Planning Your Summer Adventures
Permitting, Weather Windows, & Thinking Ahead
Curious about what you need to know before heading out on your next adventure in a permitted zone? Read these tips to learn how to plan and execute your expedition without a hitch.
Find Your Window Of Opportunity
Timing is important when planning your next camping trip, and it’s probably the factor that you have the least control over. Do you have one week of vacation or just a long weekend? Check your days off and then decide how much time you can set aside for your trip.
Choose Your Destination
Where are your favorite outdoor influencers hanging out that you’ve always wanted to explore? Do you have a list of future places you’d like to see? A few maps you bought but have yet to use? Every destination has an ideal window of opportunity, and that’s where planning ahead of time comes in handy.
For example, Vermont’s Long Trail in mud/mosquito season might not sound appealing, but that same trail will be pristine by the time late summer rolls around. The information about the best times to visit will typically be listed online with the National Park Service, state parks, local trail/waterway organizations, and/or trail reports.
Gather Your Crew
Now you can consider who’d be down for this kind of adventure. Maybe you have a go-to travel buddy or maybe you want to bond with a new friend over something big.
Whatever your circumstances, you’ll want to know the size of your group, so you can plan food, activities, and reserve a campsite that’s the right size. If you’re going solo, make sure to let someone else know about your plans so they can help if you have any issues.
Secure A Permit
Campsites and trails range from first-come, first-serve to requiring an advance permit, some of which have limited reservation windows and are in high-demand, which means you need to research well in advance to secure a spot.
Permits are primarily required during the most popular seasons for travel in each area to reduce the impact on the environment.
Designed in 1964 as part of the Wilderness Act, the National Forest Service’s permit system limits the number of people at certain trailheads and camping sites. Although sometimes cumbersome or difficult to acquire, these permits are what keep these places so special.
You can apply for permits online or in-person (research ahead of time to find out the system your destination uses). There are typically windows of time where the park service will take permit applications. Those windows of time range from several months out of the year to just one day. Mark permit application dates on your calendar so you don’t miss them!
If you’re going with a group, you can have a permit application party on the day you need to apply. Have everyone submit an application to increase your odds of winning a spot for the group.
You’ll be notified whether or not you receive the permit (often the date for this is listed on the website). If you win one, it’s time to celebrate. If you don’t get one, you can look into going during a less popular season or putting your name on a waitlist in case of cancellations.
Some places also give out a certain number of permits the day of. For people with a more flexible timeline and transportation, this is a good option.
Maps, Gear, Food & Other Supplies
Paper maps and digital ones are a top priority. Doing some research into the available amenities is also key. An outhouse will eliminate the need to bring a trowel but you still may need to pack in your own toilet paper.
You’ll also want to check into the water situation. Is it potable or not? If there isn’t running water, most sites will be located near a stream where you can filter water. For those who don’t have water filters or access to a stream near the campsite, make sure to pack in at least a gallon of water per person per day—depending on heat, humidity, and activities you’re going to be doing.
You’ll also need a tent, tarp, or hammock for sleeping and a cook set. Food is different for everyone, but preparing a meal plan in advance will prevent over or underpacking.
Best Permitted Places To Camp
Mount Katahdin/ Baxter State Park, Maine: Campers must register at the gatehouse between 1pm and 8:30pm. For those planning to day hike the peak, parking passes are required. Maine residents can reserve a parking pass online after April 1 for any day of the summer. Non-residents can reserve up to two weeks before your hike.
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota: Apply in advance at any time or obtain a walk-up permit at a permit-issuing station on your day of entry. Permits needed for summer only.
The Everglades, Florida: Visit the Gulf Coast Visitor Center or Flamingo Visitor Center to receive a permit. Cost: $15 plus $2 per person per day camping fee. Summer permits are free.
The Enchantments, Washington: Apply between February 15-March 1, winners drawn in March, can apply after this date and inquire about permits by walk-up but permits are limited.
Denali Park Road, Alaska: Lottery June 1-June 30, results announced at the end of June. Permits are for road access in September only.
There’s plenty to think about before heading out on your next summer adventure. But the more you plan in advance, the less you’ll have to worry about once you’re out in the wild. Your next great trip is on the horizon, so get planning today!
Bethany has her MFA from the University of New Hampshire. She lives in Portland, Maine with her partner and their two cats. You can find her art and outdoor adventures on Instagram @bethanymclarke.