Early Access Lottery timeslot arrives or any time after, reach out to a Ranger and ask for assistance to book a more aggressive itinerary.
Why not allow threshold use areas to be booked by the public in the summer?
Experienced Grand Canyon hikers know the canyon is way too hot and dangerous for summer hiking. Of course, there are occasional, extremely rare exceptions. We do not see this often, but occasionally there are people who are highly experienced in summer desert hiking and also know the canyon well. For these folks, once their lottery timeslot has arrived, they can call and ask for Ranger assistance to book their extreme hike. Rangers will ask questions to ensure the permittee understands what they are asking for and getting into. Summer Grand Canyon hiking can be extremely unforgiving, even deadly.
Why not allow other, more advanced areas to be available online?
Grand Canyon hiking is usually much more difficult that many people think it will be. If you wish to go below the rim and have never hiked at Grand Canyon, your first hike should be in the highly popular Trans-Canyon Corridor where we have wider trails, rest houses with restrooms and water, bridges across the river, and Ranger Stations.
Returning Grand Canyon hikers tend to make itinerary decisions much more carefully and cautiously before deciding they are ready to venture into more difficult areas. The Permit System focuses on hikes for first-time and second-time hikers.
More difficult and dangerous hikes can be obtained once an applicant's lottery timeslot has arrived or any time after by reaching out to a Ranger and asking for assistance to book the more advanced itinerary.
I'm interested in a different use area or summer hike outside the corridor - how do I request it?
If you are highly experienced Grand Canyon hiker, once your lottery timeslot has arrived or any time after, feel free to reach out to a Ranger and ask for assistance to book the more advanced itinerary.
If a Ranger at my request books a more advanced itinerary for me, will I still pay directly on Recreation.gov?
For all advanced itineraries, Grand Canyon Rangers will enter the itinerary into Recreation.gov. The applicant will then go into their profile to complete the process and make payment. The answer is different for those obtaining last-minute permits in the Backcountry Information Center. For these last-minute permits, Rangers will enter the itinerary and take credit card payment in person.
Is it okay for my group to get two reservations for the same campground on the same night?
No, it is not okay for your group to have two reservations in the same campground on the same night. Doing so actually voids both permits because it violates the Affiliated Groups regulation from the permit
"This permit is void if on any night another group affiliated to yours (same club, organization, group of friends, etc.) is using the same campground/use area. More than 1 group from the same affiliation camping in the same campground/use area is prohibited."
This rule is an important part of adhering to our Backcountry Management Plan group size limits. Larger groups have a much larger impact both on sound as group members call out to each other and on the environment as members spread out further when camping and tend to create more social trail as they move between camps.
Are commercial guides using this same system?
Commercial guiding is only permitted at Grand Canyon for companies that have a current Commercial Use Authorizations (CUA) issued through the park's Commercial Services department. We refer to these companies as CUAs. Yes, our backcountry CUAs use this same system but with a couple of modified requirements.
First and before they can apply in a lottery, CUAs must send to the Backcountry Information Center a Verifiable Client List (VCL) showing the list of individuals for whom they are requesting this permit should it be secured through the lottery. CUAs can submit multiple lottery applications on behalf of different client groups provided they have submitted the required VCLs for each separate group and have listed a unique identifier name both on the VCL and on the lottery application. CUAs cannot later move clients from one lottery application VCL to another.
CUA's can modify the guide they have listed on the permit.
Why the 30-day before permit start date deadline?
The 30-day deadline is to allow time for interested hikers to be able to obtain a permit from the cancellations.
Why not allow refunds after a permit has been printed?
The intent of this requirement is to help avoid any issues where someone cancels a permit and then tries to use it anyway.
I just paid for a reservation but then changed my mind and cancel - can I get a full refund?
While the $10 basic permit charge is not refundable, the nightly charge might be refundable if the permit has not been printed and either 1) it is 30-days or more before the permit start date, or 2) it is the same day you made the initial reservation and you contact the Backcountry Information Center on the same day to request a refund.
Under the old system I had unexpired Hiker Credit - What will happen to it?
Hiker Credit: If you have unexpired Hiker Credit in our system and would like to apply that credit toward the cost of a new permit on Recreation.gov, here are some special instructions for you:
Before you pay! - When you are eligible to apply for a permit, call a Ranger at the Backcountry Information Center for assistance and tell them you would like to apply your Hiker Credit to the cost of a permit. The Ranger will make or update your reservation and waive costs for your new permit equivalent to the amount of your Hiker Credit. Note, Hiker Credit cannot be applied once payment has been taken, so be sure to call and get Ranger assistance before paying. Once the Hiker Credit has been used, it will no longer be available for refund, reuse, or reissue.
New Cancellations on Recreation.gov Will Not Receive Hiker Credit: Refunds of paid nightly charges will replace Grand Canyon's Hiker Credit system. To be eligible for a refund, partial or full cancellations will need to be made via Recreation.gov before the backcountry permit has been printed and at least 30-days before the permit start date. This 30-day deadline is intended to encourage cancellations to occur in time for others to claim and make use of the cancelled space.
Last updated: October 31, 2023