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Glacier National Park adds early access lotteries for backcountry permits

by TAYLOR INMAN, Daily Inter Lake
| December 6, 2023 1:00 AM

Visitors to Glacier National Park hoping to secure permits for wilderness camping, also known as backcountry camping, for next season can enter early access lotteries in the spring of 2024.


Park officials said in a release on Monday that two early access lotteries will be available on recreation.gov — one lottery for standard groups of one to eight people and a second for large groups of nine to 12 people. The new standard group size of one to eight campers will be an increase from what was allowed in 2023.  


The lotteries will be based on “a fair and randomized process to provide equal opportunity for each applicant,” according to park officials. Participants will be limited to a single reservation during the early access period, but may create additional reservations during the general sale period beginning May 1 or by walk-in. 


Lottery applications for large groups — between nine and 12 campers — will be accepted on March 1 from 12 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. MST on recreation.gov. Park officials said a total of five large group advance reservations will be selected from all submissions. 


On March 15 from 12 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. MST, standard groups of one to eight campers can submit an application for an advance reservation. A total of 3,000 standard group advance applications will be selected from among the submissions. 


There is a $10 non-refundable fee to enter each lottery regardless of success. Successful applications will not have to pay an additional permit fee to book their reservations.


Visitors will be unable to apply for early access lotteries via walk-in at the Wilderness Camping Office. 


After the lotteries, visitors can use the general on-sale system to book advance reservation campsites not reserved during the early access lotteries. The general on-sale system will be the same system used in 2023 and will be available for the remainder of the booking window, from May 1 to Sept. 30, according to the release. 


All advance reservation campsites not taken in the large and standard group lotteries will be available for online advance reservations on Recreation.gov on May 1 at 8 a.m. 


The walk-in permit process and availability will remain the same as in 2023. Approximately 30% of wilderness campsites parkwide will be available on a walk-in basis — the day before or day of a trip start date — from May 1 through Sept. 30 at Wilderness Permit Office locations. 


Any advance reservation sites not booked during the early access lotteries or general on-sale period will be added to the available pool of walk-in reservations. 


Lottery, permit and camping fees will be applied to operation of the lotteries at Recreation.gov as well as funding the park’s wilderness management and wilderness permit programs. 


Park officials said the change is consistent with public comments received in February 2023 on the transition of the park’s advance wilderness camping reservation system to the Recreation.gov general on-sale system. Lessons learned after implementing the 2023 system also support this action, officials said.    


For full details, please visit the Glacier’s Wilderness Camping Advance Reservations page. https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/backcountry-reservations.htm.