Shenandoah National Park solicited public comment on a proposal to transition the backcountry permitting process to a fee-based online system. The park hosted a virtual public meeting on June 6. A recording of the meeting and a list of the questions asked can be found on the PEPC site: Comments were accepted through July 6 here.
The establishment of a new online permitting system will allow the Park to track and understand backcountry use to ensure the protection of resources and provide an improved visitor experience. The fee-based online registration system through recreation.gov will allow users to plan their trip in advance with current information using a reliable system. The permit will have an associated fee that will provide financial support for management of the park's backcountry. Shenandoah has one of the largest backcountry permitting programs in the national park system, and most of these programs require fees. Backcountry, or “wilderness camping” refers to camping in remote areas of the park rather than in developed campgrounds with amenities.
Park managers will evaluate the public comments and develop a plan for implementation. This system will be implemented in 2024, and additional details will be provided as the park moves forward.
Frequently Asked Questions
Click the drop-down arrows below for answers to some of our most frequently asked questions.
The current system is labor intensive and challenging to maintain. The goals of the proposed changes are to:
The law establishing the ability to collect fees (Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act) and the park’s Backcountry and Wilderness Management Plan/EA (1998) allow for these changes to the permit process.
Permits will be obtained through Recreation.gov either online (www.recreation.gov) or by phone (877.444.6777). Permits will no longer be available at the park, neither in person or at self-registration stations.
No, there will not be a limit to the number of backcountry permits available each day.
Permits can be reserved up to 90 days in advance of your trip. Permits may also be booked the same day your trip begins.
Yes. The park is currently proposing a fee of $9 per person plus a $6 permit reservation fee. For example, one camper would pay $15. A group of two would pay $24.
Yes. Many National Parks charge for backcountry camping, including Great Smoky Mountains, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Bryce Canyon, and Olympic National Parks. All parks with high backcountry use, like Shenandoah, charge a fee.
No, your pass does not provide a discount for backcountry camping permits.
The $6 reservation fee is non-refundable. The $9 per person recreation fee is refundable if cancelled more than three days prior to permit date.
Most of your payment stays within the park and will be used to help fund backcountry management efforts. This may include field staff to share info with campers, trail and facility maintenance, rehabilitation of illegal sites, and developing trip planning information for campers. A portion of your payment goes to Recreation.gov for administrative costs.
The park has set a tentative date of January 1, 2024. This date will provide the park time to review and take into consideration public comments and prepare park staff and the visiting public of the upcoming changes.
No. Backcountry camping within Shenandoah National Park is dispersed and sites are chosed by the camper. See the backcountry trip planning section of the website for regulations about choosing a site. Camping at the A.T. shelters and associated campsites is first-come first-serve.
Yes. Valid entrance passes (Shenandoah, America the Beautiful, Military, Senior, etc.) are required for entry into Shenandoah National Park. A valid entrance pass is needed in addition to your backcountry camping permit. Entrance passes may also be purchased on Recreation.gov. and are available for purchase at any of the park’s entrance stations. As a reminder, backcountry camping permits will not be available for purchase on site at the park.
Once you complete your purchase on Recreation.gov, you will receive an email including your permit. You must have a copy of this permit, either saved digitally or printed, on your person during your trip.
No. You do not need to check in or out with park staff before or after your trip, but be prepared to present your backcountry permit to a ranger upon request.
No. While permits are not transferrable, you will be able to designate an alternate permit holder at time of purchase.
You MAY modify itinerary locations, group size, entry/exit locations, vehicle information, stock and pet counts, and emergency contact prior to permit issuance/printing.
You MAY NOT modify the start date. To change your start date, you will need to cancel your existing reservation and create a new one.
When purchasing your permit, you will be able to indicate that you plan to thru hike the A.T. in Shenandoah. This will give you greater flexibility with your permit itinerary should your trip plans change. The 90-day reservation window prior to your permit start date also provides an opportunity to reserve your permit well in advance of reaching the park boundary.
No. Current rules and regulations pertaining to backcountry camping permits will remain the same, including:
· Groups may not exceed ten individuals. If group is greater than ten, a second permit must be obtained. Note that groups must camp at least 50 yards from each other to help protect the backcountry environment.
· Individual permits may not exceed 14 nights.
· Permit holders may not exceed more than 30 total backcountry nights per calendar year.
· Permitted camper(s) cannot stay at the same campsite for more than two consecutive nights.
· Permit holders cannot hold overlapping permits.
Additional backcountry rules and regulations can be found on the following webpage: https://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/backcountry-regulations.htm
Last updated: October 13, 2023