Backpacking Canadian Rockies Vancouver Area Vancouver Island Washington

2020 Washington and BC Backpacking Reservation Dates You Need to Know

In the rainy and snowy winter, I can’t help but reminisce about warm and sunny summer backpacking trips. And the more I think about backpacking, the more I want to go backpacking. Which leads me to start flipping through guidebooks, spread maps across the dining room table and spend far too much time googling trails. What do backpackers like me do in the offseason? Plan next year’s trips! The most spectacular trips are often ones that are in popular or fragile places, so they often have reservation systems in place. And nothing sucks more than finding out a trip you want to do is booked up!

So I’ve put together a complete list of the 2020 Washington and BC backpacking reservation dates you need to know. Put these dates in your calendar people! (Or if you’re like me, agonize over which trip to pick since they all sound amazing!) I’ve got reservation dates for you for 12 different trips in South West BC, Interior and Eastern BC, and Washington State. Plus I’ve also got details on how to reserve and my top tips for getting those hard-to-get reservations.

 

Quick Calendar

Trail/Park When to Reserve Where to Reserve
Bowron Lake Circuit, BC Oct 1 2019 Online or Phone
Berg Lake, BC Oct 1 2019 Online or Phone
West Coast Trail, BC January 6, 2020 Online or Phone
Rockwall Trail, BC January 23, 2020 Online or Phone
Lake O’Hara, BC January 24, 2020 Online
Enchantments, WA February 15, 2020 Online
Mount Rainier National Park, WA March 15, 2020 Online
North Cascades National Park, WA March 15, 2020 Online
Olympic National Park, WA March 18, 2020 Online
Garibaldi Provincial Park, BC 4 months before your trip Online or Phone
Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, BC 4 months before your trip Online or Phone
Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, BC 4 months before your trip Online or Phone

 

South West BC Backpacking Reservation Dates

 

West Coast Trail Reservations

West Coast Trail camping: the view from a tent at Thrasher Cove Campground

Morning at Thrasher Cove Campground on the West Coast Trail. Photo credit: Laura Zajac

What: This 75km (46.5 mi) trail is full of beaches, coastal rainforest, ladders, and boardwalks. Since it’s a West Coast rite of passage it is on many bucket lists and is probably the most popular multi-day hike in Canada. Want more info? I wrote a whole series of posts about the West Coast Trail. Start with my West Coast Trail Guide, then check out my section-by-section overview, itineraries, campground guide, packing list, and transportation posts.

When to Reserve: Starting January 6, 2020, at 8 am PST. 

Where to Reserve: Online on the Pacific Rim National Park website. There’s also info on reserving by phone here.

How Much Do Reservations Cost: Reservations cost $24.50. There is a $127.50 fee to hike the trail, plus two mandatory $20 ferry crossings and a National Parks entry fee.

Do You Have to Reserve? Yes. There are no walk-up or stand-by permits available.

Tips and Tricks for Getting a Reservation: You need an account on the Park’s website so create one ahead of time so you don’t get slowed down on reservation day. Be ready with your preferred start dates, start location and a few alternates.  For better odds, avoid July and August which are the busiest. If you don’t get a reservation, keep checking back for cancellations.

 

Garibaldi Provincial Park Reservations

Black Tusk in Garibaldi Provincial Park. Find out how to reserve campsites in this park: BC Backpacking Reservation dates you need to know

Black Tusk in Garibaldi Provincial Park

 

What: South West BC’s premiere alpine backpacking destination with several trailheads and campgrounds to choose from. Reservations are required for all the campgrounds as well as the Elfin Lakes Shelter. For more info on trails and destinations, check out the BC parks website.

When to Reserve: Up to 4 months before your trip.

Where to Reserve: Online via Discover Camping or via phone at 1 800 689-902 or 1 519 826-6850.

How Much Do Reservations Cost: Reservations cost $6/night per tent pad, up to a max reservation fee of $18. You will also have to pay a per person backcountry fee of $10 for campsites and $15 for the Elfin Lakes Shelter. If you book via phone there is an extra $5 surcharge.

Do You Need to Reserve? Yes. There are no stand-by or walk-up permits available.

