GARFIELD COUNTY, Utah — Visitors seeking to camp in the backcountry at Bryce Canyon National Park will soon be able to ensure their access online, and also months in advance.
Park officials announced Tuesday that they are changing their overnight backcountry permit system for at least the 2023 peak season. Beginning Dec. 1, anyone who wants an overnight backcountry permit for March 1 to Nov. 30, 2023, can make a reservation on Recreation.gov.
The new online system will replace the current in-person system for the park, though that will remain in place through Feb. 28. The switch to an online system will also give users a chance to secure permits up to three months in advance of any overnight stay, whereas there is currently a 48-hour in-person window.
Park spokesman Peter Densmore said the change was made to align the backcountry permit system with the park’s system for developed campground reservations, which has already been available online.
“It also gives our visitors greater control of their trip planning,” he added in a statement Tuesday. “Under the walk-in system, we’ve consistently heard from people concerned about backcountry permit availability during the park’s peak season. We hope that this new system will give them greater peace of mind knowing that their permit is secure.”
All online permit holders will be required to check in with the Bryce Canyon Visitors Center by 2 p.m. on the day of their trip, where they will receive a physical backcountry permit. This is also where they will receive a refresher on the park’s backcountry rules, Densmore said.
A backcountry permit allows for up to 14 consecutive nights in the park’s backcountry, though backpackers may stay up to two consecutive nights at any campsite, according to the website. Park officials note that the average camper spends two to three nights in the backcountry.
They add that backcountry camping is only allowed in designated campsites. Every backcountry campsite has three tent pads and is limited to three groups with a maximum of six people. There are also group campsites, which have a limit of 15 people.
The permit requires a $10 nonrefundable reservation fee, along with a $5 recreation fee for every person listed on the permit, which Denmore said is the same as in the past. The second fee can be refunded if the person or group cancels up to three days in advance of the permit date.
Permit holders will also be required to pay the normal entry fee into the park unless they already have a national park pass.