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Enchantments Lottery Dates, Permit Process for 2014

Posted by Loren Drummond at Feb 12, 2014 03:50 PM |
Your step-by-step guide to the permit process for backpacking in Washington's amazing Enchantments Basin between June 16 and October 14.
Enchantments Lottery Dates, Permit Process for 2014

A campsite at Eightmile Lake by trip reporter, terahmariet.

Update 2.19.14: The lottery opening was delayed by a few days. Dates below reflected the updated date window from the Forest Service.

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There is no place quite like Washington's Enchantment Lakes Basin in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Backcountry camping in the Enchantments ranks high on many Northwest hikers' wishlists.

Because of the area's popularity, all overnight visitors must obtain a permit if they want to camp in the Basin between June 16 through October 14 in 2014. Most (75 percent) of those permits are issued through an annual lottery, which opens in a few days. If you know you want to backpack in the Enchantments this year, start planning now, and mark your calendars with the following dates.

How to apply for an Enchantments permit

The application process this year will work almost exactly like last year. If you want to get in the running for one of the coveted permits, follow these basic steps (and then cross your fingers). First you apply between February 15 and March 2. If you win a permit in the lottery, then you need to confirm and pay for it between March 6 and March 31.

Step 1. Apply for a permit at recreation.gov Feb. 19-Mar. 5

The 2014 Enchantment lottery will open on February 19, 2014 and end at 11:59 p.m. on March 5, 2014. (Applying early doesn't give you preference for a permit, so just make sure to get your application in during this window.)

  • Set up an account at www.recreation.gov. This can be done at any time (even right now). You can use the same account to reserve other permits or any of the campsites that use the National Recreation Reservation Service system.
  • Fill out an application at www.recreation.gov on the Enchantments Permit page. You'll be able to select your preferred zone to camp in (see map) (Core Enchantment, Snow Lake, Colchuck, Stuart Lake or Eightmile/Caroline), the dates of your trip, and the number in your group (maximum of 8 heartbeats) in your party.


It's a good idea to research where and when you'd like to go before you start the application process since making changes to an application may not be easy or even possible once you've submitted it.

You will be charged a $6.00 non-refundable application fee. At this point, you will NOT have purchased a permit, but rather will have entered the lottery.

Step 2. Check the results on March 9, and confirm and pay for your permit

The lottery results will be posted on recreation.gov on (or just after) March 9, at which time applicants can log into their recreation.gov account and find out the results of their application. If you apply, set yourself a reminder to check back during this period; don't count on an email.

If you score a permit, the next step is confirming and paying for your permits between March 9 and March 31. You'll also be asked to provide additional information about party size, the length of your stay, and pay for the permit. This is when you will be charged the $5.00/person/day fee.

If you don't win one of the lottery permits

More details and trip planning resources

  • Explore the Enchantments. To get a sense of the different trails within the Enchantments, you can search for trails and Trip Reports in our hiking guide. Scope out some of the classic views of the Enchantments in our photo gallery.
  • Choosing a zone. More information about the application process, rules and advice about how to choose a zone can be found on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest website and Recreation.gov Enchantments page.
  • Improve your chances. The Forest Service also has this to say about improving your chances for a permit. "Bear in mind that the most popular time to go is August, and the most popular days to start a trip are Fridays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. If you really want to do a Friday-Sunday trip in mid-August, by all means apply for that trip, but remember that you’re odds of getting a permit will be less than if you tried for a Monday-Wednesday trip in July."
  • Group size. If you are coordinating with friends or family, remember that group size is limited to 8 people, and that you will need to all camp in the same location.
  • More resources. This second half of this page has good information for planning your trip, including information about the zones, what to expect, fire restrictions and more. Note: If you usually hike with a dog, you will also need to arrange to leave her at home as part of your plans. Dogs are not allowed anywhere in the Enchantments Basin and on the Ingalls Lake Trail.
  • Mountain goats. Depending on where you go, you might encounter mountain goats on trail or in camp. Know what to do if you encounter mountain goats.

