Explorer staffers have begun traveling to other parks this summer to learn what lessons they may hold for managing popular trails and attractions. These stories will appear in the magazine later this fall and winter, and will focus largely on New England. This week, though, I’m mixing personal travel with some research, meeting my son at Grand Teton National Park for some backpacking on a permit that I reserved months ago.
Permits, of course, are a point of debate and contention in the Adirondacks. At Grand Teton and many other national parks, they’re standard for backcountry camping, though not generally for day hikes. August is a busy month on Teton roads, known for their moose jams (pictured above). The backcountry is different, and strictly regulated. Reservations are required months in advance if you’re traveling great distances and want to be assured of a spot. But you can also take your chances on a walk-up permit when you arrive. I did a little of both, reserving one of the few spots I could find back in the spring, just to be sure I’d have something, and then changing it to one of the available walk-up permits when I checked in at the visitor center.
By the time you read this, I will have walked up the trail and out of contact for a few days. Here’s hoping the rest of the trip goes as planned. It hasn’t been the simplest process, and I expect a lot of hikers who are used to the freedom of access in the Adirondacks might bristle at all the planning — and especially at having to show up in person to collect the permit far from the intended trailhead access. I imagine it’s especially challenging for long-distance thru-hikers who need to plan long strings of campsites. I’ll see what I can gather from others I meet on the trail, and would also be interested in knowing how Adirondack backpackers feel about this kind of system.
Editor’s note: This first appeared in the Explorer’s weekly “Explore More” newsletter. Click here to sign up.