Backcountry Permits

A ranger talks to a visitor at a backcountry permit office.
Stop by the Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount, the park's main backcountry permit office, to chat with a ranger. Photo by NPS

How to Obtain a Permit

Backcountry permits can be obtained two ways:

  1. Advanced reservation on Recreation.gov, plus picking up the permit in-person at a ranger station

  2. Walk-up permits at a ranger station (Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount is open through Oct 8th. Self-registration available after office closes.)

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. The $20 reservation fee can be refunded if a trip is cancelled at least 3 days before the trip start date.

How to Make an Advanced Reservation

Advanced reservation can be made up to two days before your desired trip start date; learn more here: Backcountry Reservations.

All reservations require an in-person permit pick up at a ranger station before your trip starts. If you need an itinerary change, you can manage it on Recreation.gov with some restrictions. Start dates cannot be changed; reservations will have to be canceled and rebooked for a different start date. Use this video with detailed instructions on how to make a reservation on Recreation.gov.

How to Obtain a Walk-Up Permit

Walk-up permits are available in person, the day before or day of 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

Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount

7280 Ranger Station Road, Marblemount WA 98267
Obtain permits here for all areas of the park. 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 Sahale, Cascade Pass, Boston Basin) must be picked up in person in Marblemount.

Glacier Public Service Center

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.

Remote-Issued Permit via a Ranger in Marblemount

Exceptions to being physically present at a ranger to obtain a permit are detailed below. (The Park and Forest Information Center in Sedro-Woolley, the Golden West Visitor Center and Chelan and Methow Valley Ranger Stations are not currently issuing permits.)

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). You may contact us the day before arriving in Stehekin.

2. Approaching the park from eastern Washington on SR20

  • Walk-up permits can only be issued for trips starting at East Bank, Easy Pass, Bridge Creek trailhead, or via Twisp Pass, War Creek Pass, and Chelan Summit Trail. Note: All permits for Ross Lake, Ross Dam, and all the trailheads to the west must be picked up in person in Marblemount

3. Pacific Northwest Trail Through Hikers

  • 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 to request a call back 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. For driving directions and current hours for all National Park Service ranger stations click here.

 

Are you a Pacific Crest Trail 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. This is a policy change from previous years. 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 page for more information.

 
A climber travels on snow at sunset
Permits help ensure solitude and a quality backcountry experience. Photo by NPS /F. Shafer
 

Permits Are Limited

To protect the wilderness and visitors’ experiences, the number of permits issued for each area is limited. Popular areas such as around Cascade Pass, along Ross Lake, on Copper Ridge, and at Thornton and Monogram 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.

Last updated: September 22, 2022

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Sedro-Woolley , WA 98284

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