Five Outdoor Adventures That Are Like Winning The Lottery
March 6, 2021
Thanks to Coach Harris for making me aware of this article in the WSJ.
Scoring a permit to one of these spectacular wilderness areas requires scrupulous planning—or pure chance
Jennifer Flowers March 4, 2021 3:05 pm ET I FIRST CAUGHT wind of the Enchantments at a dinner party in Seattle last fall. A recent transplant from New York City, I listened intently as my friend Mat described this Holy Grail for Pacific Northwest hikers. Just over 100 miles from the city, the Enchantments is an alpine wilderness of emerald lakes surrounded by granite peaks and inhabited by mountain goats, he said. Seven years ago, Mat had hiked the Enchantments Core, a particularly idyllic zone that’s part of the greater Enchantment Lakes basin in the Cascade Range. He was among the lucky few granted a camping permit. The area is open to day hikers, but the trek there and back is about 24 miles, with a 5,000-foot elevation gain. Odds are you’ll want to linger.
The lottery for Core camping permits—implemented by the U.S. Forest Service in 1987 to protect the fragile area—opens for two weeks in February (the application fee is $6; then if you get it, it’s $5 per person a day). Thanks in part to social media, applications for the lottery have skyrocketed in the last decade. In 2019, 18,835 groups of up to eight people applied for a mere 358 permits.
There are a handful of other highly coveted backcountry experiences across the U.S. protected by a lottery or permit system. If you’re willing to roll the dice—or duke it out for first-come, first-served permits—read on for four equally worthy trophy excursions. PRIVATE PARADISE The Kalalau Trail, Kauai This 11-mile-in, 11-mile-out trail on the NaPali Coast, in Haena State Park, zigzags up and down lush valleys, past secluded beaches and waterfalls—all accessible only by foot.
How to apply: The state allows 60 overnight permits a day for up to five days of camping. During normal high-season summer months, be prepared to book months or even a year in advance. These days, though, while the pandemic is still disrupting all the usual travel norms, bookings are only available 30 days in advance. $20 per person a day, dlnr.hawaii.gov CANYON HEAR ME Coyote Buttes North (aka the Wave), Ariz. and Utah In the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, the 6.4-mile trail takes hikers through wavelike, burnt-orange sandstone formations, with detours that lead to prehistoric dinosaur tracks. How to apply: More than 200,000 people applied in 2019, though earlier this year, the number of day permits tripled from 20 to 64. Each month, the online lottery accepts applications four calendar months in advance; there’s also a walk-in lottery in Kanab, Utah, for next-day passes. $9 application fee; $7 per person; recreation.gov LOONY TUNES Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minn. In the northern reaches of Superior National Forest, on the U.S.-Canada border, lie more than 1,200 miles of canoe routes and 12 hiking trails, home to wolves, moose, black bear, and common loons who fill the night air with their eerie calls. How to apply: For day trips and camping excursions between May 1 and Sept. 30, you need to apply for a permit and designate a specific day and entry point. Reservation fee, $6, permit fee, $16, recreation.gov ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS Denali Park Road, Alaska This solitary, 92-mile road passes from the low-lying coniferous forest of Denali National Park and heads toward snow-topped peaks, with views of the park’s eponymous mountain, access to hiking trails and glimpses of resident grizzlies. How to apply: Held in May, the Road Lottery offers day passes for individual cars during a four-day period in September, allowing winners to access off-the-beaten-path hikes and trails. Your odds: one in seven. Application fee, $15, permit fee, $25, recreation.gov