Application Process and Required Documents


Application Process

CUA application packets are accepted year-round.

  1. Complete CUA application packets should be submitted via email to
  2. Complete application packets include the documents listed below:
  3. If your application is missing any components listed above, we will inform you via the email address or phone number listed on the application. Any incomplete applications will be placed on hold until all required documentation is received.
  4. Once your application packet has been reviewed and approved, we will send the CUA, NPS Form 10-115, via the email address listed on the application.
  5. The CUA holder will then sign and return the CUA form(s) to The CUA is not final until the signed form(s) are received by our office.
  6. Submit a guide card request for any guides/employees that will be entering the park under this CUA at least two weeks prior to their first trip in the park.
  7. Complete and submit Annual Report Forms—Due by January 31st following the operating year.

When to apply

Although applications are accepted and processed year-round, please note the below time-sensitive application windows for specific activities:

Due Date Applies To Deadline for Application Purpose of Deadline
To Start Operating on January 1 Any CUA Category November 1, 2022 CUAs require up to 45 days to process. However, CUAs that wish to begin operating on January 1 need to submit by November 1 to ensure their CUA is ready prior to the holiday season. Our office finds that businesses sometimes need to coordinate with external parties to complete CUA applications, some of which can be difficult to engage with over the holiday season (e.g. insurance agents, webmasters, attorneys, etc.). This deadline helps the park and our valued CUA partners plan ahead to ensure your operations are not interrupted on January 1.
To Start Guiding on the Fishing Opener Stream and Shoreline Fishing, Boating CUAs that conduct Fishing Wednesday, April 12, 2023 CUAs require up to 45 days to process. Applying by April 12 ensures you can begin guiding on the fishing opener. CUAs for fishing received after the deadline will continue to be processed but may not be ready in time for the opener.
To Conduct Overnight Backcountry Trips Guided Overnight Backcountry Tours 45 days prior to the first night of a backcountry reservation CUAs require up to 45 days to process. Be sure to apply in time to ensure your CUA is in place prior to your backcountry reservation. Backcountry reservations for businesses that haven’t applied for a CUA 45 days prior to the trip may be cancelled.

Activity-Based CUA Application

Activity-based CUAs are issued for up to one year with a $300 application fee. For additional information on each activity and instructions on how to apply, please see the links below.

Avalanche Safety Courses

Authorizes CUA holders to provide Avalanche Safety courses.

Bicycling Tours

Authorizes guided road-based bicycle trips and front-country hiking on boardwalk areas and trails less than ½-mile from trailheads or roadways.

Guided Environmental Education Tours

Authorizes interpretive road-based tours, day hiking, non-instructional photography tours, and step-on guide services on park roads with visits to facilities and services.

Motorized Boating Trips

Authorizes guided touring or fishing trips in motorized boats on Yellowstone Lake and/or Lewis Lake.

Non-motorized Boating Trips

Authorizes guided touring and fishing using dories, single or tandem kayaks, canoe, and other small non-motorized vessels in Yellowstone, Lewis, and Shoshone Lakes.

Overnight Backcountry Trips

Authorizes guided overnight backcountry camping and hiking trips. Skiing and/or snowshoeing backcountry trips are allowed with the appropriate authorization and backcountry permit.

Painting and Photography Workshops

Authorizes road-based photography and painting workshops which include photography and/or painting instruction. Stops at visitor facilities, services, walks on trails less than a ½ mile from trailheads or roadways, and on boardwalks/developed areas are authorized under this CUA.

Road-based Transportation CUA (group sizes 1-25)

Authorizes road-based interpretive tours, non-instructional photography tours, and in-park shuttle service for group sizes of 1 – 25 clients. Step-on guide service is also authorized under this CUA and may be provided for any size group.

Skiing and Snowshoeing Trips

Authorizes guided cross-country snowshoeing and ski touring trips on low to moderate angle terrain which does not exceed incidental slope angles of 34°. Overnight backcountry trips allowed with appropriate authorization and backcountry permit.

Guided Stream and Shoreline Fishing

Authorizes guided walk and wade fishing trips in park streams and lakes. Float tube use in lakes is permitted with this CUA.

Portrait Services

This CUA authorizes Portrait Services and may include photography, low-impact videography with handheld devices, painting, or other media within Yellowstone National Park. These services include, but are not limited to, the following: Engagement Photography, Wedding Photography, Family Portraits, School/Graduation Portraits, and Pet Portraits (must abide by park pet policy in thermal areas). Options are available for a one day single-session permit or an annual CUA. Appropriate wedding permits required.


Service-Based CUA Application

Service-based CUAs are issued for up to two years with a $150 application fee. For additional information on each category and instructions on how to apply, please see the links below.

Towing and Automotive Services

Authorizes CUA holders to provide towing, tire repair, locksmith, and RV and RV appliance repair services as needed to visitors within the park.

Water Access

Authorizes commercial travel through NPS property to access the Yellowstone River, at the Gardiner confluence, for the purpose of providing non-motorized guided tours and trips.


Last updated: January 5, 2023

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Mailing Address:

PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park , WY 82190-0168



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