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Backcountry Camping Permits for Zion National Park - My Utah Parks

Zion Backcountry Camping Permits

Backcountry permits are required for all overnight trips, all through hikes of the Virgin River Narrows and tributaries, any trip into the Subway.
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Zion National Park Backcountry permits are required for all overnight trips (including climbing bivouacs), all through hikes of the Virgin River Narrows and tributaries, any trip into the Left Fork of North Creek (the Subway), and all canyons requiring the use of descending gear or ropes.

The person who obtains the permit must be 18 years of age or older, and must participate in the trip. The person named on the permit is held responsible for the actions of the group and for compliance with all permit conditions and backcountry rules and regulations.

Backcountry Permit Information

Visitors with reservation are required to pick up a backcountry permit. Permits are available at the Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyon Visitors Centers. Permits are available in person, the day before or the day of your trip. The person picking up the permit must be 18 years of age or older and must be participating in the trip. Please bring vehicle information with you, including descriptions and license plate numbers of all vehicles involved in the trip.

Difference between Permits, Reservations, and Lottery

Permits can be obtained a number of different ways. A lottery is run for two of the busiest backcountry areas in the park (Subway and Mystery Canyons ). Many of the reservations for these two areas will be taken through the lottery. If you do not compete in the lottery, reservations will not be available for most weekend and many weekday dates for these areas.

Reservations are available for many backcountry trips in the park. A reservation does not guarantee that you will receive a permit. Reasons that a permit will be denied include high water, flash flood warnings, and wildland fires.

Anyone who is 18 years old and participating in the trip can apply for a reservation either through the lottery or through the calendar reservation process.

Visitors with reservations still need to pick up a backcountry permit. Permits are available in person the day before, or the day of, your trip. They are also available on-line the day before or the day of your trip. On-line permits are only available to members of the Express Permit Program (see below).

Walk-in Permits

A limited number of walk-in permits are available for all backcountry areas.
Depending upon the backcountry zone, 40%-60% of the total number of backcountry permits will be available through reservations. The remainder of permits will be available as walk-in permits.

Any backcountry camp or day-use canyon not reserved by lottery or calendar, are available as a walk-in permit.

Walk-in permits are only available the day before or the day of a trip.

During weekends and holidays, from April through the middle of October each year, permits may be difficult to obtain for; The Left Fork of North Creek (Subway), Mystery Canyon, Virgin River Narrows and West Rim.

During that time, you may have greatest success in obtaining a walk-in permit if you arrive at the Zion Canyon backcountry window or desk the day before your intended trip.

Lottery Reservations

Due to the increase in visitation and number of permit requests, a lottery system for permits for the Left Fork of North Creek (Subway) and Mystery Canyon is in effect.

All other backcountry areas area available by a calendar reservation or walk-in permit request.

Lottery applications for Subway and Mystery are limited to one request per individual per month. Lottery entrants will have the opportunity to request three prioritized trip dates.

Lottery results from 2003 showed that 90% of lottery applicants were awarded a reservation from one of the three date choices they requested and lottery success rates improved when holidays and weekend dates were avoided.

The lottery fee is non-refundable.

Entry into the lottery does not guarantee a reservation.

The lottery does not run from November through March due to a low demand for permits.

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Where to Camp in Zion

There's an abundance of camping opportunities in southeast Utah, suitable for drive-in and hook-up RV families and extending to remote, primitive back-country campgrounds for backpackers. There are campgrounds in state parks and national forests, as well as commercial campgrounds sprinkled along the major highways.