Do I Need a Backcountry Permit in the Grand Canyon?

If you wish to camp anywhere in the park, other than in developed campgrounds on the North Rim, South Rim, or Tuweep, you must obtain a permit from the Backcountry Information Center.
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Backcountry Information Center. Photo by Whit Richardson

Backcountry Information Center. Photo by Whit Richardson

If you wish to camp anywhere in the park, other than in developed campgrounds on the North Rim, South Rim, or Tuweep, you must obtain a permit from the Backcountry Information Center.

A backcountry permit is required for:

-Overnight hiking

-Overnight horseback riding

-Overnight cross-country ski trips

-Off-river overnight hikes by river trip members

-Overnight camping at rim sites other than developed campgrounds

-Overnight camping on the North Rim during the winter season

Backcountry travelers must have their permit in their possession while in the backcountry. Once a camp is established, the permit must be attached to a pack, tent, or other equipment in plain view so it can be easily checked by rangers.

Permits are valid only for the trip leader, itinerary, number of people, and dates specified on the permit. Permits for all overnight backcountry use must be obtained through the Backcountry Information Center at Grand Canyon National Park.

Other Areas that Require Permits or Reservations

Reservations for overnight tent or RV camping in developed use areas on the canyon rims (Mather, Desert View, North Rim) are not obtained through the Backcountry Information Center. The Backcountry Information Center does not make reservations for river trips, mule trips, Phantom Ranch lodging, or trips into the canyon on the Havasupai Reservation.

To obtain additional information or reservations for Phantom Ranch lodging, please contact Xanterra Parks and Resorts at 303-297-2757 or 888-297-2757 (www.grandcanyonlodges.com).

For hikes into Havasu Canyon contact Havasupai Tourism Enterprise at 928-448-2141 or 928-448-2121 (visithavasufalls.com/reservations-permits-havasu-falls-camping/).

A backcountry permit is not required for:

-Day hiking

-Day horseback riding

-Overnight camping at Mather Campground, Desert View Campground, North Rim Campground (summer season only), and Tuweep Campground

-Overnight stays at the dormitories or cabins at Phantom Ranch (advanced reservations with Xanterra Parks & Resorts required)

Hike Smart-For a safe and enjoyable hike prepare for your hike before you arrive:

-Review the Hiking Tips section.

-In summer read the Summer Hiking page and in winter read the Winter Hiking page.

-Check the Backcountry Updates and Closures page for current information on trail conditions and situations affecting the backcountry.

Fees

There is a non-refundable fee of $10 per permit plus $5 per person per night camped below the rim and $5 per group per night camped above the rim. Frequent users may wish to purchase a one-year Frequent Hiker membership for $25 that waives the initial $10 fee for each permit obtained by the trip leader for twelve months from the date of purchase.

When sending in a permit request, the preferred method of payment is with a credit card. Please be sure to indicate the maximum amount you authorize the Backcountry Information Center to charge so that your longest trip alternative can be considered. Valid personal checks and money orders against a United States bank are also accepted when made out for the correct amount. Please do not send cash in the mail.

Permit holders will be responsible for paying park entrance fees upon arrival.

South Bass Trail and Pasture Wash Trail visitors may be charged an additional fee by the tribe for crossing the Havasupai Indian Reservation.

How to Apply

Obtain and fill out the Backcountry Permit Request Form:

-Backcountry Permit Request Form (PDF file)

Do not forget to include the following with your permit request:

1.Trip leader's name, address, and telephone number.

2. Credit card number, expiration date, signature, date signed, and largest amount you authorize the National Park Service to charge.

3. Number of people and/or stock in the group (see Private Stock).

4. License plate numbers of any cars to be left at the trailhead.

5. Proposed night-by-night itinerary showing use area codes and dates for each night

6. Organization name if applicable (see Group Size and Commercial Use below).

7. Alternative proposed itineraries.

Submit the permit request form in one of the following ways:

1. Most competitive: Bring request in person to the Backcountry Information Center.

2. Preferred and most competitive written method: Fax request to the Backcountry Information Center, 928-638-2125.

3. NOTE: You can send a fax 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year - HOWEVER the first day of every month we receive many faxes and the number may be busy.

4. Mail request to Backcountry Information Center / GCNP, P.O. Box 129, Grand Canyon AZ, 86023.

The Backcountry Information Center treats all requests on a first-come-first-served basis with the following two exceptions:

-Immediate assistance is given to walk-in visitors, essentially moving them ahead of unprocessed requests.

