North Cascades National Park Backcountry Permits

North Cascades National Park

There are countless backcountry routes and possibilities at North Cascades National Park Service Complex. Come to paddle on the turquoise waters of glacially fed lakes, backpack to remote passes or climb rugged mountains carved by ice.

The diversity of climate and geography creates very different habitats on the west and east side of the crest, as well as fostering a great array of plants and animals. Cascading water is fed by over 300 glaciers and countless snowfields. Lakes are abundant. Almost 400 miles (644km) of trails, mostly in major drainages and over high passes, traverse this tremendous landscape. Your path may follow a route used for many centuries by people who have long crossed these mountains or sought food and resources here, or you may venture to an area so wild it feels as if you are the first explorer. 

The North Cascades National Park Service Complex includes 684,000 acres in three units: North Cascades National Park, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, and Ross Lake National Recreation Area. Congress has designated 94% of the Complex as the Stephen Mather Wilderness. People seek wilderness for many reasons: physical or mental challenge; solitude, renewal, or a respite from modern life; or as a place to find inspiration and to explore our heritage. Today, as in the past, wilderness is an important part of everyone's story.

Notifications and Alerts

Permit & Season Information

A permit is required year-round for all overnight stays in the backcountry. A backcountry permit allows the permit holder and their group to camp in a designated camp or area.

Approximately 60% of backcountry sites are available for advance reservation for trips between May 27 and September 30. Reservations must be made at least 2 days in advance of the trip start. The remaining 40% are issued on-site on a first-come, first-served basis. Sites/zones become available for reservations on April 26. See below for information on the Early-Access Lottery.

Backcountry permits outside of the peak season are first-come, first-serve. When the Wilderness Information Center is closed, permits are issued by self-registration.

Visit Plan Your Visit for more information.

Need to Know

When planning your trip, please keep the following in mind:

Leave No Trace

Please follow all principles of Leave No Trace including: Plan ahead and prepare, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, and be considerate of other visitors. 

Fee Policy

Reservation Fee: Each permit is subject to a non-refundable $6.00 lottery application fee if applying to the Early Access Lottery or a $6.00 reservation fee for permits reserved in the general on-sale. If you have already paid the lottery application fee, that fee will be applied to your online reservation and an additional fee is not due. The reservation fee is also charged for first-come, first-served permits that are issued in person. This fee supports the permit and reservation management system.

Recreation Fee: A recreation flat fee of $20 is charged for advanced reservations and first-come, first-served permits that are issued at the Wilderness Information Center or other permit issuing station. This fee supports the operation of the Wilderness Information Center.

Only debit or credit cards will be accepted, no cash.

Cancellation Policy

Cancellation Policy: You may cancel your reservation three or more full days before your reservation date and receive a refund. The $6 reservation fee is non-refundable. 

Change Policy: You may make changes to your permit itinerary, if space is available, up until the day before your reservation date. Your start date cannot be changed without cancelling your permit and starting over. Once your permit has been issued, you cannot make changes to the permit unless approved by a ranger at the Wilderness Information Center or permitting office.

You cannot make changes to your itinerary during the Early-Access Period, you must wait until the General On-Sale opens. If you cancel your reservation during the Early-Access Period, you cannot create a new one.

One additional permit holder can be identified when the reservation is created. Otherwise, reservations and permits are non-transferrable.

Contact Information

Mailing Address

7380 Ranger Station Rd Marblemount WA 98267

Email (preferred): noca_wilderness@nps.gov

Phone Number

(360) 854-7245

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