Backcountry Permit Procedures

Do I Need a Permit?

A backcountry permit is required for all overnight use of the backcountry including overnight hiking, overnight horseback riding, overnight cross-country ski trips, off-river overnight hikes by river trip members, and overnight camping at rim sites other than developed campgrounds. A backcountry permit is not required for overnight stays at the dormitories or cabins at Phantom Ranch.
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.

A permit is not required for day hiking or day horseback riding in the canyon. Livestock use is limited to Corridor Trails only. Entry and/or exploration of any caves and mines must be approved in advance through Grand Canyon National Park.

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 Indian 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). Contact Havasupai Tourist Enterprises at 928-448-2120 or PO Box 160, Supai, Arizona 86435.


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:

  1. Be well prepared. Know the route and area in which you are planning to hike.
  2. Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site should not be necessary.
  3. Stay on main trails; do not shortcut switchbacks.
  4. Pack out what you bring in. This includes used toilet paper and all trash.
  5. Fires are prohibited below the rim. Do not burn toilet paper pack it out!
  6. Bury solid human waste at least 200′ from water in a shallow cat hole 4-6″ deep and 4-6″ in diameter.
  7. To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200′ away from creeks and potholes. Scatter strained dish water.
  8. Let nature’s sounds prevail. Keep loud voices and noises to a minimum.
  9. 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.


Availability of Permits

The demand for permits far exceeds the use limits established to protect the canyon and the quality of the user’s backpacking experience. Advance reservations are strongly recommended. Below are suggestions for maximizing your chances of obtaining a permit.


When to Apply

To improve chances of obtaining an overnight backcountry use permit, requests should be made on the first of the month, four months prior to the proposed start date. This is the earliest allowable time.

It is possible for the Backcountry Information Center to receive over 800 permit requests in a day, and permits are processed in order received. Therefore, we need time to work on your request! Standard mail and fax requests with complete information are considered too late if not received by our office at least two weeks before the proposed start date. Also, any request processed less than three weeks before the start date could be denied when additional processing time is needed to correct information and/or obtain additional information. Please allow us three to six weeks to process requests.

For dates through:Apply on or after:
MarchNovember 1
AprilDecember 1
MayJanuary 1
JuneFebruary 1
JulyMarch 1
AugustApril 1
SeptemberMay 1
OctoberJune 1
NovemberJuly 1
DecemberAugust 1
JanuarySeptember 1
FebruaryOctober 1


Fees

There is a non-refundable fee of $10 per permit plus $8 per person per night camped below the rim and $8 per group per night camped above the rim. Permit cancellations will incur a $10 cancellation fee. All fees paid to the Backcountry Office continue to be non-refundable. 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.  (*fees are subject to change.)

When sending in a permit request, the preferred method of payment is by Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, or Diners Club. 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

Use the Internet to obtain Backcountry Permit Request Form and instructions for submitting requests.
NOTE: This is a printable application only. You must print the form, fill it out, and then fax/mail it directly to the Backcountry Information Center.

There are three ways to apply:

  1. Bring request in person to the Backcountry Information Center. For same-day permits you may participate in a waiting list if you arrive by 8 a.m.
  2. Fax request to the Backcountry Information Center (928-638-2125).
  3. Mail request to the Backcountry Information Center postmarked no earlier than the date indicated on the above chart.

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
  • all written requests received by 5 p.m. on the first allowable date are processed randomly regardless of when the request was received.


PERMIT Response

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

Notice: Bass trailhead users may be charged an additional fee for crossing Havasupai land.

Include 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 Backcountry Information Center to charge.
  3. Number of people and/or stock in the group (see STOCK USE below).
  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 ORGANIZATIONS below).
  7. Alternative proposed itineraries.


Use Areas

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


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 7 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. At no time will more than 11 people be permitted to travel on a permit.


Organizations

An organization is any member of persons united for some purpose, whether commercial or non-commercial.

Only one large group (7-11 people) or one small group (1-6 people) from the same organization may be in the same corridor campground or non-corridor use area on the same night. This limitation applies to both commercial and non-commercial organizations.

Commercial organizations must obtain a Commercial Use License. Contact the park’s Concession Management Office at 928-638-7706, for further information.

No more than four large groups or eight small groups from the same organization may camp within the backcountry on the same night.


Stock Use

Use of private livestock in the backcountry is limited to horses and mules. No other privately-owned livestock will be permitted in the backcountry. Livestock use is limited to the Corridor trails.

Only Bright Angel and Cottonwood campgrounds accommodate private livestock. Hitch rails are provided. Grazing is not permitted, therefore stock handlers must bring enough feed for the duration of the trip.

Backcountry Permit Fees apply as follows: $10 for the permit plus $5 for each person and each equine per night. For example, a permit for 3 riders and 5 horses to camp 1 night would cost $50 ($10 for the permit + ((3 people + 5 horses) x $5 x 1 night)). Permit requests are accepted by fax, mail or in person up to 4 months ahead of time. For more information regarding permits call the Backcountry Office 928-638-7875 1PM to 5PM Mountain Standard Time (excluding federal holidays) Monday through Friday.

Pack stock must be led in single file and tied together. Loose herding or grazing is not permitted. If an animal is lost, injured, or dies in the park, a ranger should be contacted as soon as possible for assistance.

NOTE: When entering the park, each rider accepts responsibility for their personal safety and for the removal of injured or dead livestock from the park


North Rim Winter Use

During the winter season (approximately late October through mid May), 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. 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 cannot be buried in the snow over areas that will be in view of summer users.


Last Minute Permits

People without a permit may be able to obtain one upon their arrival, in person, at the Backcountry Information Center. However, permits are very difficult to obtain during popular seasons.

When demand for campsites exceeds supply, a waiting list procedure is implemented. Participation in this procedure is limited to walk-in visitors only. Same-day permit issue is unlikely, anticipate a 1- to 3-day (or longer) wait.

A person may participate in the waiting list for as many consecutive days as are necessary to obtain a permit. However, the person on the waiting list must be present at the Backcountry Information Center at 8 a.m. Mountain Standard Time each day in order to maintain their position on the waiting list.


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 offices in St. George and Kanab, Utah have a similar arrangement as remote sites.


Further Information

The Backcountry Information Center is open daily for walk-in visitors from 8 a.m. to 12 noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time.

Backcountry Information Center staff answer information telephone lines at 928-638-7875 between 8 a.m. and noon and 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday, except on federal holidays. This telephone number is for information only.

Backcountry Information Center
P.O. Box 129
Grand Canyon AZ, 86023

FAX number for permits is 928-638-2125.
The Grand Canyon National Park Backcountry Information Center does not have an email address.

“The finest workers in stone are not copper or steel tools, but the gentle touches of air and water working at their leisure with a liberal allowance of time.”– Henry David Thoreau

Vandalism or theft of park cultural or archaeological resources (ruins, projectile points, pottery shards, etc.) is a violation of federal law. If you witness such a violation, please contact the National Park Service Silent Witness program at (928) 638-7767. All information received is confidential.