Backcountry Permits

Wilderness Information Center 2023
The Wilderness Information Center opens for the season May 17. Photo by NPS

How to Pick Up a Permit

There are two ways to get a backcountry permit:

1. Advanced reservation on, plus picking up the permit at a ranger station

Backcountry Reservations can be made up to two days before your desired trip start date. All reservations require a permit pick up before your trip starts. You can make changes to your itinerary on, with some restrictions. Start dates cannot be changed; reservations will have to be canceled and rebooked for a different start date.

2. Walk-up permits at a ranger station

Walk-up permits are available in person on a first-come, first-served basis at a ranger station. Permits can be picked up the day before or day of a desired trip start date.
There are many options for walk-up permits in the park, including areas that are not popular or crowded. Come prepared with an itinerary and be flexible so rangers can find alternative camps if your first choices are booked. Use the Wilderness Trip Planner to help plan your trip.

Both options require the trip leader to be physically present at a ranger station (with few exceptions detailed further below) to pick up a permit.

All reservations and walk-up permits cost $10 per person (youth 15 and under are free) plus a non-refundable $6 fee.

Where to Pick up a Permit

See below for locations in the park that issue backcountry permits. No permit services are available in Sedro Woolley or Stehekin.
These issue stations are only open during the summer: Operating Hours and Seasons.

Our Good Steward mascot, the American Pika
NPS/Ann Schonlau

Good Stewards Program

North Cascades National Park Service Complex is piloting a new program for frequent users who follow Leave No Trace principles and park rules and regulations. The program provides a process for frequent users with advanced reservations to print their permit online.

Advanced Reservations with no Itinerary Changes:

  1. Make a reservation for a backcountry trip with the same 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.

  1. Two days before your trip start date, contact us at to request a permit through the Good Stewards Program. Rangers will verify eligibility.

  1. 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

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 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 for camping inside North Cascades National Park. Visit the Pacific Crest Trail and Pacific Northwest Trail pages 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 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.

Last updated: June 30, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

810 State Route 20
Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284


360 854-7200

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