Commercial Use Authorization

Please note, as of January 1, 2020, there will be CUA rate changes. Email for additional information.


A COMMERCIAL USE IS DEFINED as any or all goods, activities, services, agreements, or anything offered to park visitors and/or the general public for recreational purposes which uses park resources or is undertaken for or results in compensation, monetary gain, benefit, or profit to an individual, organization, or corporation, whether or not such entity is organized for purposes recognized as non-profit under Local, State, or Federal law.

CUAs may be issued to persons (referring to individuals, corporations and other entities) to provide commercial service to park area visitors in limited circumstances. CUAs are not concession contracts. They are intended to provide a simple means to authorize suitable commercial services to visitors in park areas in the limited circumstances in the legislation.

North Cascades National Park Service Service Complex currently issues CUAs for a variety of services, including but not limited to: guided hiking, backpacking, climbing, mountaineering, horse packing or fishing, commercial air transportation; environmental education; boat rentals and boat tours. Additional activities may be permitted pending request, review and approval by the park.

GUIDED SERVICES - Guided trips or services which collect a fee in excess of the actual personal costs of the trip and/or for payment of other than actual personal trip expenses for guides or leaders, are considered commercial trips. This includes non-profit organizations providing a livelihood for people through provision of these services.

CUAs are mandatory for conducting commercial trips into North Cascades National Park Service Service Complex; however, their issuance is a courtesy, not an entitlement. Requests for CUAs are handled in the order received, considering other workload commitments. Four or more weeks should be allowed for this process. Commercial services are not authorized until the CUA is finalized. Prospective permittees should not schedule any commercial trips to the park prior to obtaining a fully executed copy of the CUA. Failure to obtain and have available for inspection a CUA to provide commercial services into North Cascades National Park Service Complex may subject the commercial operator to penalties as prescribed by law or regulation, including exclusion from the park.


Commercial Bus Tours

Effective October 1, 2019, a Commercial Use Authorization is required for all road-based commercial tours traveling through North Cascades National Park Service Complex on Washington State Route 20.

The definition of a "road-based commercial tour" is one or more persons traveling by vehicle on an improved roadway:

  • On an intenerary that someone has packaged and sold for leisure/recreational purposes and which
  • Provides no other services except those incidental to raod-based travel in an area unit of the National Park System (on-board interpretation and incidental stops at visitor centers, restaurants, wayside exhibits, etc.).
Note: Transportation-only services such as taxis and shuttles do not meet the definition of road-based commercial tours because those services are not prepackaged; however, taxi and shuttle services operating within the park area may still require a standard, non-commercial bus tour Commercial Use Authorization to operate within park boundaries.

All commercial service providers that do not operate under an NPS concessions contract must have a valid CUA to legally operate in a national park. After September 30, 2019, road-based commercial tour operators must submit a CUA application fo reach park in which they wish to operate.

Who Needs to Apply?

The responsibility for obtaining a road-based commercial tour CUA falls on the company that packaged, priced, and sold the tour.

  1. A tour company that owns vehicles or rents vehicles and provides road-based commercial tours to passengers aboard those vehicles in a national park must apply for a CUA. Additionally, the tour company must have a road-based commercial tour CUA for each park in which it operates.
  2. A tour company that uses a chartered transportation service to provide road-based tours at North Cascades National Park Service Complex also needs a CUA. Chartered transportation service is defined as exclusive use of a bus/van and driver for a negotiated price at the request of a third party. The chartered transportation company does not need a CUA if the tour company determines the origin, destination, and scheduling of the trip. The tour company ensures the charter vehicle company meets the road-based commercial tour CUA commercial vehicle insurance and license requirements by agreeing to CUA conditions and signing the CUA application and authorization.
  3. A chartered transportation company does not need a road-based commercial tour CUA if the tour company determines the origin, destination, and scheduling of the trip. A charter company advertising tours to national parks, however, meets the definition of road-based commercial tour and must have a road-based commercial tour CUA.
  4. When a tour company uses the services of a chartered transportation company with a road-based transportation CUA, the tour company does not need to secure a separate CUA unless the tour group disembarks from the vehicle while within the park.

What Are the Fees for a Commercial Bus Tour Permit?

Application fee: Road-based commercial tour operators will pay an annual $300 non-refundable CUA application fee for each CUA application.

Administrative and Management Fee: North Cascades National Park Service Complex does not charge an entrance fee for visitors traveling into the park; however, road-based commercial tour CUA holders must pay a $5 per client CUA management fee due upon submission of the required annual CUA report which is due at the conclusion of the season. The Permittee may also pay this fee in advance of their trip is the number of passengers has been determined for each trip through the park.


Educational Fees Waivers

Fee Waivers may be issued to non-profit entities who meet the established requirements. This applies ONLY to Educational and Scientific groups who conduct guided services within the Park. The National Park Service does not have the authority to waive permit fees under a CUA, so in the event that the waiver is approved, the permittee will be issued a Special Use Permit to conduct their services within the park. The Conditions of the Special Use Permit will be similar to those conditions outlined in CUA form issued to “for-profit” CUA holders. Fee waivers apply only to specific cost recovery fees (administrative and monitoring fees). Applicants would still be responsible for application fees, and other park complex fees (i.e. backcountry reservation fees).

To apply for a fee waiver contact the Commercial Services Office.



CUAs are issued for a term of up to two years, but specific information is required prior to the start of the second year of operation in order for the permit to remain effective.

Application materials are available by contact the Commercial Services Office.

Although the park does not currently have an application deadline for Commercial Use Authorization Applications, your application must be submitted a minimum of 30 days prior to the initial scheduled trip or activity, to allow park staff to review application materials and process the permit. Submitting a complete packet greatly aids staff in issuing your authorization in a timely manner.

Payment can be made online at (preferred method of payment), or by check. has credit card, debit and other EFT payment options. Payments made by money order or checks should be made payable to "National Park Service".


A CUA or SUP is required before entering the backcountry of the park complex, obtaining a backcountry permit, or applying for a commercial backcountry permit reservation. Backcountry permits are required for all overnight trips in the park complex and must be obtained at a ranger station by the trip leader prior to entering the backcountry. Optional commercial backcountry reservations for permits are also available. To apply for a reservation, please refer to the CUA / SUP Backcountry Permit Reservation Guide for information and instructions. Commercial reservations are accepted online beginning February 15 2021.

The park accepts payment for SUP and CUA fees through for EFT, credit or debit payment methods. In order to process payment through, you will need an active CUA and/or SUP number. Checks and money orders are are also acceptable means of payment for permit fees. Contact the Commercial Services Office for additional information.

Last updated: June 8, 2021

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810 State Route 20
Sedro-Woolley , WA 98284


360 854-7200

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