Backcountry Reservations

We have started processing 2021 reservations.

Results will be sent out to all applicants on the same date: May 15th
(If your trip starts in May, we will prioritize sending you results sooner.)

We have received thousands of applications and are operating with very limited staff this season, so please do not contact us about your application status before May 15th as it slows our progress. Due to the added call and email volume that comes after sending results, we cannot send them until we have finished processing all applications. This ultimately helps you get your application result sooner.

If you haven't heard from us by May 15th, then please do contact us. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
 
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Photo courtesy of North Cascades Institute.

Reservation Policies

North Cascades National Park Service Complex accepts advance reservations each spring for summer backcountry travel between May 15 and September 30. Reservations can be made for up to 60 percent of the park backcountry camp capacity (the remaining 40 percent are set aside for walk-up permits.)

List of Reservable Camps and Capacities

Timeline

Reservation applications can be submitted at pay.gov starting March 15 to April 15, 2021 for camping between the dates of May 15 through September 30. If a hike or climb begins before or after these dates, or you plan to visit a non-reservable area of the park, a first-come, first-serve walk-up permit must be obtained in person at a park visitor or information center. Visit the Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount for assistance with trip planning.

Date/Time

Details

February 1, 2021

Pay.gov application link now available and applications can be started, however they cannot be submitted yet.

March 15, 2021
7:00AM PDT

Reservation applications can now be submitted.
All applications submitted from this time through March 31st (11:59:59PM PDT) will be shuffled and taken in random order.
There is no advantage to submitting right at opening.

April 1, 2021
12:00 AM PDT
Applications will now be processed in the order received. For the best chance of getting popular areas or dates, submit during March.
Rangers begin processing applications.

April 15, 2021
9:00PM PDT

End of the advance reservation window.
Applications will not be accepted after this time.

May 15, 2021

Application results will be sent out.
First date for a reservable trip.
Do not email us before this date to check the status of your application unless your trip starts in May. Results cannot be sent until we have finished processing all applications.

September 30, 2021

Last date for a reservable trip.


Converting a Reservation to a Permit

Advance reservations must be converted to a backcountry permit before the start of the trip. Reservations can be picked up at the park station closest to point of entry (COVID-19 station closures may still be in effect - monitor agency websites for latest info,) and must be picked up by 11 am of the trip start date, or the reservation will be canceled and the sites made available to other visitors.

Application Process

Review the following resources before submitting a reservation application:
Wilderness Trip Planner and Map
Backcountry Permits
Boating on Ross Lake and Ross Lake Map
Camping in Stehekin
Climbing Page
List of Reservable Camps and Capacities

Backcountry Conditions

Some areas are snow covered until early or mid-July! Be aware of potential hazards. If in doubt, wait to visit these areas until later in the season. Hazards include but are not limited to:

  • Cascade Pass — Steep snow (ice axe may be needed), high water crossing (Doubtful Creek, Basin Creek in early season), camping on snow, routefinding in snow, Cascade River Road early season closure. Primary hiking season is July 1 until snowfall, typically mid-to-late September.
    NOTE: The Cascade River road typically does not open until July. Heavy snowpack and winter storm damage often delay opening, and the 2021 season could likely be impacted by these factors. Distance from the winter closure to the trailhead is five miles.

  • Copper Ridge — Steep snow (ice axe may be needed), high water crossing (northern Chilliwack), camping on snow, routefinding in snow, thin or collapsing snowbridges (Hannegan Pass Trail), Hannegan Pass USFS Road #32 early season closure. Primary hiking season is July 15 until snowfall, typically mid-to-late September.

  • Rainbow - McAlester Loop — Steep snow, ice axe needed (Bowan Pass, north of Rainbow Lake), high or impassable ford (crossing of Bridge Creek at South Fork Camp), seasonal bridges (Rainbow Creek). Primary hiking season for entire loop is late July until snowfall, typically mid-to-late September. McAlester Pass may be accessible earlier.

  • Park Creek Pass, Easy Pass — Steep snow, ice axe and routefinding skills required in early season, ford of Thunder Creek just south of Thunder Basin Camp. Primary hiking season is mid-to-late July until snowfall, typically mid-to-late September.

  • All climbing areas — Normal travel requires the skills and expertise to routefind and navigate technical terrain, including glaciers, crevasses and moats, steep snow and rock, avalanche zones, etc.

The wilderness is a dynamic, natural environment where events and conditions are unpredictable and may vary widely year to year. There is a possibility that trail and campground closures, environmental conditions (such as snow, high stream crossings, etc.), natural events (such as fires, aggressive animals, etc.), or other events may prevent completion of your itinerary. In the event this occurs, every effort will be made to provide an alternative itinerary when you pick up your permit.

