The summer wilderness backpacking season is months away, but it’s time to start planning. Many of the most popular wilderness areas at Olympic National Park have limits for how many people can camp there on any given night.
For the best chance of securing reservations, start now — and keep these important tips in mind:
• Olympic National Park wilderness camping permit reservations are made online at Recreation.gov. The reservation system is on a rolling six-month window. This means that on Feb. 28, you can reserve a camp area for a trip starting as far out as Aug. 28. Each new date becomes available at 7 a.m.
• Once you book the first night of your trip, Recreation.gov will allow you to complete your itinerary even if the rest of the dates are beyond the six-month reservation period. But be forewarned: You cannot change the start date of your trip in this system unless you clear allthe dates and start again.
• If the sites you would like to reserve are not available on Recreation.gov, reserve the best trip you can. Inquire when you arrive if there are any cancellations or if any walk-up quota is available for your preferred location. That’s rare during the busy summer season, so plan the best trip possible now.
• Even if the campsites you are visiting do not have a maximum number of spaces available (non-quota), reserving your permit in advance will save you time when you arrive at the park to pick it up. Remember, you will still need to pick up your permit in person at a Wilderness Information Center before you begin your trip.
The park transitioned to the online reservation system last March. The new system allows backpackers to check the availability of sites in real time, plan their trip and receive immediate confirmation. It also has streamlined the park’s wilderness permit reservations.
For more information about wilderness permits and backpacking in Olympic National Park, please visit www.nps.gov/olym/index.htm. It also pays to check that site regularly for road and trail closures and other factors that may affect your trip.