A backcountry permit is required for overnight camping throughout the national park system. Some parks offer permits for specific trails or sections of the park, and you should check the website of the park you want to visit during your planning process for availability on the most hiked routes. If the early season permitting has ended, remember that there are walk-up permits issued at each park. If you are flexible in your plans or willing to take alternate trails, your odds of landing a permit are much higher. Most of the parks in the system have similar, often identical, processes to one of these parks. Below is the permitting process for Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park.
You can check space for the date that you wish to start your trip on Recreation.gov. Reservations can be made beginning up to 6 months in advance of the desired trip date. Reservations for the 2021 quota season are scheduled to be available beginning February 9 at 7:00 am/pacific time.
Step 2: Create a Recreation.gov Account
Creating an account with www.recreation.gov will allow you to make reservations, submit payment, and make changes to existing trips. No account is needed to view availability or permit information, but you’ll need to register for an account to make any reservations you are interested in and to submit payments for the same. Emailed applications are no longer accepted; go to Recreation.gov to make your 2021 trip reservation.
Step 3: Check Availability
Go to Recreation.gov. Enter your party size and date range to see trailhead quota availability. Reservations can be made between six months and one week prior to your entry date. Carefully choose your entry point and entry date – these cannot be modified later without creating a new reservation.
Step 4: Provide Trip Details and Information
You have the ability to enter up to three alternate trip leaders who can pick up the permit in your place. Select your entry point, entry date, exit point, exit date, and nightly itinerary to the best of your ability; exit dates and nightly itinerary can be modified later but providing an accurate itinerary will save you time at the trailhead. Entry date and trailheads cannot be modified once a reservation is made. Make sure your itinerary conforms to rules and regulations.
Step 5: Finalize Your Reservation and Secure It
Wilderness permits cost $15 each trip plus $5 per person within the quota season. You will be able to pay for your permit directly on Recreation.gov. The fee is non-transferable, not for use in future years, and is not for re-sale. Refunds of the per-person portion of the fee will now be available in the event of cancellations or party size reductions up to 1 week before the trip starts.
Step 6: Permit Pick Up
Once your payment is made, you will receive an email confirmation to the email address on your Recreation.gov account. Your confirmation letter is not a wilderness permit and cannot be used for overnight travel. Print and bring it with you to the trailhead desk at the start of your trip. You will also need to bring proof of your identity. Your confirmation letter will include details on where to pick up your permit. Wilderness permits are only issued during Permitting Desk Operating Hours by trailhead rangers who provide important area information at the correct trailhead desk location. Bring your entire party to the orientation.
Step 1: Plan Your Trip
Decide where you want to go by looking at Trail Descriptions, the Park Atlas and Trail Conditions. Find the name of and quota limit for your desired trailhead on the Wilderness Trip Planner, entry quota map, or at Recreation.gov.
Step 2: Create a Recreation.gov Account (optional).
While optional, creating a recreation.gov account before your trip will save time at the trailhead.
Step 3: Permit Issuance and Payment
Walk-up permits can be obtained starting from 1:00pm the day before your trip begins. Permits are only issued during Permitting Desk Operating Hours by trailhead rangers who provide important area information. You must arrive at the correct trailhead desk for the trailhead you are hoping to snag a walk up permit on. Bring your entire party to the orientation. You will pay the fee of $15 per permit plus $5 per person at the issuing station. Please note credit cards are the preferred payment method.
Starting your trip outside of the parks?
If you will be entering Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks but starting your trip outside of the parks you can generally obtain your permit for your entire itinerary from the agency where your trip begins (e.g. the Inyo, Sierra, or Sequoia national forests, or Yosemite National Park). If you will be accessing the park through the Jennie Lakes wilderness (Sequoia National Forest), obtain a permit through recreation.gov following the steps above for the JO Pass, Belle Canyon, or Sugarloaf entry points. To hike Mount Whitney from the east side of the Sierra Nevada, visit Inyo National Forest's website or call them at (760) 873-2483. For trips of 500 miles or more along the Pacific Crest Trail, you may obtain a permit from the Pacific Crest Trail Association.