Winning the Lottery: Tips for Snagging Park Permits

Pack rafters with camp set up for the night just off the Smith River, thankful they won the lottery

It’s a new year, 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 8 of these lotteries with dates, some lottery tips and, of course, the perfect sock for when you win!

Mount Whitney, CA

Mt. Whitney Permit

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.

View of Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states

Lottery open dates: Feb 1 - March 15

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.

Angels Landing — Zion, UT

Angels Landing Permit

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.

The view of angel's landing from above, showing the high canyon and lush valley

Lottery open dates:

  • April 1, 2022 - April 20, 2022: Seasonal lottery for summer dates (June 1- August 31, 2022)
  • July 1, 2022 - July 20, 2022: Seasonal lottery for fall dates (hikes on September 1 - November 30, 2022)
  • October 1, 2022 - October 20, 2022: Seasonal lottery for winter dates (hikes on December 1, 2022 - February 28, 2023)

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 Light Hiker No Show Socks

Hiker mid-stride wearing the sunset ridge 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.

Yosemite, CA

Dramatic view of Yosemite National Park with a bit of snow

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.

Cables

Cables on Half Dome Permit

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, 2022 - March 31, 2022

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

Two pairs of feet on sleeping bags wearing the men's and women's Kelso 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!

Backcountry Overnights

Yosemite Wilderness Permits

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 14, 2021 - May 14, 2022

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

A woman's feet standing on a deck wearing the women's gatewood hiking boot socks

Backpackers love boot height socks when carrying a heavy pack and wearing boots with extra ankle support; our boot height midweight socks will let you focus on the trail and the views!

The Wave, AZ

The Wave Permit

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.

The wavy red and orange rock formations distinctive to the Wave

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.

Enchantment, WA

Enchantment Permit

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

Woman leaning out of tent to pull on shoes over Treeline 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

Smith River Permit

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!

Pack rafters on the Smith River, taking in the views

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.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon River Permit

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.

Beautiful view of the Grand Canyon, with the river visible

Lottery open dates: February 2022 for 2023 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

Feet wearing the Light Hiker micro crew hiking socks by a stream

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.

If Lotteries Aren't Your Thing

Here's some permits without lotteries worth checking out:

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.