Why is the permit and lottery system in place?

We often hear from people who wonder why they need a permit to overnight on public lands. While the system may not be perfect, there are very good reasons why someplace like the Enchantments Basin now uses a permit and lottery system.

  • Reduce impact. The permit process keeps the Enchantments from being loved to death. The craggy peaks, lakes and unique alpine character of the Enchantments makes them like no other place on earth. They are special, deeply beloved, and overwhelmingly popular with hikers. But like all alpine habitats, they are also ecologically sensitive. Beloved places draw crowds, and the truth is that crowds leave an impact. From waste management to preserving the vegetation underfoot, limits keep the growing popularity of this destination from destroying it.
  • Keep it wild. The dramatic scenery is only part of what makes the Enchantments special; this is a designated national wilderness area, and permits help protect the wild plants and animals who call the area home. Permits help match the number of overnight visitors to the designated camps, so you won't face the choice of having to pitch your tent in a less than ideal spot or on top of delicate alpine vegetation.
  • Protect your experience. Part of the magic of the Enchantments experience is the solitude of a wilderness experience. With more and more interest from visitors, regulating the number of overnight visitors helps keep your overnight adventure a wild one, while also preventing conflicts over a limited number of campsites.
  • Equal access to the opportunity. These lands belong to all of us, and while it may not be a perfect solution, a permit lottery—combined with the limited number of walk-up passes—goes a long way toward providing a fair allocation process and ensuring equal access to the opportunity.

Perfection Lake in the Enchantments
The fragile alpine vegetation around the classic view of Perfection Lake in the Enchantments Lakes Basin. Photo by James Miller.

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    additional concerns on the lottery

    Posted by Milarepa at Feb 15, 2014 06:48 PM
    In addition to the privatizing of the lottery so one data-tech company can milk the public teet, by the looks of it (please correct me if I'm wrong), unsavory individuals can game the system and enter multiple times (using friends and paying them off later), thus decreasing the chances of those who play fairly and/or don't have lots of money.

    Enchantments Permit Lottery Delayed

    Posted by osterall at Feb 19, 2014 04:07 PM
    I checked the USFS site this morning, and it looks like the permit lottery period is delayed:

    http://www.fs.usda.gov/[…]/?cid=fsbdev3_053607

    Thanks for the update

    Posted by Loren Drummond at Feb 19, 2014 04:07 PM
    The lottery opened today, and the dates have shifted slightly. We've updated the article with the new dates.

    thank you

    Posted by Milarepa at Feb 19, 2014 04:12 PM
    Great article. Very helpful. I wonder if people who've never won the lottery are given preference over those who have? I also tend to agree with the other commenter that people who don't win the lottery should get there $6 back. I'm sure the winners can fund the system adequately. I did do the entire 19 mile hike last summer from Colchuck to Snow Creek in one day and is spectacular and obviously needs protection by limiting human traffic. One last thing - this link is broken in the article: 'You can still try for the small number of daily walk-in permits. Read more about the logistics of trying for one of these permits issued daily (except Sundays) at the Wenatchee River Ranger District Office. "

    Link fixed

    Posted by Loren Drummond at Feb 19, 2014 04:12 PM
    Day hiking is a wonderful way to see the Enchantments, and good for you for tackling all 19 miles of that in one day. Wow. Thanks for the head's up on the link. It should be fixed, but if not, the info is on this page about halfway down. Unlike some popular walk-up situations, they hold a drawing for the daily walk-up permits, so as long as you are there for that, you don't have to get there crazy early and stand in line: http://www.fs.usda.gov/[…]/?cid=fsbdev3_053607

    Gaming License

    Posted by Brad Majors at Mar 02, 2014 10:21 AM
    So, I am assuming that recreation.gov (a commercial entity) applied for and was awarded a gaming license like a casino.

    This is the definition of gambling. You pay for a chance to win. If you loose, you do not get a refund.

