5 Best U.S. Permit Hikes to Plan For Now

Since we're all stuck at home these days, we might as well start planning out dream-worthy hikes to take when we can get back in the wild. And since some of the best hikes require a permit, this is the perfect time to start planning logistics and entering lotteries to snag your permit. A bit of planning, a dash of good luck, and you'll find yourself on an unforgettable adventure.
Half Dome Cables Route - Yosemite National Park
300 lucky hikers head up Half Dome each day.

Half Dome Cables Route, Yosemite National Park, California

Climbing up the back of Half Dome is one of the most famous hiking trails, period. The NPS allows 300 people per day to head up the cables to the summit of Half Dome during its 130-day season. There's stiff competition, though: over 36,000 people applied for permits in 2019! You can apply for permits from March 1 to 31, 2021. You can pick six dates, and the NPS will alert you by mid-April. Can't wait that long? There's a daily lottery for 50 people you can apply for, too. If you can't snag a permit, you can always hike to the base of the cables as far as the base of the Sub Dome.
When: March 1 - 31

The Wave, Kanab, Utah
With a little luck, you'll be one of 20 hikers that gets to spend the day here.

The Wave, Coyote Buttes, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Utah/Arizona

You've seen this formation in photos whether you know it or not: The Wave is a red sandstone canyon with unreal tan and orange striations. The trailhead starts in Utah, but the formation itself is a five-mile round trip that leads into Arizona. Only 20 people score a permit each day; ten from an online lottery four months prior and 10 on a first-come, first-served basis for walk-ins at the Grand Staircase - Escalante Visitor Center over in Kanab, Utah.
When: Four months before your trip; same-day
Where: BLM's Coyote Buttes Permits; Grand Staircase - Escalante Visitor Center

Havasua Falls - Havasupai Reservation
Just outside of Grand Canyon National Park, Havasu Falls is a real-life desert oasis!

Havasu Falls, Havasupai Indian Reservation, Arizona

A true desert oasis, you'll take a 10-mile hiking trail that leads to cascading turquoise waterfalls flowing over bright-orange desert rock. It's a fairy wonderland. Day hiking to the area isn't allowed, and you'll have to snag an overnight camping permit to stay in the designated campground. These permits are given on February 1 each year, and they're usually gone within the first few hours.
When: February 1

The Narrows - Zion National Park - St. George, Utah
Ever dreamed of hiking a slot canyon? The Narrows is one of the best in the world.

The Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah

Hiking the Narrows from the bottom-up half of the trail is open to everyone, permit or not, but you'll need to grab a Wilderness Permit to do the full top-to-bottom hike as a day hike or an overnighter. It's well worth it! Fewer crowds, towering canyon walls, and plenty of magic. Half of these permits are available online on the fifth day of every month at 10 am MT; reservations are made for the next month. You can also grab a Last Minute Drawing 2 to 7 days before your hike, and walk-in permit are available one day in advance from the park's visitor center.
When: Fifth day of each month; 2-7 days before hike; 1 day before hike.

The Enchantments - Leavenworth, Washington
Camp beneath glaciated granite peaks and starry skies in the Enchantments.

Enchantments, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington

When you find yourself hiking among high-alpine lakes, winding trails, and stretching mountain peaks with glaciers, you'll share a strong love for the Enchantments that captures so many visitors. You can always day hike using a free self-issued permit, but with thousands of feet of vertical gain, it's going to be tough. To camp in the Enchantments (the season is May 15 to October 21 in 2021), you'll need to grab a permit from the Forest Service. Half of permits are available on a lottery system from February 15 to 29, and the other half are issued as same-day permits at the ranger station in Leavenworth.
When: February 15 to 29; same-day
Where: USFS Enchantment Permit Area (Feb. 15-29); Leavenworth Ranger Stations (same-day)

Just give me a permit application calendar already

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.