Wilderness Permits via recreation.gov 2021

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Teresa Gergen
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Re: Wilderness Permits via recreation.gov 2021

Post by Teresa Gergen » Wed Mar 03, 2021 4:02 pm

You don't have to scroll through the drop down menus. You can click on them and start typing what you want and it will bring up that option. You just have to know what to start typing, so do a dry run in advance where you don't finish the booking and make notes of what they call the place you want to say you're camping at each night.

The "...or" option might balance out the permit slots that go unclaimed. Some won't use or cancel slots they took and others will go in without getting permits that have become impossible to get. I imagine the authorities realize this. Not advocating this...just sayin'.








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Re: Wilderness Permits via recreation.gov 2021

Post by Gazelle » Fri Mar 05, 2021 11:15 pm

hate to say it i have multiple permits to be sure i can go when I want, yes I am the bot! I need/want to go and would prefer to have a permit! But really if I cant get 1 day before I am going anyway, I do not impact busy trails other than a day hikes which I do alot or to get where I will camp 1st night WELL off any real trail.
The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before. Albert Einstein

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Re: Wilderness Permits via recreation.gov 2021

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sat Mar 06, 2021 10:44 am

There is a real need for an entirely different quota and permit for "pass throughs". Since there seems to be a push to re-invent the permit system with reserve.gov, why in the world didn't they do REAL reform? It looks more to me like they just wanted to rid themselves of the permitting work without any regard to how it impacts the backpacker.

No matter where I backpack, permit required or not, quotas or not, I ALWAYS run into crowds on the trails and "big name" popular routes, and once half a mile away, nobody. Trailhead quotas do not address this problem; they only shut out those of us who need to use a crowded trail for a few miles and can easily get off the trail the first night. The Rae Lakes hikers are NOT going to be found bushwhacking up Sphinx Creek! As much as I hate the Desolation Wilderness system due to unreasonable costs, it does consider dispersion of hikers once they enter the wilderness.

The new system really is a hard hit to local backpackers and climbers who more often do multiple 2-3 day trips a season. And I consider myself a "local" even though I have to drive 4-5 hours to some permit offices. We locals are the dogs under the table eating left over scraps so nothing is wasted. And we do not mind that- it worked well for us. Gazelle, I am happy that you were able to reserve multiple permits, but wasn't it so much better just to pick up a walk-in?

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Re: Wilderness Permits via recreation.gov 2021

Post by Mike M. » Sun Mar 07, 2021 1:37 am

One of the problems is that the current scheme for obtaining wilderness permits is piggy-backing on a national reservation system that seems to be better suited for campsite reservations. The way dates are opened up on a rolling basis at 7:00 am overwhelms the servers, making it impossible for users to secure permits for many high-use trailheads. The trailheads that are left are generally not desirable for most backpackers, whether these backpackers are "local" or not. This lack of sufficient system capacity basically creates a random lottery that penalizes users who are on the ball, trying to obtain permits as soon as the system releases dates. It's like trying to schedule a Covid vaccine using a pharmacy website, where you can spend hours and hours online, getting timed out over and over again because the system is overwhelmed.

It would help if the wilderness permit interface was simplified, to speed up the check out process. Why the need for a complete itinerary? Date of entry, entry point, date of exit and exit point seem sufficient. Before Covid, when picking up our permits from the local ranger station, the ranger had to re-enter the itinerary information again anyhow. Assuming this information is important for wilderness management (and for safety reasons) and assuming there is no in-person contact again this year, why not have each reservation holder email or fax the ranger station a detailed itinerary a few days before hitting the trail?

Frankly, the old paper-based system we used just a few years ago for trailheads in the Inyo National Forest jurisdiction was far easier to use than the current system.

The trailhead quotas have always been blind to the difference between pass-thru hikers and those on their way to high-use destinations close to trailheads. That is a hard nut to crack.

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Re: Wilderness Permits via recreation.gov 2021

Post by freestone » Sun Mar 07, 2021 8:03 am

Mike M. wrote:
Sun Mar 07, 2021 1:37 am


It would help if the wilderness permit interface was simplified, to speed up the check out process. Why the need for a complete itinerary?
The online fields and their drop down menus have been really lacking for sometime now. In reality the fields just want to be filled out so I just choose whatever is available on the menu knowing that its going to change when i actually obtain the permit.
The point here is we can suggest lots of ways to improve it but for now this is how its going to be. I suggest practicing with the system and become very familiar with all its nuances including being on line at 6:55 AM ready to go and your choice of trail set in the filter selection. I really like having the the permit before leaving the house, getting it at the ranger station burns a lot of valuable hiking time.
Short cuts make long delays. JRR Tolkien

If you set out on a journey, pray the road is long. Zbigniew Herbert

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Re: Wilderness Permits via recreation.gov 2021

Post by michaelzim » Sun Mar 07, 2021 10:22 am

freestone wrote:
Sun Mar 07, 2021 8:03 am
Mike M. wrote:
Sun Mar 07, 2021 1:37 am


It would help if the wilderness permit interface was simplified, to speed up the check out process. Why the need for a complete itinerary?
I really like having the the permit before leaving the house, getting it at the ranger station burns a lot of valuable hiking time.
~ @Mike M. You do not actually need to fill in the whole itinerary when booking, you can leave it until later. The first day's entry needs to be there, and maybe the exit day (not sure on that yet as it worked without on one permit) but all the interim stuff can be done when you log into your account again some other time. I'm presuming it all has to be filled in though before the "confirmation window" = 2 weeks prior to permit date. Not sure on that yet.