Submitting a Reservation Request

CLICK HERE TO ACCESS RESERVATION APPLICATION AT PAY.GOV

The application is now available, however applications cannot be submitted until March 15th (see time table above).

  • Reservation requests will only be accepted via pay.gov. The park will not accept requests by standard mail, fax, phone, or other delivery methods. The application form will be accessible through April 15.

  • Applicants will receive a confirmation of their payment and submission via pay.gov, at the time of submittal.

  • Successful applicants will receive an email confirmation with their reservation itinerary and instructions for permit pickup upon arrival at the park. Non-successful applicants will also receive an email notification that their itinerary did not work. Applicants should receive confirmation by May 15, 2020. Do not contact us for status updates before this date unless your trip starts in May.

Fees


There is a $20 non-refundable application cost recovery fee for each application request submitted. If the backcountry staff is unable to award an advance reservation itinerary based upon the parameters requested in the application, the fee is not refundable. The application form allows for alternative dates and locations to ensure a successful trip request. Consider all potential trip options and list these on the application.
*Pay.gov allows a variety of payment options. Credit card is recommended for payment.

Changes to Confirmed Advance Reservations

  • Make any changes to the reservation when the permit is picked up at the park, subject to walk-in availability. There is no charge for changing permit itineraries on a walk-in basis, up to 24 hours in advance of the start of a trip.

Cancellations

All reservation application fees are non-refundable. If travel plans change and you cannot use all, or part, of the backcountry reservation, please call 360-854-7245 to cancel the trip. A refund will not be provided, but it will allow other campers to enjoy those sites.

Technical Difficulties

For assistance with technical difficulties with the Pay.gov application process, call Pay.gov customer service at: 800-624-1373, option 2 (or 216-579-2112, option 2). Backcountry staff cannot diagnose technical issues related to the Pay.gov website.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

I don’t see the campsite I am looking for on the drop down menu. Where is it?

If a camp is not on the drop down menu on the reservation form, it is not a reservable site. Only 60% of the park’s backcountry capacity is on the reservation system. If part of your itinerary includes a non-reservable site, choose “other area/non reservable camp/walk up permit.” It may be available on a first come first serve basis when you arrive at the permit office to pick up your permit.

I can’t access the camp choices or progress through the form.

Make sure you have filled out ALL the required fields or the system will not let you continue.

Why are you shuffling applications? I submitted my application right when they opened on March 15th.
In an effort to keep access to public lands as fair to as many people as possible, we shuffle all applications received in March. This ensures that those who are unable to submit an application right at opening can still have a chance with their itineraries. If applications were not shuffled, many of the most popular sites would be filled for the whole summer within moments.

I made a mistake and my app is already submitted, or I need to change my trip dates – how do I fix it?
If you need to make the corrections, you must submit a new application, subject to the same fee. Call the Wilderness office and ask us to discard your original application.

My reservation is for a trip that starts at Hozomeen. How to I activate my permit? I am obviously not passing through Marblemount.

If you are coming from the USA (Skagit County or south,) stop at the National Park Headquarters office in Sedro-Woolley to activate your permit. Canadian visitors can call the wilderness office at 360-854-7245 to activate.

I am entering the park through Stehekin to start my trip and I won’t get there by 11am to activate my reservation. Are you going to cancel my trip?
No worries, we hold the Stehekin reservations longer to make sure you have time to arrive on the ferry and get to the Golden West visitor center to pick up your permit.

I am climbing Mount Shuksan via the Fisher Chimneys Route. I don’t see that on the drop down menu. How do I reserve?
The bivy area for that route on Shuksan is within “Price Cross Country Zone.”

I am hiking the Devils Dome loop, so some parts of my trip are outside the park. How do I fill out the reservation?
Enter the real start date of your trip, and enter the total number of backcountry nights including the time spent outside the park. For the nights outside the park choose “other area/non reservable camp/walk up permit.” And for the night or nights along Ross Lake choose a specific camp.

I submitted my reservation March 15. It feels like it’s been forever and I haven’t heard anything. When am I going to hear back?

First of all, thank you for your patience. The North Cascades reservation crew starts their season the first week of April. We won’t get started on the applications until then. Each of the over 4,000 applications are printed out, personally evaluated by a ranger and manually entered in our permit system. We will send results to all applicants at the same time: May 15th. Please only contact us if you haven’t heard from us by May 15th.

Last updated: April 10, 2021

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

810 State Route 20
Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284

Phone:

(360) 854-7200

Contact Us