Tips and Tricks for Getting a Reservation: Make your reservation as early as possible. For better chances avoid long weekends or pick a mid-week trip. If you can’t get a reservation for the Garibaldi Lake campground, consider booking Taylor Meadows or Helm Creek and then hiking over to Garibaldi Lake for the day. Can’t get a Garibaldi reservation for the dates you want? Check out my list of other awesome BC alpine backpacking destinations that don’t require a reservation.

 

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park Reservations

Joffre Lakes near Whistler, BC

The view from second Joffre Lake

What: This super-popular lake near Whistler has a backcountry campground next to the third lake. It’s a short 5.5km hike from the trailhead, so it’s one of the easier backpacking destinations close to Vancouver. The beauty of the lakes has rapidly increased visitation to the area, so a reservation system was implemented in 2019.

When to Reserve: Up to 4 months before your trip.

Where to Reserve: Online via Discover Camping or via phone at 1 800 689-902 or 1 519 826-6850.

How Much Do Reservations Cost: Reservations cost $6/night per tent pad, up to a max reservation fee of $18. You will also have to pay a per person backcountry fee of $5/person/night. If you book by phone there is an additional $5 surcharge.

Do You Need to Reserve? Yes. There are no stand-by or walk-up permits available.

Tips and Tricks for Getting a Reservation: Make your reservation as early as possible. For better chances avoid long weekends or pick a mid-week trip. 

 

Interior and Eastern BC Backpacking Reservation Dates

 

Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit Reservations

Canoeing on the Bowron Lakes. Find out how to reserve campsites on this trip: BC Backpacking Reservation dates you need to know

“Bowron Lakes” by ktpayn Used under Creative Commons CC BY 2.0

 

What: The Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit connects numerous lakes and rivers through portages to make a roughly square-shaped 116km (72 mi) route. It takes about 6 to 10 days to complete. (Yes I know this is a canoe trip, not a backpacking route, but it’s a similar wilderness experience and the only paddling trip in BC that requires reservations, so it made the list.) To see what it’s like, check out Gemma and JR’s Bowron Lakes trip report on their blog Off Track Travel. More info on the BC Parks website.

When to Reserve: Starting Oct 1, 2019.

Where to Reserve: Online via Discover Camping  or via phone at 1 800 689-902 or 1 519 826-6850.

How Much Do Reservations Cost: The reservation fee is $18.00 per vessel (plus tax) and there is also a $60 per person canoe circuit user fee. If you book via phone there is an extra $5 surcharge.

Do You Have to Reserve? Yes. There are no walk-up or stand-by permits available.

Tips and Tricks For Getting a Reservation: Book online as it is faster and you won’t have to wait on hold. Reserve as early as possible since this route is popular with international travellers. Know how many canoes and people will be in your party before you make your reservation as only a set number of canoes and people may depart per day. July and August are the busiest and if you opt for June or September you’ll have much better chances. Check out Kenzie’s June trip where they didn’t see anyone else for days! If you don’t get a reservation, keep checking back for cancellations.

 

Berg Lake Reservations

The Ultimate Guide to Hiking the Berg Lake Trail in Mount Robson Provincial Park in the Canadian Rockies

What: The Berg Lake Trail is a 23km backcountry trail into a gorgeous glacier lake in Mount Robson Provincial Park on the BC side of the Rocky Mountains. It’s called Berg Lake since the glacier calves icebergs right into the lake. For more info check out my super detailed guide to hiking the Berg Lake Trail and the BC Parks website.

When to Reserve: Oct 1, 2019

Where to Reserve: Online via Discover Camping or via phone at 1 800 689-902 or 1 519 826-6850.

How Much Do Reservations Cost: Reservations cost $6/night per tent pad, up to a max reservation fee of $18. You will also have to pay a per person backcountry fee of $10/person/night. If you book via phone there is an extra $5 surcharge.

Do You Have to Reserve? Yes. There are no walk-up or stand-by permits available.