~ @freestone As to having a permit in hand via email (or mail) before leaving the house. Yes, that is nice and could be great for responsible users as avoids detouring to a ranger station...BUT let's not forget the huge downsides as yet unsolved:
- Overbooked permits that are not cancelled and not used - resulting in legitimate users unable to get them.
- No shows that likewise are "ghosted" as there is no physical check on permit holders actually going to trailheads.
- The inability to get last minute cancelled or No Show permits via email anyway if they only post at 10:00 am on day of permit, as leaves insufficient time to get to trailhead that day if live a long way away.
- Emailing "W" permits sort of reinforces the purely logistical need for the proposed longer walk-in notification window of 2 weeks. It allows enough time to iron out any issues/questions/back-and-forth for permit requests, etc. by NFS staff. However, the price to pay is high for those of us who consider a 2 week advance for a walk-ins be a travesty (let alone that those permits may be fully booked within minutes).

There is more of course. However, my point is that there are real trade-offs for convenience v. actually showing up to get a permit. There are some heavy downsides as the current system stands at Inyo. We will have to wait and see what Sierra ends up doing!

P.S. Huh! Here we are with a major reason for all this change in "W" permits in particular being due to Covid concerns...yet California is now due to start "opening up" at the beginning of April. Outdoor sports events, Disneyland, and so on. Maybe the big NFS Covid fear thing can be "reviewed" in light of this, let alone that Safeway check-out staff have been 3 feet away from "the public" throughout the past year!

Best ~ Michaelzim

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Post by rightstar76 » Mon Mar 08, 2021 4:42 pm

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Re: Wilderness Permits via recreation.gov 2021

Post by richlong8 » Tue Mar 09, 2021 11:36 am

Wandering Daisy wrote:
Sat Mar 06, 2021 10:44 am
There is a real need for an entirely different quota and permit for "pass throughs". Since there seems to be a push to re-invent the permit system with reserve.gov, why in the world didn't they do REAL reform? It looks more to me like they just wanted to rid themselves of the permitting work without any regard to how it impacts the backpacker.

No matter where I backpack, permit required or not, quotas or not, I ALWAYS run into crowds on the trails and "big name" popular routes, and once half a mile away, nobody. Trailhead quotas do not address this problem; they only shut out those of us who need to use a crowded trail for a few miles and can easily get off the trail the first night. The Rae Lakes hikers are NOT going to be found bushwhacking up Sphinx Creek! As much as I hate the Desolation Wilderness system due to unreasonable costs, it does consider dispersion of hikers once they enter the wilderness.

The new system really is a hard hit to local backpackers and climbers who more often do multiple 2-3 day trips a season. And I consider myself a "local" even though I have to drive 4-5 hours to some permit offices. We locals are the dogs under the table eating left over scraps so nothing is wasted. And we do not mind that- it worked well for us. Gazelle, I am happy that you were able to reserve multiple permits, but wasn't it so much better just to pick up a walk-in?
There is something very wrong with a system that fills up within one hour of permits becoming available. And the number of permits available to be reserved is ridiculous. Now, we are supposed to get walk up permits by phone because they keep the offices closed. My last permit took over a dozen calls to even get a response. They are just asking for people to say forget it, I am just going, and I will take my chances on getting caught.

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Re: Wilderness Permits via recreation.gov 2021

Post by rlown » Tue Mar 09, 2021 11:47 am

too bad recreation.gov doesn't allow putting in reservations for a future certain date. It would change the game once the permits become available.
auto permit. I hate Russian roulette. I know what date I want. Put me in a queue.

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Re: Wilderness Permits via recreation.gov 2021

Post by michaelzim » Tue Mar 09, 2021 12:26 pm

The Sierra NF rec.gov website is up an running.

The big news is that the 24 hour "W" walk in permit request did not happen. It's the 2 week version same as Inyo, so that 40% of the TH quota is going to be up for grabs for a full 14 days before the permit date. We will have to see how that plays out as the season progresses and the public at large figures out what is going on once summer backpacking thoughts blossom. A Sierra supe I talked to at length yesterday really felt like the "East Side Issue" (no permits available) is very unlikely except for short peak periods around the holidays and mid-summer weekends.
At present there are hardly any bookings, with just some odd configurations where there are zero permits left for a complete TH day. I figure these must have been taken by some on-the-ball pack outfit or group booking. [See below]

Capture 3.JPG

Now the important thing to know is that unlike Inyo, Sierra is NOT doing email permits! Yes you get your receipt and booking confirmation by email (and presume they will do the "2 weeks reminder" by email to "Confirm" your booking) but PERMITS HAVE TO BE PICKED UP AT THE RANGER STATION. In other words the same as we have know from before.
I asked how this helps the workload, especially re the Covid aspects, and the answer is that the forms will be filled out by us on rec.gov so the rangers at the front desk do not have to do it longhand. Everything else is more or less the same re asking if one knows the rules, etc., etc.
I'm not sure if this will alleviate some of the "overbooked/ghost permits" issue we have discussed here at length, but it might IF over-bookers realize that permits have to be picked up in person. Though, they could still just ignore that all I guess even if they did "confirm" them 2 weeks before.
Another thing to wait and see on.

Here are the details of the fine print on this:

Capture 2.JPG

As you can see that 10:00 am deadline on the day of the permit is the cut-off (just like Inyo) and not the "24 hours" of before. However, there appears to be some leeway about this if there are still some "W" permits available say the day before so that people like me could set that up by phone and leave that night in order to make it to the ranger station and TH the next (permit) day. Otherwise it is wait for 10:00 am on permit day and see what No Shows roll out soon after. Do-able for those near the ranger stations and trailheads.

Lastly for completion, here is an image of the "Permit Pickup Instructions" link in purple. This is at the normal Sierra NF website not rec.gov.

Capture 1.JPG

P.S. Maybe this should post go to the new (but less used) thread here? viewtopic.php?f=1&t=21302


Best ~ Michaelzim
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