Winning the Lottery: Tips for Snagging Park Permits
Days are getting shorter, and that means it is time to think about summer outdoor objectives! It is also time to put in for those tough to get lotteries. Whether it is a multi day raft trip or an ascent of the highest peak in the lower 48, there are multiple bucket list worthy objectives that require a little planning and some luck to win the lottery.
To help with your planning, below is a list of lotteries with dates, some lottery tips and, of course, the perfect sock for when you win!
Mount Whitney, CA
The tallest mountain in the lower 48, Mount Whitney is a mountaineer’s dream. There are options for a single day accent or multi-day backpacking trip to get there and with 22 miles and 6000+ vertical gain it is important to stay within your ability.
Lottery open dates: February 1 - March 1, 2023
Tips to snag a permit: Shoulder season permits tend to be easier to get but require snow gear and winter travel skills. Check for open reservations April 1st and May 1st at 7am PST.
Recommended socks: Women's Hiker Boot Socks, Men's Hiker Boot Socks
Our midweight boot height hiking socks are ready for a long day and whatever the trail might throw at you, whether you go early season and have some snowfields to climb, or you just need something that can take you from a cold alpine start to a hot afternoon descent, these merino wool socks will help you focus on the views and the trail.
Yellowstone Backcountry Lottery
The Yellowstone backcountry is an amazing place; you get away from the hustle and bustle surrounding Old Faithful, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, and Mammoth Hot Springs to explore truly wild places like the Thoroghfare, the Shoshone Geyser Basin, and the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone. These are all unique areas with their own mysteries to uncover.
Pick up a map and find a route that meets your abilities and interests in our first national park!
Lottery open dates: March 1 - March 20, 2023
Tips to snag a permit: 2023 is the first year of the lottery. Put in your dates and locations, and let us know how it goes!
Recommended socks: Men's Heady Stripe Lightweight Hiking Socks, Women's Critter Club Lightweight Hiking Socks
One of the crown jewels of the national park system, Yosemite has an incredible amount of opportunities for hiking, backpacking, and climbing. While the valley is by far the most popular area for a visit, the lotteries for the cables and backcountry overnights help to limit the crowding on these two amazing adventures and maintain more of the wilderness feel than you might see around other areas of the park.
Half dome is an iconic part of Yosemite and a hike up the cables is one of the unique activities that offers an amazing view and takes a lot of effort.
Lottery opens dates: March 1 - March 31, 2023
Tips to snag a permit: For those that don’t get a preseason permit, a smaller number of day hike permits are available every day the cables are up, via a two day in advance daily lottery.
Recommended socks: Men's Kelso Lightweight Hiking Socks, Women's Kelso Lightweight Hiking Socks
The exposure and sheer heights you deal with on this hike make many people wish they were wearing climbing shoes! A lightweight sock will give you the performance you want without any bulk. Lace those shoes up tight and enjoy the views from the top!
Escape the crowds and get out into the Sierra High Country. Overnight and multi day trips give you the chance to experience the park in a whole new way.
Lottery open dates: Weekly lotteries about 6 months in advance, November 13, 2022 - May 7, 2023
Tips to snag a permit: Use all 8 itinerary choices with several different entry points. Stay on top of cancellations-any remaining reservable quota for each lottery window will be released and available for reservation on Fridays at 9:00 a.m.
Also 40% of trailhead quotas, as well as any remaining reservable quota, is available for first-come, first-served walk-up permits at Yosemite Wilderness Permit Stations (assuming regular operations in 2022). Walk-up permits become available at 11:00 a.m. the day prior to entry. Reserved permits that are not picked up by 10:00 a.m. on the day of entry will be cancelled and made available for walk-up permits.
Recommended socks: Women's Gatewood Boot Hiking Socks, Men's Scout Boot Hiking Socks
Backpackers love boot height socks when carrying a heavy pack and wearing boots with extra ankle support; our backpacking socks will let you focus on the trail and the views!
The Wave, AZ
Coyote Buttes North is just a small part of the 112,500-acre Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness but it is a striking desert area with amazing off-trail hiking and geologic wonders like the Wave. The suggested route to the Wave is a strenuous 6+ mile round-trip hike. Consider the physical abilities, fitness level, and potential weather before applying.
Lottery open dates: Monthly, 4 months in advance.
Tips to snag a permit: 75% of the permits are awarded through the advance lottery. This is the best chance to get a permit, while you can have up to 6 on a permit your chances are slightly better if you have 4 or fewer. There is also a walk-in lottery.