Tips and Tricks For Getting a Reservation. Book online as it is faster and you won’t have to wait on hold. Reserve as early as possible since this route is popular with international travellers. There are 7 campgrounds on the trail and you need to book your whole itinerary in advance, so be sure to have a few options for first choice, second choice, etc. Since this trail books up so far in advance, there are often cancellations as people change their minds. Keep checking back to see if spots open up.

 

Rockwall Trail Reservations

Rockwall Trail in Kootenay National Park in Canada

Tumbling Glacier on the Rockwall Trail by jockrutherford on Flickr. Used under CC BY-SA 2.0

What: The premier backpacking destination in Kootenay National Park is the Rockwall Trail.  It’s a 55km multi-day high alpine backpacking route through the Rocky Mountains. It passes by numerous waterfalls and the famous rockwall. For more information see the Kootenay National Park website. You can also check out Marta’s Rockwall Trail Guide on her blog In a Far Away Land.

When to Reserve: January 23, 2020, at 8 am MST.

Where to Reserve: Online via the Parks Canada Reservations Service or by phone at 1-877-737-3783.

How Much Do Reservations Cost: Reservations cost 11.70. You’ll also need to purchase a wilderness pass for $9.80.

Do You Have to Reserve? Yes. There are no walk-up or stand-by permits available.

Tips and Tricks For Getting a Reservation: You have reserve each of your campsites on the trail so have a few different itinerary options prepared before you book.  For better odds, avoid July and August which are the busiest. If you don’t get a reservation, keep checking back for cancellations.

 

Lake O’Hara Reservations

View of Lake O'Hara and Mary Lake from the All Soul's Alpine Route in Yoho National Park

The view of Lake O’Hara and Mary Lake from the All Soul’s Alpine route.

What: The Lake O’Hara area has a small 30-site backcountry campground that accesses over a dozen day hikes. It is a truly spectacular spot set among alpine lakes and hanging valleys in the Rocky Mountains inside Yoho National Park. You can base yourself at the campground and head out on a different and spectacular hike each day. And the best part? You can take a shuttle bus on a private road right to your campsite! If you can’t get a camping reservation, you can also just take the shuttle bus up for the day. For more info and some drool-worthy photos, check out my Lake O’Hara Camping and Hiking Guide.

When to Reserve Camping: Online starting January 24, 2020 at 8am MST.

When to Reserve Day-Use Shuttle Bus: Enter the online lottery between February 1 and February 29, 2020. In March, look for an email from Parks Canada to see if “won” a spot, then pay the reservation and bus fees to confirm. You can enter the lottery as many times as you like, but it costs $10 for each entry.

Where to Reserve: Reserve camping or enter the day-use shuttle bus lottery on the Parks Canada Reservation site

How Much Do Reservations Cost:  Camping Reservations cost $11.70. You’ll also need to pay for $9.80/person/night for camping and $14.70 for the shuttle bus. It costs $10 to enter the day-use shuttle bus lottery. If you’re successful, you’ll need to pay a reservation fee of $4.50 per ticket for 1 or 2 people, or $11.50 for 3 or more people. You’ll also need to pay $14.70 for the bus.

Do You Need to Reserve? Yes. There are no stand-by or walk-up permits available.

Tips and Tricks For Getting a Reservation: You need an account on the Park’s website so create one ahead of time so you don’t get slowed down on reservation day. Be ready with your preferred dates and a few alternates. For better odds, avoid August which is the busiest. For day hiking, you can put up to 6 different bus days and times on your application. Use them all! And maybe consider putting in more than one lottery application. 

 

Mount Assiniboine Reservations

Magog Lake in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. Find out how to reserve campsites on this trail: BC Backpacking Reservation dates you need to know

Magog Lake Sunrise” by Jeff P on Flickr. Used under CC BY 2.0.)

What: If you’ve seen stunning photos of a photogenic peak in the Canadian Rockies, there’s a good chance it was Mount Assiniboine. Nestled at the base of the mountain is a cluster of small lakes, plus tons of hiking trails to gorgeous views. The core area of the park at Lake Magog has a popular BC Parks backcountry campground as well as a private lodge and some basic huts. There are several different trails to hike in to the core area, or you can charter a helicopter. There is lots more info on camping and hiking on the BC Parks website. Note: The info below applies only to the BC Parks campground.

