Advanced reservation on Recreation.gov, plus picking up the permit at a ranger station
Walk-up permits at a ranger station
Both systems require a trip leader to be physically present at a ranger station (with few exceptions detailed further below) to pick up a permit. Permits can be picked up the day before or the day of a desired trip start date. Use the Wilderness Trip Planner to help plan your trip.
All reservations and walk-up permits cost $20 plus a non-refundable $6 transaction fee. Only debit or credit cards will be accepted, no cash.
Walk-up permits are available in person, the day of or day before a desired trip start date on a first-come, first-served basis at a ranger station. There are many options for walk-up permits in the park, including areas that are not popular or crowded. Please come prepared with a plan (or two, or more) and be flexible so rangers can help you find alternative camps if your first choices are booked up.
Where to Obtain a Permit
There are several locations in the park that issue backcountry permits, see below for more information.
These ranger stations are only open during the summer: Operating Hours and Seasons.
7280 Ranger Station Road, Marblemount WA 98267
This center is the main backcountry permit office for the park complex. Wilderness rangers are on hand to provide firsthand trip planning advice for all wilderness and backcountry areas of the park, including Ross Lake and climbing areas. You'll also find current trail and camp conditions, maps, and more to assist with your trip planning. Note: All permits for the Cascade River Road (including Cascade Pass and Boston Basin) must be picked up in person in Marblemount.
10091 Mt. Baker Hwy, Glacier, WA 98244
This is a U.S. Forest Service ranger station that is jointly staffed by National Park Service wilderness rangers during the summer season. Backpackers and climbers can obtain backcountry permits required for overnight stays in areas within North Cascades National Park that are accessed via trailheads along the Mt. Baker Highway, such as the Fisher Chimney’s route on Mt. Shuksan, the Chilliwack River drainage, or Copper Ridge. Note: All permits for trips starting at the Copper Ridge and Chilliwack area must be picked up in person in Glacier.
A short walk from the passenger ferry landing at Stehekin Landing near the north end of Lake Chelan. Reached via passenger ferry, trail, or float plane, not accessible by road. This visitor center is staffed by park rangers who can answer questions about backcountry trips starting from Stehekin. Popular trailheads include the Rainbow loop, Purple Pass, Boulder Creek and the Pacific Crest Trail at High Bridge.
Note: Please get your permit before arriving to Stehekin. Send an email to email@example.com early the day before you travel to Stehekin and a ranger will send you a permit remotely.
Exceptions to being physically present at a ranger to obtain a permit are detailed below.
1. Accessing remote areas of the park
Access to the park via Baker Lake Road (i.e. Sulphide Glacier route on Shuksan, and Baker River Trail)
Entering the park via Stehekin (Lake Chelan ferry system, private boat, plane, foot)
2. Approaching the park from eastern Washington on SR20
Walk-up permits can only be issued for trips starting at East Bank, Panther Creek, Easy Pass, Bridge Creek trailhead, or via Twisp Pass, War Creek Pass, and Chelan Summit Trail. Note: All walk-up permits for boat access to Ross and Diablo Lake, Ross Dam, and all the trailheads to the west, must be picked up in person in Marblemount
3. Pacific Northwest Trail Thru-Hikers
We highly recommend PNT hikers make reservations ahead of time on Recreation.gov
Westbound hikers should contact us in Oroville, the last town with cell service prior to entering the park. Eastbound hikers should contact us the day before entering the park via Hannegan trailhead.
Contact the Wilderness Office in Marblemount by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to request a permit only for the cases detailed above. Please email us early in the morning the day before you want to start your trip and provide us with a good callback number. To expedite the process create a Recreation.gov account before contacting us.
Good Stewards Program
North Cascades National Park Service Complex is piloting a new program to expedite the backcountry permitting process for frequent users who adhere to park rules and regulations, adequately prepare for backcountry trips, and follow Leave No Trace principles. The program provides a process for frequent users with advanced reservations to print their permit online.
Advanced Reservations with no Itinerary Changes:
Make a reservation for a backcountry trip with the same Recreation.gov account used for past permits. If you have previously camped in the park, but you were not the permit holder (trip leader), then you do not qualify for the program.
Two days before your trip start date, e-mail us to request a permit. Mention that you want to participate in the Good Stewards Program and rangers will verify eligibility.
Rangers will review your itinerary, share any important information via email regarding closures, hazards, and conditions, then issue the permit. You will print your permit online from Recreation.gov.
The group leader must read, sign, and carry their permit. Permit holder must carry photo ID with permit for the duration of their trip. This privilege can be revoked at any time, contact us at NOCA_wilderness@nps.gov if you have questions.
Are you a thru-hiker?
Beginning in 2020, North Cascades National Park will honor the long-distance Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) hiking permit issued by the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) for camping at specific camps. PCTA long-distance permit holders no longer need to obtain an overnight backcountry camping permit for Six Mile Camp and Bridge Creek Camp within North Cascades National Park.
Any hiker without a PCTA Long-distance Permit must obtain, in advance, a park-issued backcountry permit at designated ranger stations for camping inside North Cascades National Park. Visit the Pacific Crest Trail and Pacific Northwest Trail pages for more information.
Permits Are Limited
To protect the wilderness and visitors’ experiences, the number of permits issued for each area is limited. Popular areas such as Cascade Pass, Ross Lake, Copper Ridge, and Thornton Lakes can be very busy during the height of summer, and permits can fill quickly. The busiest climbing areas are Sulphide Glacier, Boston Basin, and Eldorado cross-country zones. To maximize your chance of obtaining a permit and finding solitude, visit these areas midweek or after Labor Day, and have a backup itinerary or climb in mind if your first-choice area is already full. Ask a ranger for less busy alternative areas to visit. There is always somewhere to go.
Why do I need a permit?
Backcountry permits protect your wilderness experience and prevent overcrowding at camps or climbing routes, provide for opportunities for solitude and a quality backcountry experience, and protect natural resources so that all visitors – including future generations – can enjoy them. Permits also serve an important safety function in the event of an emergency or wildfire, and allow park managers to gather data important for planning and decision making. Thanks for doing your part to help steward these important wilderness resources.