Overnight backpacking permits for the Zion Narrows are like gold – they are incredibly hard to get and go very quickly once they become available. Day hiking permits are much easier and far less competitive.
You do not need a permit if you are day hiking from the Bottom, up. Anyone at any time can wander into the bottom portion of The Narrows without a permit.
The only thing you need a permit for is if you are hiking The Narrows from the Top, down – which is really how you get the full experience. If you are hiking from the Top to the Bottom, you need a permit regardless of if you are backpacking or day hiking (probably because if you get lost and die they need to know that they should be looking for you).
Permit for both day hikes and backpacking trips becomes available 3 months in advance. Given that the length of the Top, down hike is 17miles, backpacking is the more popular option and these are the more difficult permits to get.
Backpacking Wilderness Permits
A big part of the reason why these permits are so hard to get is because there are only 12 campsites in The Narrows, so only 12 permits are available per day. On top of that, only HALF of the campsites are available for reservations online (1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 12). That means when the permit application opens each month, thousands of people are trying to get those 6 spots.
Reservations become available on the 5th day of the month at 10:00 am MT, 3 months in advance and you better be ready and waiting on your computer to try to get one of those 6 spots because they will be gone instantly, especially if it’s a weekend between May and Aug.
During these peak month, the week days will also sell out shortly there after. In my experience, the permit system has a slight lag, so it’s not 10am MT right on the dot, it’s usually 3-5mins after when the permits become available, and then the mad dash begins!
There’s a $5 non refundable fee for making a reservation online, and then an additional charge per person once you pick up the permit.
Select the camp site you want to reserve from the drop down menu. Then choose the date when you want your permit for (you have to click the little number of the date rather than the square). Red squares have no availability, green squares have availability based on the number in the box.
Tips For Getting A Zion Narrows Wilderness Permit
Getting a permit is all about speed. You are racing against thousands of people for those 6 spots, so you need to be as prepared and as fast as possible to secure a permit.
- Become familiar with the form – on the first or sometime before permits become available for the next month, go through a “mock application” process to familiarize yourself with the form. Go to the calendar and select an available date so that you can then see the form. You’re going to need to know the requirements for each form field and to fill them out as quickly as possible, so the more prepared you are the better.
- Choose a campsite ahead of time – since you have to choose your campsite when making the reservation and different campsites accommodate different amounts of people, you need to know which one you want to try to get the permit for based on your group size.
All of the campsites are pretty equivalent as far as besting “good”. Campsite #7 is pretty much in the middle of the hike, which also makes it the most sought after. Sites #5 and #9 are then the next most sought after as they are also closer to the middle.
You might want to go after one of the less desirable campsites at the beginning or end since there will be less competition and greater odds of getting a permit.
- Know your license plate and use TWO spaces – this tripped me up the first time I applied (and failed).
I only used ONE space between the state abbreviation and my license plate number, but the form requires TWO spaces, so without that my submission was rejected and by then it was too late.
- Say you’re using a rental even if you have your own car – the next time I applied for a permit, I skipped the license plat field entirely and just went with the rental car checkbox.
It’s faster and will save you a few milliseconds by clicking one checkbox rather than filling out 3 form fields.
- Modify the URL structure to send you directly to the application page – rather than starting at the dropdown and then clicking on the date in the calendar, and then getting to the application, start on the application page directly. It will save you 2 clicks to 2 pages, and precious time when trying to get the permit. When you do your research to familiarize yourself with te form before applying, look at the URL structure of the page with the form.
Both the date and the campsite number are included in the URL. You can enter in your date and the campsite number even if the application isn’t yet available. You’ll just see an empty page. Then you can sit here and refresh this page waiting for the registration to open rather than sitting on the calendar page, which is one click behind.
If You Don’t Get A Reserved Permit
More than likely, you’re not going to get a reserved permit. This doesn’t mean all hope is lost – there is another way. Since only 6 of the 12 campsites are available for online registration, that means that there are 6 more that are still available via Walk-up permits.
These permits are available on a first-come-first-serve basis the day before your trip date. They are available when the permit office opens at the Zion Canyon Visitors Center at 7am MT.
You need to be first in line – after all there are only 6 Walk-up permits available, so if you’re not one of the 6, you’re going to be out of luck and then might need to resign yourself to a Day Use Permit only as described below.
Day Hiking Permits
A day hiking permit for The Narrows is called a “Canyoneering Day Trip Permits”. These are generally pretty available, even within a week of when you want to go.
This can be a good alternative if you weren’t able to get a Wilderness permit to camp overnight.
Choose “Virgin Narrows Day Use Trail from Top” From the drop down menu
Then choose the date when you want your permit. Red squares have no availability, green squares have availability based on the number in the box.
If You Don’t Get A Reserved Day Hiking Permit
If you weren’t able to get a day hiking permit for your chosen dates, there is another option. There is a Last Minute Drawing option available 7-2 days before your trip. Apply for the last minute drawing here.
If spaces remain after the Last Minute Drawing, walk-in permits become available the day before your trip date.