Backcountry Reservations

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Photo courtesy of North Cascades Institute.

Reservation Policies

North Cascades National Park Service Complex now accepts advance reservations each spring for summer backcountry travel. 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.)

Timeline

The reservation period for 2020 is now closed. The remaining sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis as walk-up permits on the day before or day of your trip's start date. Please visit our backcountry permits page for more information on obtaining a walk-up permit.

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 canceled and the sites made available to other visitors.

Stock Parties

Stock parties must contact the wilderness information center (360-854-7245) after submitting their application and before processing begins (usually April 1) in order to receive priority at stock camps. If there are no stock reservation requests, these sites may be allocated to hiker or boater parties.

 

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.

  • 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.

Submitting a Reservation Request

The reservation period for 2020 is now closed. The remaining sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis as walk-up permits on the day before or day of your trip's start date. Please visit our backcountry permits page for more information on obtaining a walk-up 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 from March 15 (midnight EDT)-April 15 (midnight EDT).
  • 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.

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 $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 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 go on.

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, Stehekin reservations are held 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 2000 applications is printed out, personally evaluated by a ranger and manually entered in our permit system. It will take about 6 weeks for the three of us to finish all the reservation requests. We will contact everyone with a yes or no answer as soon as we finish processing the application. If you haven’t heard from us by May 15, definitely give us a call.

Last updated: May 14, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

810 State Route 20
Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284

Phone:

(360) 854-7200

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