5 National Park Backcountry Trips to Put on Your Radar Right Now
By Michael Lanza
Your next national park backcountry adventure may seem far off your planning radar at this time of year—but this is precisely the time to start looking into backcountry permits if you have your sights trained on the Grand Canyon, Canyonlands, Yosemite, or Grand Teton. For all of them, the time to apply for a permit for a trip during the prime season next year is fast approaching. And in Great Smoky Mountains, the prime season is here; get out there now. Here’s what you need to know and do.
To get a permit for a multi-day backcountry trip in popular areas of the Grand Canyon, Canyonlands, Yosemite, and Grand Teton, the best strategy is to apply as early as possible—which means months in advance, and the dates are coming up soon at each of those parks, as I explain below. If you instead wait until shortly before your trip dates, you’ll typically find that all permits made available in advance are already reserved, leaving no option but to try for a walk-in permit—and there are usually more people waiting in line than there are permits available each day.
My “10 Tips For Getting a Hard-to-Get National Park Backcountry Permit” provides more detail on how and when to apply for permit reservations in popular parks, and the best strategies for success that I’ve learned over the years.
It’s not too early to start laying the groundwork for a big adventure next year. The very first piece of advice in my “10 Tips For Getting Outside More” is: Plan trips weeks or months in advance. Getting a permit is one of the first steps.
Backcountry campsites along the Grand Canyon’s corridor trails—the South and North Kaibab and Bright Angel—are among the most sought-after in the entire National Park System: Some 75 percent of people who apply for a permit for campsites along those trails are unsuccessful—and that includes one of the greatest trips in the National Park System, hiking across the Grand Canyon. Apply for a permit reservation beginning on the first of the month four months prior to the month in which you want to start a trip—for example, on Dec. 1 for a hike beginning in April.
See all of my stories about trips in the Grand Canyon, including my many stories about various backpacking trips beginning at the canyon’s South Rim.
Backpacking in the Needles District of Canyonlands (lead photo at top of story) and a multi-day float trip on the Green River (one of my top 10 family adventures) are both uniquely beautiful as well as beginner- and family-friendly—and for those reasons, very popular. Apply for a permit up to four months in advance of your starting date, which means that December is the time to apply for a permit for a trip starting in April.
See my stories “No Straight Lines: Backpacking and Hiking in Canyonlands and Arches National Parks” and “Still Waters Run Deep: Tackling America’s Best Multi-Day Float Trip on the Green River,” and all of my stories about Canyonlands National Park at The Big Outside.
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Yosemite issues backcountry permits based on a trailhead quota system, and permits for backpacking trips within the park’s core—that is, beginning at trailheads in Yosemite Valley and the Tuolumne Meadows area—are in greatest demand. That includes Happy Isles, the John Muir Trail, and Half Dome. You can (and should) apply up to 24 weeks (168 days) before the date you want to start hiking, which, for example, would be Jan. 15 for a trip beginning July 15.
See all of my stories about Yosemite National Park, including this Ask Me post offering a reader advice on where to backpack on a first trip in Yosemite, and my stories about long, more-remote backpacking trips south of Tuolumne Meadows and through northern Yosemite.
The Teton Crest Trail, step for step one of America’s classic backpacking trips (and one of my top 10 favorites), is increasingly popular, and advance reservations for permits can disappear soon after they become available on the first Wednesday in January (starting at 8 a.m. Mountain Time). The 18-mile Paintbrush Canyon-Cascade Canyon loop from String Lake is nearly as popular (and a great one for beginners or anyone with limited time—as well as a super dayhike). Mark your calendar to apply for a permit reservation right away in January.
See my story “American Classic: The Teton Crest Trail,” my story about a family backpacking trip on the TCT, my several Ask Me posts about Grand Teton, and all of my stories about Grand Teton National Park and the Teton Crest Trail at The Big Outside.
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Great Smoky Mountains
While Great Smoky Mountains National Park accepts permit reservations up to 30 days in advance of the first night of your trip, there are permits available now even for the most popular shelters along the Appalachian Trail—and there’s arguably no better time of year to backpack in the Great Smokies than right now. I know: I was just there.
My recently posted “Photo Gallery: Fall Hiking and Backpacking in the North Carolina Mountains” includes pictures from my backpacking trip in the park. I’ll write more about that trip in another blog post coming this Tuesday.
See my All National Parks Trips page at The Big Outside and these stories:
Having a backpack that fits your body and backpacking style makes every trip better. See my favorite packs for backpacking.
from The Big Outside http://ift.tt/2e0ceUY