-On the first of the month only, four month prior to the proposed start month, all faxed requests received by 5 p.m. are processed randomly (getting your fax in at midnight on the first does not give you an advantage over another person who sends a fax at 7 a.m.).

When to Apply

The earliest you can apply for a permit is the first of the month, four months prior to the proposed start month (see table below). Applying as soon as allowed will improve your chances of obtaining an overnight backcountry use permit for the dates and use areas of your choice.

Mailed requests must be postmarked no earlier than than the date indicated on the chart. Faxed requests must not be received earlier than the date indicated on the chart.

Permit Responses

All requests are responded to through U.S. Mail - never by fax or e-mail. Due to the volume of requests received, the park cannot confirm receipt of requests until they have been fully processed. Please allow at least three weeks for processing.

When space is available and all fee requirements are met, a permit will be issued and mailed to the trip leader. The permit is valid only for the trip leader named on the permit. Overnight hikers are not permitted to enter the canyon without a valid permit in the trip leader's possession.

If you have been denied a permit through the mail, you may want to consider day hikes or attempt to obtain a last minute, walk-in permit.

Last Minute Permit for Corridor Campgrounds

A limited number of last minute walk-up permits are available at the Backcountry Information Center for Corridor Campgrounds (Indian Garden, Bright Angel, and Cottonwood Campgrounds). These permits are issued in person only, are for one or two consecutive nights, and cannot be purchased more than one day prior to the start of a hike.

Waitlist

You can stop by the Backcountry Information Center at any time during open hours and request a waitlist number. This number is valid for the following morning and will be used to determine priority of service. At 8:00 a.m. Backcountry Information Center staff will call waitlist numbers. When your turn comes you can request a permit, exchange your number for a new waitlist number good for the following day, or simply ask questions. You may participate in the waitlist for as many consecutive days as is convenient.

Following are two examples showing how the waitlist can be used to secure a lower number for the next day and increase your chances of obtaining your desired permit.

Last minute permit and waitlist example:

-Day 1, Tuesday: You come to the Backcountry Information Center at 11 a.m. and request a permit for Bright Angel on Wednesday night and Indian Garden on Thursday night. No permits are available. You join the waitlist for the next day and are assigned #10.

-Day 2, Wednesday: You return at 7:55 a.m. Unfortunately by the time Backcountry Information Center staff reaches your waitlist number, all Corridor Campground permits have been assigned. You exchange today's waitlist number for tomorrow's waitlist number; you are #2.

-Day 3, Thursday: You return at 7:59 a.m. In a matter of 15 minutes you have a permit for Bright Angel on Friday night and Indian Garden on Saturday night, hiking out Sunday morning.

Advance permit and waitlist example:

Remember, the earliest you can apply for a permit is the first of the month, four months prior to your proposed start month. For instance, on the first of June you can request any start date in October. To obtain permits for popular hiking months, folks sometimes come to the park a few days before the first of the month four months prior to their proposed start month and obtain a waitlist number. They return to the Backcountry Information Center every day at 8:00 a.m. and obtain a waitlist number for the next day until the first arrives.

Use Areas

The backcountry is divided into "use areas". Each use area has an overnight capacity based upon the size of the area, the number of suitable and available campsites, its ecological sensitivity, its management zoning, and its use history. Use areas range in size from several hundred acres to several thousand acres.

Find maps at www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/maps.htm

Length of Stay

Camping in the Corridor, Hermit, Monument, Horseshoe Mesa, and Tapeats Use Areas is limited to designated campsites or campgrounds only. Camping in these designated campsites or campgrounds is limited to two nights (consecutive or non-consecutive) per campsite or campground per hike. One exception is made to this rule: from November 15-February 28, up to four nights will be allowed in popular corridor campgrounds.

Outside the use areas named above, "at-large" camping is permitted, meaning that camps are not limited to designated sites.

Trips are limited to a maximum of seven nights per use area; however, overall trip lengths are not limited.

Group Size

More permits are available for small groups (1-6 people) than for large groups (7-11 people). Because there are only a few large group sites, limiting the size of your group will increase your chances of obtaining a permit.

Larger groups tend to cause a disproportionately higher amount of damage to the canyon, largely due to the effects of "social" trailing. For this reason, the park's Backcountry Management Plan does not allow groups larger than eleven people to camp in the same campground or use area.

