2018 Update: North Cascades National Park Service Complex continues its pilot program for advance reservations, expanding in 2018 to include most trailed areas of the park complex.. Reservations can be made for up to 60 percent of the following areas (the remaining 40 percent are set aside for walk-up permits):
Ross Lake (including the East Bank Trail, Big Beaver and Little Beaver)
Copper Ridge area (including Chilliwack Valley and Whatcom Pass area camps)
Cascade Pass area
Monogram Lake, Thornton Lake, Baker River, and 4th of July Pass
Thunder, Fisher and Park Creek Areas
Twisp Pass, Bridge Creek (Pacific Crest Trail) and North Fork Bridge Creek Areas
Rainbow Lake, McAlester Pass and Boulder Creek Areas
Climbing areas – all cross-country zones around Mt. Shuksan, Forbidden and Sharkfin Peaks (including Boston Basin), Eldorado, and Mt. Triumph.
Stock Parties - The following stock camps can be reserved, with priority given to stock parties: 5 Mile Stock Camp, 39 Mile Stock Camp, Big Beaver Stock Camp, Beaver Pass Stock Camp, Bridge Creek Stock Camp, Deerlick Stock Camp, Devils Creek Stock Camp, Fireweed Stock Camp, Graybeal Stock Camp, Hidden Hand Stock Camp, Hidden Meadows Stock Camp, Juanita Lake Stock Camp, Lightning Creek Stock Camp, McAllister Stock Camp, Rainbow Meadows Stock Camp, Reynolds Stock Camp, Twin Rocks Stock Camp, US Cabin Stock Camp, and Walker Park Stock Camp. Stock parties must submit applications by March 31 in order to receive priority. If there are no stock reservation requests, these sites may be allocated to hiker or boater parties. After March 31, all reservations are processed in the order received.
Timeline - Reservations can be submitted from March 15 to May 15 for camping between the dates of May 15 through September 30. For early May trips, reservations must be submitted at least 7 days before the start of a trip. 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.
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, and must be picked up by 11 am of the trip start date, or the reservation will be cancelled and the sites made available to other visitors.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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 beginning March 15.
March 15 – March 31 – Lottery processing. All requests received between March 15 and March 31 receive the same priority level and will be processed in random order. There is no advantage or difference to submiting a request on the first day versus the last day of this timeframe. Park rangers begin to process reservations on April 1.
April 1 – May 15 - Requests made April 1 and after will be processed in the order in which they were received, after the initial reservation batch is processed.
Stock (horse, mule, or llama) parties receive priority at all stock camps, for all application requests received before March 31. If no stock applications are received, these camps may be assigned to hikers or boaters.
Applicants will receive a confirmation of their payment and submission via pay.gov, at the time of submittal.
Processing applications will begin on April 1. Please allow up to four weeks for a response, especially during the initial processing timeframe. Once rangers complete the initial review, response times are expected to be faster, but please be patient. Requests for further verification of applications slows down the process and takes time from processing reservations.
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.
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 $20 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 or Paypal are recommended for payment.
Changes to Confirmed Advance Reservations
There are two options to change a successful reservation request:
Submit another advance reservation application. Enter the number of the existing reservation into the “existing reservation” field on the application form. Reservation changes are subject to all fees ($20 non-refundable application cost recovery fee). This option is not possible after May 15.
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.
All reservation application fees are non-refundable. Amendments to existing advance reservations are subject to all fees. 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.
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.