Grand Canyon Backcountry Permits
Learn about what it takes to secure the permits for a backpacking trip in Grand Canyon National Park.
Backpacking in the Grand Canyon is an extremely popular and sought-after activity, in fact so much so that thousands of people apply every month to do a trip, and many of them are not successful. You must have a permit to camp overnight inside the Canyon and even at many places on the rims. If you’re not in an official, designated campground and want to camp, you must have a permit for the exact area you’re in and days/nights you’d like to camp. In many areas camping is prohibited completely.
The permit system is a lottery. You can only submit one application per month and the submissions are selected and processed in random order.
To be successful with securing a permit for your backpacking trip, you’ll want to:
- Have a clear idea which itinerary you’d like to apply for
- Know exactly what your available dates are
- Apply on time when the permit process starts
- If at first you don’t succeed, try again
- Consider joining a guided Grand Canyon backpacking trip
When to Apply
Grand Canyon backpacking permits become available on the first of the month 4 months in advance, and they are issued via a random lottery system.
You can apply any time between the 20th of the month prior and the 1st of the month that they become available. That probably sounds very confusing! Don’t worry, we’ve included a table below to help clarify the dates and when to apply based on when you’d like to do your trip.
Use the following table to determine when to apply for your desired dates:
|Desired Month||Applications accepted||Notification of Outcome|
|January||Aug 20 – Sept 1||Appx Sept 15|
|February||Sept 20 – Oct 1||Appx Oct 15|
|March||Oct 20 – Nov 1||Appx Nov 15|
|April||Nov 20 – Dec 1||Appx Dec 15|
|May||Dec 20 – Jan 1||Appx Jan 15|
|June||Jan 20 – Feb 1||Appx Feb 15|
|July||Feb 20 – Mar 1||Appx Mar 15|
|August||Mar 20 – Apr 1||Appx Apr 15|
|September||Apr 20 – May 1||Appx May 15|
|October||May 20 – June 1||Appx June 15|
|November||June 20 – July 1||Appx July 15|
|December||July 20 – Aug 1||Appx Aug 15|
How to Apply
To apply, fill out this form and return it by fax, mail, or in person. Fax requests to the Backcountry Information Center at 928-638-2125. Mail requests to Grand Canyon Permits Office, 1824 S Thompson Street, #201, Flagstaff AZ, 86001. To deliver in person, bring requests to the Backcountry Information Center, located inside the Grand Canyon National Park on both the South Rim and the North Rim (North Rim is closed early November through May 14).
The form has instructions on it to follow, and it’s largely self-explanatory. You select a camp for each night of your itinerary, detail your trailhead in and trailhead out, provide all your personal information, and a credit card for fees ($10 per group +$8/person/night). You can find a detailed list of camping areas and codes below.
|Area Name||Code||Camping Type|
|Boucher||BN9||At Large Camping|
|Cedar Spring||BL6||Designated Sites|
|Cheyava||AJ9||At Large Camping|
|Clear Creek||AK9||At Large Camping|
|Cottonwood Creek||BG9||At Large Camping|
|Cremation||BJ9||At Large Camping|
|Eremita Mesa||SC9||At Large Camping|
|Granite Rapids||BL8||Designated Sites|
|Grapevine||BH9||At Large Camping|
|Greenland Springs||AL9||At Large Camping|
|Hance Creek||BE9||At Large Camping|
|Hermit Creek||BM7||Designated Sites|
|Hermit Rapids||BM8||Designated Sites|
|Horn Creek||BL4||Designated Sites|
|Horseshoe Mesa||BF5||Designated Sites|
|Ken Patrick||NC9||At Large Camping|
|Monument Creek||BL7||Designated Sites|
|Outlet||NG9||At Large Camping|
|Phantom Creek||AP9||At Large Camping|
|Point Sublime||NH1||Designated Sites|
|Robbers Roost||ND9||At Large Camping|
|Salt Creek||BL5||Designated Sites|
|Scorpion Ridge||AR9||At Large Camping|
|Swamp Ridge||NJ0||At Large Camping|
|Thompson Canyon||NB9||At Large Camping|
|Trinity Creek||AQ9||At Large Camping|
|Vishnu||AH9||At Large Camping|
|Walhalla Plateau||NA0||At Large Camping|
|Widforss||NF9||At Large Camping|
There are two group sizes for permits in Grand Canyon – small group and large group. Small Groups are 1-6 people; large groups are 7-11 people. Large group sites are much more competitive than the small group sites. We strongly recommend sticking with small group sites if possible to increase your odds of getting a permit.
Walk Up Permits
If you’re unsuccessful with the lottery system, a last-minute option is to try to get a walk-up permit. Grand Canyon reserves a small number of permits for Corridor campgrounds (camping outside the corridor is not reserved.) (Reminder that the Corridor includes Bright Angel Campground, Cottonwood Campground, and Indian Garden Campground.) You have to be at the Backcountry Information Center in person to attempt to secure these permits (they open at 8:00 AM). They are 1-2 nights and become available the day before the trip begins.
The final element with walk-up permits is their waitlist system. It’s very complicated, but suffice to say you can show up a couple days early, ask for a “number”, and you will be prioritized to maintain that spot in line each day afterward until the day before your desired trip begins. This is a time-consuming method that will not work for many people, but if you’re committed enough, it might just be worth trying.
Join a Guided Hiking Adventure
Grand Canyon National Park is home to some of the most unique and spectacular hiking vacations in the world. Wildland Trekking offers trips with stunning views, geologic history, and incredible hiking and backpacking for visitors who want to have an active, adventurous experience.
Guided Grand Canyon treks include permits, local transportation (excluded on certain tours), meals, gear, risk management systems and professional guides, allowing guests to make the most of their visit to the Canyon, focus 100% on enjoying their experience, and do it all with an increased level of safety and comfort.
GRAND CANYON ADVENTURE TOURS
- GUIDED BACKPACKING ADVENTURES: these are for people interested in an authentic adventure deep in the Canyon’s wilderness.
- HORSE-ASSISTED TRIP: on this trip to the bottom of the Canyon, guests hike with light day packs and camp near the Colorado River.
- PHANTOM RANCH TOURS: this tour (limited dates) goes to the bottom of the Canyon where we sleep 1 or 2 nights in the Phantom Ranch Lodge 5 minutes from the Colorado River. Showers, A/C, heat…etc.
- ALL-INCLUSIVE HIKING PACKAGES: inn-based and camping-based hiking packages provide all-around hiking experiences of the Grand Canyon.
- DAY HIKE TOURS: maximize your day at Grand Canyon on a fully guided, award-winning hiking tour on one of the Park’s best trails.