Enchantments Backpacking Lottery Dates, Permits for 2015
Your step-by-step guide to the permit process for backpacking in Washington's Enchantments Basin between June 14 and October 16.
Looking for 2016 lottery information? Find it on this year's blog.
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There is no place quite like Washington's Enchantment Lakes Basin within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Backcountry camping in the Enchantments ranks high on many Northwest hikers' wishlists.
Because of the area's popularity, all overnight visitors must obtain a permit if they want to camp in the Basin between June 14 through October 16 in 2015. Most (75 percent) of those permits are issued through an annual lottery, which opens in a few days.
If you know you want to backpack in the Enchantments this year, start planning now, and mark your calendars with the following dates. (You can also download the 2015 planning checklist.)
How to apply for an Enchantments permit
If you want to get in the running for one of the coveted permits, follow these basic steps (and then cross your fingers). First you apply between February 15 and March 3. If you win a permit in the lottery, then you need to confirm and pay for it between March 6 and March 31.
Step 1. Apply for a permit Feb. 15-Mar. 3
The 2015 Enchantment lottery will open on February 15, 2015 and end on March 3, 2015. (Applying early doesn't give you preference for a permit, so just make sure to get your application in during this window.)
- Set up an account at www.recreation.gov. This can be done at any time (even right now). You can use the same account to reserve other permits or any of the campsites that use the National Recreation Reservation Service system.
- Fill out an application at www.recreation.gov on the Enchantments Permit page. You'll be able to select your preferred zone to camp in (see map) (Core Enchantment, Snow Lake, Colchuck, Stuart Lake or Eightmile/Caroline) and the dates of your trip.
It's a good idea to research where and when you'd like to go before you start the application process since making changes to an application may not be easy or even possible once you've submitted it.
You will be charged a $6.00 non-refundable application fee. At this point, you will NOT have purchased a permit, but rather will have entered the lottery.
Step 2. Check the results on March 6, and confirm and pay for your permit
The lottery results will be posted on recreation.gov on (or just after) March 6, at which time applicants can log into their recreation.gov account and find out the results of their application. If you apply, set yourself a reminder to check back during this period; don't count on an email.
Did you confirm? If you score a permit, the next step is confirming and paying for your permits between March 6 and March 31. You'll also be asked to provide additional information about party size (maximum of 8 people), the length of your stay, and pay for the permit. This is when you will be charged the $5.00/person/day fee. Once all your changes are in place, print and sign your permit once all the details to your trip are finalized.
If you don't win one of the lottery permits
- After the pre-season lottery permits are awarded, you can search for and reserve any of the few dates that were not filled at recreation.gov on the Enchantments Permit Area Page. This option is expected to become available at 7:00 a.m. PST on April 1, 2015 or soon thereafter.
- You can still try for the small number of daily walk-in permits. Read more about the logistics of trying for one of these permits issued daily (except Sundays) at the Wenatchee River Ranger District Office.
- Day hike the Enchantments. Treat this season as a chance to gather intel about the area by day hiking it. Take a few hikes and get a feeling for the zones and where you might like to plan a trip in 2016.
More details and trip planning resources
- Explore the Enchantments. To get a sense of the different trails within the Enchantments, you can search for trails and Trip Reports in our hiking guide. Scope out some of the classic views of the Enchantments in our photo gallery.
- Choosing a zone. More information about the application process, rules and advice about how to choose a zone can be found on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest website and Recreation.gov Enchantments page.
- Improve your chances. The Forest Service also has this to say about improving your chances for a permit. "Bear in mind that the most popular time to go is August, and the most popular days to start a trip are Fridays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. If you really want to do a Friday-Sunday trip in mid-August, by all means apply for that trip, but remember that you’re odds of getting a permit will be less than if you tried for a Monday-Wednesday trip in July."
- Group size. If you are coordinating with friends or family, remember that group size is limited to 8 people, and that you will need to all camp in the same location.
- More resources. This second half of this page has , including information about the zones, what to expect, fire restrictions and more. Note: If you usually hike with a dog, you will also need to arrange to leave her at home as part of your plans. Dogs are not allowed anywhere in the Enchantments Basin and on the Ingalls Lake Trail.
- Mountain goats. Depending on where you go, you might encounter mountain goats on trail or in camp. Know what to do if you encounter mountain goats.
Why is the permit and lottery system in place?
We often hear from people who wonder why they need a permit to overnight on public lands. While the system may not be perfect, there are very good reasons why someplace like the Enchantments Basin now uses a permit and lottery system.
- Reduce impact. Before the permit process was put into place, the Enchantments were in danger of being loved to death. The craggy peaks, lakes and unique alpine character of the Enchantments makes them like no other place on earth. They are special, deeply beloved, and overwhelmingly popular with hikers. But like all alpine habitats, they are also ecologically sensitive. Beloved places draw crowds, and the truth is that crowds leave an impact. From waste management to preserving the vegetation underfoot, limits keep the ever-growing popularity of this destination from destroying it.
- Keep it wild. The dramatic scenery is only part of what makes the Enchantments special; this is a designated national wilderness area, and permits help protect the wild plants and animals who call the area home. Permits help match the number of overnight visitors to the designated camps, so you won't face the choice of having to pitch your tent in a less than ideal spot or on top of delicate alpine vegetation.
- Protect your experience. Part of the magic of the Enchantments experience is the solitude of a wilderness experience. With more and more interest from visitors, regulating the number of overnight visitors helps keep your overnight adventure a wild one, while also preventing conflicts over a limited number of campsites.
- Equal access to the opportunity. These lands belong to all of us, and while it may not be a perfect solution, a permit lottery—combined with the limited number of walk-up passes—goes a long way toward providing a fair allocation process and ensuring equal access to the opportunity.