HOW TO BOOK AN OVERNIGHT BACKCOUNTRY TRIP IN CANADA’S NATIONAL PARKS
BACKCOUNTRY CAMPING PERMIT
In order to do any overnight backcountry hiking/camping in a Canadian National Park you must secure a Backcountry Camping Permit.
You book the trail and your desired campsites on that trail (number of people in your group, how many tent pads). As the permit holder you are then charged a one-time reservation fee of $11. Every time you book a permit, you must pay the reservation fee. In addition to the reservation fee you are charged $9.80 per user per night on the trail.
So, in short, to hike in Canadian National Parks you need to secure a Back Country Camping Permit, pay a mandatory reservation fee, and pay $9.80 per user per night on the trail. You must do this for every overnight hiking trip in the Canadian National Parks that are on established trail systems. Some hikes, Lake O'Hara for example, have additional costs (bus rides/shuttle).
To secure a Backcountry Camping Permit in the National Parks you can call 1(877)RESERVE (737-3783).
You can also book National Park Backcountry Camping Permits online at https://reservation.pc.gc.ca/Home.aspx. As of February 2016, online Backcountry Camping Permit bookings are only available for the following Canadian National Parks;
2. Lake O'Hara (day use and shuttle bus only, overnight/camping bookings can be made 3 months in advance by calling (250) 343-6433.)
2. West Coast Trail
3. Bruce Peninsula
4. Gulf Islands
6. La Mauricie, and
7. Terra Nova.
If a GMMC member wishes to book a Backcountry Camping Permit in say Banff, Yoho, Kootenay National Parks they must contact 1(877)RESERVE (737-3783). In addition, I know Banff, Yoho, and Kootenay have individual trail offices. The Banff Trail office can be reached (403)762-1556 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Other National Park trail offices information can be found online.
ANNUAL WILDERNESS BACKCOUNTRY PERMIT
Completely separate from booking a National Parks Backcountry Camping permit, hikers can purchase an Annual Wilderness Backcountry Permit for approximately $70. An Annual Wilderness Backcountry permit allows you unlimited number of nights in the backcountry for one year. You do not need to pay the $9.80 for each night you're in the backcountry. So, if you're planning on spending more than 7 nights in the National Parks Backcountry, purchasing an Annual Wilderness Backcountry permit is worth it.
Please note: an Annual Wilderness Backcountry permit covers your nightly expense for any Backcountry Camping Permit/booking in the National Park.
An Annual Wilderness Backcountry permit is not the same as your Backcountry Camping Permit. For every overnight backcountry hiking trip in the National Park on an established trail system you MUST book/reserve the trail campsites on the days you desire. This booking is your Back Country Camping Permit. Every trip in the National Parks requires a Backcountry Camping Permit. An Annual Wilderness Backcountry permit only covers your nightly user fee cost. Backcountry Camping Permits and Annual Wilderness Backcountry permits are two different things. People sometimes get them confused.
You can secure an Annual Wilderness Backcountry permit by calling 1(877)737-3783.
Because the GMMC is a member of the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC), our members can also purchase the Annual Wilderness Backcountry permit on ACC website. The ACC Annual Wilderness Backcountry Permit link is - https://www.alpineclubofcanada.ca/product/annual-wilderness-backcountry-permit/. Contact the Summer Trips Chair or other Executive member for the membership number.
Using the GMMC's membership with ACC means that an Annual Backcountry Wilderness permit will cost $68.70. Non ACC membership cost is $69.70. You only save $1.00. That said, ordering online is simpler. I've spoken with various staff members at different National Park Trail offices and some were unaware that Annual Wilderness Backcountry permits even existed.
Whether done on the phone or via the ACC website, you pay for the Annual Wilderness Backcountry Permit via credit card and Parks Canada then mails you the card. Annual Wilderness Backcountry permits are good for a year from the date of purchase.
When GMMC members sign up on the GMMC web calendar for trips that are in the National Parks, the GMMC member can pass on their Annual Wilderness Backcountry permit number to the GMMC trip coordinator. The GMMC trip coordinator can then add the GMMC member's Annual Wilderness Backcountry permit number to the Backcountry Camping Permit.
Cory (Summer Trips Chair)