There are four ways to get a Wilderness Permit in Zion, as explained below. The option(s) you choose will be determined by:1. Where you want to go. The Use Limit Chart (above) details how many permits can be issued per canyon, per day. Choose a canyon with no limit (i.e. not on the list), and your odds are a lot better than a canyon with a 12-person daily limit.2. When you want to go there. Weekend are busy, and so are summer months. Summer weekends are REALLY busy. If you want to increase your odds, plan on weekday descents in the shoulder seasons, where we often see nobody in the canyon. 3. How far ahead you plan. With permits, the early bird catches the worm. Know your plan three months ahead of time, and you can score your permit online fairly easily.4. Your luck. If you enter one of the two lottery options, fate decides your descents. Feeling lucky?
*****Lottery Permits - A Special Process for The Subway and Mystery Canyon Because of their huge popularity, a lottery system for permits for the Left Fork of North Creek (The Subway) and Mystery Canyon is in effect. Lottery applications cost $5.00, are non-refundable, and are limited to one request per individual per month. Lottery entrants have the opportunity to request three prioritized trip dates. All other backcountry areas area available by a calendar reservation or walk-in permit request. Online Wilderness Reservation Systems - Up to 3 months in advance For each trail or canyon, half the allotted permits are reservable for backpacking, climbing, and canyoneering trips online via the Wilderness Reservation System, up to 3 months ahead of the use date. Read the Park's Backcountry Reservation System page for the latest rules and regs.Online via Last Minute Drawing - Between 7 to 2 days in advanceThe other half of each day's permit allotment are available between 7 to 2 days before the reservation date via the Last Minute Drawing. The drawing happens at 1 PM, two days before their desired date. Any permits remaining after the Last Minute Drawing are available in person via the Wilderness Desk at the Zion Visitors Center.
In Person at the Wilderness DeskAfter 1 PM on any day, you may inquire about permit availability for any canyon. For example, if you show up at the Wilderness Desk on Wednesday, you may only secure a permit for Wednesday or Thursday. If you seek a high-demand permit, success is unlikely. MANY times of year, however, I have scored walk-up permits without a problem. Timing and flexibility are everything.
*****Once You Secure Your Permit ReservationYou're almost legal, but you still must physically obtain your permit IN PERSON at the Zion Canyon Wilderness Desk or the Kolob Visitors Center (435-586-9548). This helps Zion Rangers update you on current weather conditions and possible closures. Know the Wilderness Desk hours and permit prices before you go. Once you have the physical permit, you must carry it with you on your adventure, as Park Rangers may ask to see it at any time.
Polite Note: The Wilderness Desk staff is not responsible for the inconvenient rules and regulations that manage use of the backcountry canyons. Please grant them respect and civility. If you have frustrations to take out, write a letter to the Park Superintendent.