Recommended socks: Men's Light Hiker Quarter Socks, Women's Light Hiker Quarter Socks
A pair of lightweight merino socks can give you the right amount of comfort and temp regulation for a hot day in the desert. Be prepared with lots of water and light breathable clothing.
The enchantments are best seen as a multiday trip, whether you are hoping to climb dragontail peak or link together a backpacking route past glaciers and amazing alpine lakes, this area offers a ton of options for the adventurous hiker.
Lottery open dates: February 15 - March 1
Tips to snag a permit: On April 1st, unclaimed permits will be returned to the reservation system at 7:00 a.m. PT. The walk-up lottery at the Leavenworth Ranger Station is suspended for the 2022 season until further notice. Walk-up quota will be randomly released back into the recreation.gov reservation system at a designated time (to be determined), one week at a time.
Recommended socks: Men's Number 2 Midweight Hiking Socks, Women's Treeline Midweight Hiking Socks
Midweights are great for the pacific northwest. Temperature swings and unpredictable weather are just part of the game here, so be prepared!
Smith River, MT
A 60 mile float trip through an amazing Montana river canyon. While it is more accessible and beginner friendly than most of the other permitted rivers, it can be more of a challenge than people expect. Stay up to date on changing river regulations and be prepared for anything. Lots of stories of waking up to snow on your boat in May and June!
Lottery open dates: January 4 - February 15
Tips to snag a permit: River flows are different from year to year and can be a challenge to plan for in a lottery. The most sought after dates are early June. Flows are often too low by mid July to float (Late June in 2021). Early season trips have become harder to get but are best left for those who are prepared for snow and low flows.
Recommended socks: Men's ABC Boot Hiking Socks, Women's Nomad Boot Hiking Socks
Cozy socks for evening camp and for any of the numerous hikes you want to do while on the river.
The most sought after river permit, it is common for people to try for a decade before they pull a permit. Be prepared for a challenge with committing rapids, a lot of pre-trip planning, and at least 2 weeks to do the trip.
Lottery open dates: February 2023 for 2024 permits
Tips to snag a permit: Be prepared to try for this permit for multiple years. Trip leader requirements are strict, previous multi-day whitewater experience is needed on the trip. Consider a guided trip if you are looking to experience the canyon without the additional safety or planning responsibilities. Shoulder season and winter trips tend to be slightly less competitive, also the secondary cancellation lotteries are a great way to get a permit if you are flexible on timing.
Recommended socks: Women's Light Hiker Micro Crew Socks, Men's Light Hiker Micro Crew Socks
Layover days and side hikes are part of the wonder in a river trip; be prepared to check out some of the unique experiences this canyon offers with some sturdy footwear and a solid pair of socks.
Angels Landing — Zion, UT
The popularity of Angels Landing has pushed this into a brand new lottery. There are spring, summer, fall, and winter lotteries so plan ahead and mark the date of the lottery that matches when you want to go.
Lottery open dates:
- January 1-20, 2023 for hikes from March 1 - May 31, 2023
- April 1-20, 2023 for hikes from June 1 - August 31, 2023
- July 1-20, 2023 for hikes from September 1 - November 30, 2023
- October 1-20, 2023 for hikes from December 1, 2023 - February 29, 2024
Tips to snag a permit: Use all 7 choices and the date range functionality to get the best chances over the time you want to visit. If you already have your visit planned for specific dates and you don’t get a permit, enter the day before lottery, which gives you results at 4pm.
Recommended socks: Men's Sunset Ridge Lightweight Hiking Socks, Women's Sunset Ledge Lightweight Hiking Socks
Lightweight socks shine in the desert, merino wool offers moisture wicking and temperature control which will come in handy when the temperatures can swing so wildly from cool early mornings to the heat of the midday.
If Lotteries Aren't Your Thing
Here's some permits without lotteries worth checking out:
- Zion Backcountry
- Adirondack High Peaks
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Labyrinth Canyon River
- Boundary Water Canoe Area - Permits for all entry points are available on the last Wednesday of January at 9 am CT
- Find more near you at recreation.gov
About the Author
Kevin is an outdoor enthusiast with years of experience exploring the west. A recent transplant from Montana to Vermont to join our Darn Tough family, we weren’t successful in getting him to stop talking about river lotteries, so we let him write a blog post about it.