When to Reserve: Up to 4 months before your trip. The first day you can make reservations is February 26, 2020 for trips starting June 26, 2020.

Where to Reserve: Online via Discover Camping or via phone at 1 800 689-902 or 1 519 826-6850.

How Much Do Reservations Cost: Reservations cost $6/night per tent pad, up to a max reservation fee of $18. You will also have to pay a per person backcountry fee of $10 for campsites. If you book via phone there is an extra $5 surcharge.

Do You Need to Reserve? Yes. There are no stand-by or walk-up permits available.

Tips and Tricks for Getting a Reservation: Make your reservation as early as possible. For better chances avoid long weekends or pick a mid-week trip.

 

Washington Backpacking Reservation Dates

 

Enchantments Backpacking Reservations

The Enchantments, Washington. Find out how to reserve campsites on this trail: Washington and BC Backpacking Reservation dates you need to know

Prussik Peak and Leprechaun Lake, Enchantments, Washington

 

What: The Enchantments are a high alpine area in Washington’s Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Most people do a 19 mile (30km) thru-hike to see the whole area, but numerous side trips are also possible. For a full guide to the area check out Clever Hiker’s Enchantment Lakes Backpacking Guide.

When to Reserve: Enchantments reservations work on a lottery system. Put in an application for the lottery in between Feb 15 and March 1. Check back in mid-March to see if you “won” the lottery and got a reservation. You have until the end of March to convert your lottery win to a reservation.

Where to Reserve: Online on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest website.

How Much Do Reservations Cost: There is a $6 application fee plus a $5/person/night fee if your application is accepted.

Do You Have to Reserve? No. A very small number of permits are available Monday to Saturday for walk-ups. In order to get one of these permits, you need to go to the Wenatchee River Ranger Station in Leavenworth at 7:45 am and register for the walk-up lottery. The rangers will draw names and usually, there are far fewer winners than lottery participants.

Tips and Tricks For Getting a Reservation: Pick a start date in the middle of the week. Consider applying for the Snow Zone or the Colchuck Zone and then day hiking into the Core Zone, instead of applying for a difficult-to-get Core Zone permit. Get everyone in your group to submit an application to increase your chances. If you don’t win a permit in the original lottery, check back at the end of March – sometimes people who win the lottery forget to convert their win to a reservation.

 

Mount Rainier National Park Backpacking Reservations

Mount Rainier. Find out how to reserve campsites on this trail: Washington and BC Backpacking Reservation dates you need to know

Mount Rainier” by skeeze. Used under Creative Commons CC0

 

What: The crown jewel of Mount Rainier National Park is the 93 mile/105km Wonderland Trail which circumnavigates the mountain. If you aren’t up to the entire Wonderland Trail, you can tackle shorter sections of it or backpack on some of the parks other trails. Find out more on the Mount Rainier National Park website.

When to Reserve: Reservations open on March 15, 2020. All reservation requests received between March 15 and March 31 go into a lottery for priority. All reservation requests received April 1st onwards are processed in the order they were received.  If you want to hike the Wonderland Trail, your reservation request must be received before April 1st.

Where to Reserve: Online via the Mountain Rainier National Park website. A park ranger will get back to you to let you know if a reservation is available for your requested dates. If you submitted your application in March, don’t expect to hear back until May since they are so busy.

How Much Do Reservations Cost: It costs $20 to apply for a reservation. You have to pay this fee even if your trip dates aren’t available.

Do You Need to Reserve? No. About 70 percent of the available wilderness permits can be reserved while the remaining 30 percent are issued on a first-come, first-served basis. To get a walk-up permit you need to go to a ranger station either the first day of your trip or the day before your trip. (For tips on how to get a walk-up permit, check out the video on this page.)

Tips and Tricks For Getting a Reservation: Submit several alternative itineraries. Submit your reservation request before March 31, especially if you want to hike the whole Wonderland Trail. You can only submit one reservation request per person so if cost isn’t an issue, consider having everyone in your group submit requests.

