How to backpack in popular national parks

Cons: There are reservations, permits, people, shuttles and mandatory bear cans.

Pros: What you give up in convenience is usually more than repaid in access to jaw-dropping scenery that just can’t be matched on any old footpath through the woods. And it’s really helpful to have that kind of distraction when you’re carrying a 30-pound load.

If you’re committed to trying wilderness camping in some of the most scenic and visited natural areas in the country, such as Rocky Mountain, Yosemite, Glacier or Yellowstone, here’s how to do it right.

Don’t just wing it. You can’t, because some of the best hiking trails to the most iconic backcountry camping spots require booking a reservation at least six months in advance. If you plan to go at the height of the summer tourist season, mark your calendar to submit that online wilderness camping reservation to your favorite national park right around New Year’s.

In addition to a reservation for camping in a specific spot in a national park, you must also purchase, pick up and attach to your backpack a wilderness permit.

Besides, the permits — basically a cap on the number of visitors allowed in a particular area at a particular time — are in place to manage use and ensure the park stays beautiful and uncrowded for everyone, so trying to poach a camp spot isn’t just illegal; it’s rude.

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