Summer might seem like a distant dream these days, but before you know it, it will be time for warm weather adventures. Don't let peak outdoor season sneak up on you without obtaining permits to some of the country's most popular and protected destinations.
There's a reason access to the following outdoor adventures are limited; it's because they're so beautiful, exciting, secluded, or all three, that unregulated crowds would ruin the experience.
By applying for permits in advance, you can secure access to some mind blowing places. And while some of them are still crowded, despite the permit system, others are limited enough to award you with truly secluded experiences. (Ahem... The Enchantments.)
1. Half Dome Permit for Day Hikers
Plenty of people see Yosemite's iconic Half Dome from a distance, but only a small slice of the crowd has the honor of hiking to it's curved peak. The park allows 225 day hikers and 75 backpackers to ascend the mountain each day via safety cables that have been strung up along the route. This feature is open to visitors from May 25, 2018 to October 9, 2018, though the dates could change due to weather or unforeseen circumstances.
Enter your name into the preseason lottery on Recreation.gov as early as March 1, 2018 at 11:59 pm EST and as late as March 31, 2018 at 11:59 pm EST. If you do win a spot, you will be notified by April 9th. During less busy times, the park may also open up to 50 permits per day, two days in advance via Recreation.gov.
Pro tip: Being flexible can increase your chances of a lottery win. Get to know which days are more popular than others and plan accordingly.
2. Enchantment Area Overnight Wilderness Permits
Dreaming of escaping into the wilderness of The Cascades in Washington state? You’ll need a permit for the most stunning and secluded sections, known as The Enchantments.
The overnight permit season begins on May 15, 2018 and ends on October 31, 2018. To put yourself in the running, you will need to enter your name on Recreation.gov. The dates have yet to be announced, but the lottery typically opens in mid February--last year it opened February 15th and ended March 2nd.
In the meantime, start familiarizing yourself with this stunning and challenging backcountry trek.
3. Havasupai Camping Permits
When it comes to experiencing Arizona’s other-worldly beauty, it doesn’t get much better than Havasu Falls. That said, visiting this natural wonder takes leg work and a little bit of luck.
Overnight camping permits for the area are only issued by the Havasupai Tribe. At this time, visitors must call the tribe directly in order to secure a spot, but they have yet to announce whether or not a lottery will be placed into effect for the 2018 season.
For overnight reservations, your best bet is to either call their offices at (928) 448-2141 or organize a trip through a local guide.
4. Denali Road Permit
In the month of September, Denali National Park allows lucky visitors to do one amazing thing -- drive as much of the park as weather allows in their own, personal vehicle.
It’s a very popular activity and one that takes some flexibility on the part of the visitor. The park has yet to announce when this event will take place in 2018, as inclement weather can have an adverse effect on timing. Last year, it occurred on September 15-19.
To secure your spot, go on Recreation.gov as early as May 1, 2018 and as late as May 30, 2018. You may be one of the lucky 400 who gets to drive Denali.
5. Dinosaur Green and Yampa River Permits
Float through Dinosaur National Monument’s picturesque Green and Yampa Rivers with your high-season river permit for May 14th-September 14, 2018.
Currently, the lottery is open (as of December 1, 2017) and will close by January 31, 2018 at 11:59 EST. Reserve your spot on Recreation.gov and check back on February 16th to see if you are one of the lucky winners.