 

Olympic National Park Backpacking Reservations

Shi Shi Beach in Olympic National Park. Find out how to reserve campsites on this trail: Washington and BC Backpacking Reservation dates you need to know

Shi Shi Beach in Olympic National Park

 

What: Olympic National Park is a huge park with a variety of rainforest, alpine and beach backpacking trips. For beach backpacking trip ideas, check out my guides to the beautiful coastal backcountry areas of Ozette Loop, Toleak Point, and Shi Shi Beach. For a complete list of trails, see the Olympic National Park website.

When to Reserve: Six months before your trip, with the earliest day you can reserve being March 18, 2020.

Where to Reserve: Reserve online via recreation.gov.

How Much Do Reservations Cost: There is no reservation fee, but you will have to submit credit card info to pay a wilderness fee of $8/person/night.

Do You Need to Reserve? Yes and No. Some areas of the park are 100% reservable (such as the popular Ozette Coast). Others are only 50% reservable. There are also areas where no reservations are accepted. To get a walk-up permit for the areas that aren’t 100% reservable you can go to a ranger station either the first day of your trip or the day before your trip.

Tips and Tricks For Getting a Reservation: You need an account on recreation.gov to make a reservation so set one up before March 18th to save time on the day. Consider going on coastal trips in the off-season (before May 1 or after September 30th) when reservations aren’t required but the weather can often be good.

 

North Cascades National Park Backpacking Reservations

East Bank Trail in North Cascades National Park. Find out how to reserve campsites on this trail: Washington and BC Backpacking Reservation dates you need to know

East Bank Trail in North Cascades National Park

 

What: North Cascades National Park is a huge park with tons of backpacking options, most of them high in the mountains. Reservations are not required for the more remote corners of the park, and they do hold aside a certain number of permits in popular areas for first come-first served permits. But if you want to visit the most popular areas, a reservation is a must. You can find info on all the trails on the North Cascades National Park website. Looking for trip ideas? Check out my trail guide for the East Bank Trail on Ross Lake.

When to Reserve: Reservations open on March 15, 2020. All reservation requests received between March 15 and April 15 go into a lottery for priority. All reservation requests received April 15th onwards are processed in the order they were received.

Where to Reserve: Online via the North Cascades National Park website. A park ranger will get back to you within a few weeks to let you know if a reservation is available for your requested dates.

How Much Do Reservations Cost: It costs $20 to apply for a reservation. You have to pay this fee even if your trip dates aren’t available.

Do You Need to Reserve? No. About 60 percent of the available wilderness permits can be reserved while the remaining 40 percent are issued on a first-come, first-served basis. To get a walk-up permit you need to go to a ranger station either the first day of your trip or the day before your trip.

Tips and Tricks For Getting a Reservation: Come up with lots of alternative itineraries. Submit early. You can only submit one reservation request per person so if cost isn’t an issue, consider having a few people in your group submit requests.

 

So there you have it: 2020 Washington and BC backpacking reservation dates for 11 different trips. How many of these hikes have you done already? Tell me in the comments. I’ve done Berg Lake, the West Coast Trail, the Enchantments, and trips in Garibaldi, North Cascades, and Olympic Parks. But the real question should be: which of these trips do you want to do most? (My answer might be all of them. Eep.)

 

READ NEXT:

I’ve written about a few of the trips on this list:

Want a spectacular backpacking trip that doesn’t require reservations? I’ve got some suggestions:

Pin for later:

BC and Washington Backpacking reservation dates you need to know. Find out when and how to make reservations for camping on the West Coast Trail, the Wonderland Trail and more. #backpacking #BC #Washington Backpacking in BC and Washington: how to get hard to book campsites. Find out when and how to book backcountry campsites for National and Provincial Parks in BC and Washington. #BC #Washington #camping #backpacking #hiking 

2 Comments

  • Reply
    Heather
    January 3, 2020 at 11:39 am

    I think I’ll try for lake ohara in September. Seems like it will be the easiest option with a 3 year old and a new born!

    • Reply
      Taryn Eyton
      January 5, 2020 at 10:47 pm

      Lake O’Hara is a great option for kids. The campground is great and if you have a baby carrier, you should be able to explore lots of hikes. Have a great time!

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