Regulations stipulate that all permits are void when a group obtains multiple permits for the same campground or use area for the same night. The alternative for these larger groups is to obtain permits for smaller groups and ensure the itineraries for these permits never bring more than one of the permits into the same campground or use area on the same night. No more than four large groups or eight small groups that are affiliated with each other may camp within the backcountry on the same night.

Commercial Use

In addition to following all normal backcountry permit requirements, commercial organizations must obtain a Commercial Use Authorization. Contact the park's Concession Management Office at (928) 638-7707 for further information.

North Rim Winter Use

Winter use guidelines come into affect after the North Rim receives adequate snowfall to close Highway 67 or on Dec 1st, whichever comes first. Once in effect, winter use guidelines apply until mid-May, when the North Rim reopens for the season.

During the winter season a backcountry permit is required for overnight use of the North Rim from the park's northern boundary to Bright Angel Point on the canyon rim. Winter access is by hiking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing only. A permit can be obtained in advance at the Backcountry Information Center.

Permittees are allowed to camp at-large between the park's north boundary and the North Kaibab trailhead but not at the trailhead itself. Between the North Kaibab trailhead and the Bright Angel Point area, camping is permitted only at the North Rim Campground group campsite.

Human waste may not be buried in the snow in areas that will be in view of summer users.

Remote Sites

With a valid credit card, last minute permits may sometimes be obtained from rangers on duty at the Tuweep, Meadview, and Lees Ferry ranger stations for a limited number of use areas in their vicinities. However, these rangers have other patrol responsibilities and may not be available to provide assistance. It is recommended that all trips be planned well in advance through the Backcountry Information Center.

Pipe Spring National Monument near Fredonia, Arizona, and the Bureau of Land Management office in St. George, Utah have a similar arrangements for issuing remote site permits.

Leave No Trace

All Grand Canyon backcountry users are asked to follow Leave No Trace principles. The goal is to have minimum human impact on the canyon as a result of your trip. Important Leave No Trace principles at Grand Canyon include:

-Be well prepared. Know the route and area in which you are planning to hike.

-Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is prohibited.-Stay on main trails; do not shortcut switchbacks.

-Pack out what you bring in. This includes used toilet paper and all trash.

-Fires are prohibited below the rim. Do not burn toilet paper -pack it out!

-Bury solid human waste at least 200' from water in a shallow cat hole 4-6" deep and 4-6" in diameter.

-To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200' away from creeks and potholes. Scatter strained dish water.

-Let nature's sounds prevail. Keep loud voices and noises to a minimum.

-Leave what you find. This is particularly important when it comes to cultural resources of any kind, including artifacts and archaeological remains. Leave them as you find them.

Backcountry Information Center

The South Rim Backcountry Information Center is open daily for walk-in visitors from 8 a.m. to noon and 1-5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time. The North Rim Backcountry Information Center is open daily mid-May to mid-October for walk-in visitors from 8 a.m. to noon and 1-5 p.m. (Mountain Standard Time). Beginning mid-October, the North Rim office is open daily from 8 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m. until November 30 or until snow closes Highway 67, whichever comes first. Once the North Rim office closes it does not reopen until mid-May.

Backcountry Information Center staff answer information telephone inquiries at 928-638-7875 between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, except on federal holidays. This telephone number is for information only.

Email the Backcountry Information Center. http://www.nps.gov/common/utilities/sendmail/sendemail.cfm?o=03%29%3F8NJ%2B1IK%5ETM0%2E%5CMQ%22DNP%20%20%0A&r=/grca/planyourvisit/overnight-hiking.htm

FAX number for permits is 928-638-2125

You can send a fax 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year - HOWEVER the first day of every month we receive many faxes and the number may be busy.

Mailing address is:
Grand Canyon National Park
Backcountry Information Center
P.O. Box 129
Grand Canyon AZ, 86023

Backcountry Permit Request Form (PDF file) NOTE: This is a printable form only. You must print the form, fill it out, and then fax/mail it directly to the Backcountry Information Center.

Backcountry Trip Planner (700kb PDF file): The information in this newspaper can assist you in obtaining a backcountry use permit.

The Grand Canyon Association sells maps and books on hiking in Grand Canyon National Park.

Related

Hiker at Bright Angel Point on the Grand Canyon's North Rim

Grand Canyon North Rim

Those visiting the remote North Rim (5-hour drive from South Rim) will be rewarded with a chance to see the canyon without the crowds.