Outside magazine, January 1995
Like it or not, certain rivers, mountains, and backcountry campsites now have the cachet of a three-star restaurant where reservations are hard to come by. Of course you can always just show up and take your chances--some permits are issued on a first-come, first-served basis, and there are always no-shows. But if you want to guarantee your seat at the table, don't wait till the weather warms up. Start thinking now about reserving permits, where possible, as soon as deadlines allow. Here's how.
Others contend that the Selway River in Idaho is actually the hardest permit to get. The Forest Service issues permits for four sections of Idaho rivers--the Selway, the main section and the Middle Fork of the Salmon, and the Snake (Hell's Canyon) through a joint lottery held in early February. Applications, plus a $6 nonrefundable fee, must be received between December 1 and January 31. Chances of winning the lottery (based on 1994 demand) are one in 24 for the Selway, one in 19 for the Middle Fork of the Salmon, one in five for the Main Sal-mon, and one in two for the Snake. Your chances increase if you don't apply for the most popular dates (mid-June to mid-July). For applications and information, call 406-821-3269.
Other rivers with high-demand permits include the Colorado through Utah's Westwater Canyon (apply January 1-February 28 for the lottery; call 801-259-4421) and Oregon's Rogue (apply December 1-January 31 for the lottery; call 503-672-4168).
Other well-used sites where permits can be obtained in advance include Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in California (call 209-565-3708 or fax permit requests to 209-565-3797 starting March 1); Grand Canyon National Park (applications postmarked the first of every month are considered for openings during the following four months; call 602-638-7888 for information); and Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness in Arizona (reservations may be made up to 13 weeks in advance of your trip; call 602-428-4040).
Another popular peak for which a permit is required is Mount St. Helens. Applications must be postmarked no earlier than February 1; call 206-247-5800.