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Hiking Trails and Other Adventures That Require a Permit

Some of the best places, in my opinion, are those that require a permit to visit.

Permitted places have fewer people on the trails, which I love.

Why a permit?

Sometimes it is to protect the land such as Coyote Buttes North, home of The Wave, which allows 20 visitors a day to protect the delicate rocks or other times it is for the safety of the persons due to the technical aspect of the trail or climbs.

The demand for permits to these areas is very high for some and the odds of being a lottery winner can be as low as 3% of those interested wins a permit.

Below is a list of hikes, rafting, and other activities that require permits.

What are the hardest permits to get? Of course, that depends on the supply and demand with someone crunching the numbers for comparison. Some permits you can see the stats to see what your odds while others do not disclose this information.

Everyone has their opinion of the hardest permits based on whatever method they are using and below is a list of our top 5 (alpha order):

1 – Coyote Buttes North, home of The Wave, in Arizona – allows 20 persons a day (10 online lottery permits and 10 walk-in lottery permits)

2 – Half Dome at Yosemite in California – 50 permits are allowed per day to climb when the rails are down

3 – Havasupai Falls in Arizona – Campsite permits go on sale February 1st of each year for the upcoming year and only 200 – 350 lucky people get to visit daily

4 – John Muir Trail in California – 45 permits per day and you have to apply 168 days in advance for the dates you want

5 – Mt. Whitney in California – 100 day-use permits and 60 overnight permits are issued starting with an online lottery on February 1st.

Below are the permits that we know about for hiking and other fun outdoor adventures.

Yes, some are not in the Southwest but we decided to include them since they are “nearby.”

Did we miss one? If so, please comment below.

the wave arizona

Arizona Permits

Antelope Canyon (Native American Reservation)

Permits are needed because the different areas of Antelope Canyon are located on Native American reservations.

You have to book a tour with one of the approved tour operators to be able to visit Upper, Middle, and Lower Antelope Canyon.

Click here to find discounted tickets for Antelope Canyon through Groupon and click here to view Antelope Canyon tours on TripAdvisor.

Aravaipa Canyon (BLM)

Aravaipa Creek flows year-round, an unusual phenomenon in the Arizona desert. Nurtured by this abundant water, large sycamore, ash, cottonwood, and willow trees flourish along the stream, flanked by other riparian vegetation. In the fall, a kaleidoscope of brilliant red and golden leaves contrasts dramatically with the surrounding Sonoran Desert landscape.

Barry M. Goldwater Range

Buckskin Gulch aka Paria Canyon (BLM)

Advance permits are required for overnight use. There is a limit on overnight use in the canyon to 20 persons per day.

Paria Canyon day-use permits are available via self-serve envelopes at each trailhead. There are no visitor use limits for day use for the Paria Canyon.

Coyote Buttes North (BLM)

Some say that the permits for Coyote Buttes North are the Holy Grail of permits.

20 hikers are allowed in the area per day to view the famous “Wave” and the surrounding area. 10 lucky lottery winners will receive permits online and 10 lucky lottery winners will receive walk-in lottery tickets.

Click here to read our article on How to Get Permits to the Wave.

Fees: It costs $5 to enter the lottery online and winners pay a $7 fee for the permit online and walk-in.

Coyote Buttes South (BLM)

Fees: It costs $5 to enter the lottery online and winners pay a $7 fee for the permit online and walk-in.

Grand Canyon Rim to Rim

Havasupai Falls (Native American Reservation)

Permits for the campground go on sale February 1st each year for the remainder of the year and June 1st for the lodge for the upcoming year.

Supposedly, the permits are up to 350 hikers allowed per day but may vary each month as they plan for closings due to weather and those who need to reschedule.

You need to register for an online account at BEFORE February 1st. Once February 1st at 8 AM MT (Arizona time) the website will go live for hikers to try their luck to get their permits.

Click here to read our article on Havasupai Falls Permits.

2019 Fees:

Weekday nights (Mon-Thurs): $100 per night/per person x 3 nights = $300 per reservation / per person

Weekend nights (Fri, Sat, Sun): $125 per night/per person x 3 nights = $375 per reservation/per person

All reservations will be made for 4 days/3 nights regardless of how many nights you want to stay, you are paying for 3 nights.

Half Dome at Yosemite

California Permits

Carrizo Plain National Monument Tours (BLM)

Clear Creek Management Area (BLM)

Half Dome

John Muir Trail

King Range Wilderness Permits (Lost Coast) (BLM)

Mt. Whitney

Piedras Blancas Light Station (BLM)
Kalalau Trail, Kauai, HI

Hawaii Permits

Kalalau Trail, Kauai, HI

Idaho Permits

Bruneau-Jarbidge Wild and Scenic River Permit (BLM)

Lower Salmon River Permit (BLM)

Owyhee Wild and Scenic River Permit (BLM)

South Fork of the Snake River Overnight Camping Permit (BLM)

Hiking Coyote Gulch

Utah Permits

Bloomington Cave (BLM)

Cataract Canyon

Cedar Mesa (BLM)

Coyote Gulch (BLM)

You don’t have to be lucky to get permits to Coyote Gulch as there isn’t an official permit system. If you want to hike Coyote Gulch go to the Escalante Interagency Visitor Center to give them your hiking group’s information so they are aware you are hiking in the area. Up to 12 hikers are allowed per group.

Click here to read about Coyote Gulch Permits and here to read our overview on Hiking Coyote Gulch.

Fees: None

Desolation/Gray Canyons

East Rim

Elephant Hill, Lavender Canyon and Peekaboo/Horse Canyon roads (The Needles) at Canyonlands

Flat Water

Hop Valley

Kanarra Falls (Local permit system and BLM)

Located in Kanarraville, Utah the permits for this beautiful slot canyon hike with waterfalls are fairly easy to get as the demand is not high, but they do sell out daily. They allow 150 permits per day for $12 per person.

Click here to buy Kanarra Falls Permits.

Labyrinth Canyon (BLM)

San Juan River (BLM)

Sand Cove Primitive Camping Area (BLM)

Mystery Canyon

The Narrows (Top-Down)

Westwater Canyon (BLM)

Left Fork aka Subway

White Rim Road (Island in the Sky) at Canyonlands

enchantment lake

Washington Permits

Enchantment Lakes

Teton Crest Trail

Wyoming Permits

Teton Crest Trail

Yellowstone Snowmobiling Lottery