    I understand that a lottery is needed, but this is the only one I know of that you loose your "application" fee, if your lottery is not successful.


    I did the Enchantments traverse as a long day hike two years ago. It is a wonderful place (no fee or permit for hike through). I appreciate the need to control overnight visitors.

    For us "old timers", there was never a non-refundable fee when the Government ran the permitting systems (Forest Service, BLM, etc.). The non-refundable part came in post-sell-off of our Government to commercially run reservation systems. Thanks a lot lobbyists!

    BTW, I have seen whole campgrounds (in Utah) nearly empty with "Reserved Site" signs at camp sites late in the day (past 7pm).

    Take back our country and let's kick out the commercialization of our lands.


    Not the Only Nonrefundable Lottery

    Posted by pseudotsuga at Feb 14, 2014 09:08 PM
    "I understand that a lottery is needed, but this is the only one I know of that you loose your "application" fee, if your lottery is not successful."

    I am afraid not.
    Mt Whitney Lottery: $6 nonrefundable
    Coyote Buttes (The Wave): $5 nonrefundable.

    These are just the ones I know about and applied for (not successfully) in the past year.

    Gaming License

    Posted by mayokimmer at Feb 15, 2014 09:56 AM
    I agree with you Brad, sending this lottery system to a commercially run company is wrong! I too believe that some kind of reservation system to keep the area prestine and less crowded is needed, but not sending to a business to make money on every little thing you do with them. When you call the reservation line there is a fee for practically everything...whether you give them ample time for a cancellation or not. This is some kind of racket and it angers me! I am looking at doing a thru hike to visit the enchantments to avoid patronizing this awful system!

    Recreation.gov does a great job

    Posted by Jon Stafford at Mar 02, 2014 10:21 AM
    We have used recreation.gov many times and I think they do a great job. Putting the Enchantments permitting on it was a smart and efficient move. The old system was extremely people/time intensive, very inefficient, and took forever - the newer system is a dream and I am happy to support it in whatever form. This frees a dwindling number of rangers and support staff to do what they do best instead of shuffle paper. The pricing is cheap, fair and helps reduce the cost overall for all participants. Privileges like using the Enchantments cost money and must be paid for somehow. Unlike the past, regrettably, these days too many people are unwilling to pay fair taxes generally to support and encourage great programs like this for the common good. So now changes like this are inevitable and necessary to rescue programs in whatever way is possible as opposed to cancel them.

    Enchantment Permit

    Posted by Jasper & the Girl Scouts at Mar 02, 2014 04:53 PM
    This is my first attempt using the Enchantment Permit system. Let's assume there aren't any dumb questions...We hope for a permit for either the Core or Snow area. I completed one application, for one date and entered 3 preferences.
    Is it allowed to apply for another permit for a different date under a second application?
    Or does that dilute your chances. In other words...can I apply as many times as I want (and am willing to pay for under my Rec.gov login)seeking alternative dates? Thanks, Ellen aka Jasper & The Girl Scouts.

    Transfer Pass?

    Posted by RogueFish at Mar 05, 2014 02:39 PM
    If I win a pass and am unable to make the date is it possible to transfer it to my wife for example?

    Transfer Policy

    Posted by onehikeaweek at Mar 05, 2014 02:39 PM
    Hi RougueFish,

    Permits are not transferable, but you can cancel 22 days or more prior to the entry date for a $10 cancellation fee. Details here - http://www.recreation.gov/[…]/permitPolicy.jsp#enchan

    UNSUCCESSFUL :(

    Posted by coreyg at Mar 26, 2014 12:43 PM
    Logged into recreation.gov last night and saw my application was "UNSUCCESSFUL"--haven't received official email rejection. Second rejection in last two years. Of (8) friends I know of who applied only one was "successful". Still plan to do the hike (with friend & with attempting to get a "day of" permit.

    I'm so sorry

    Posted by Loren Drummond at Mar 26, 2014 12:43 PM
    I'm so sorry that you didn't get it. Hope y'all are able to score a "day of" permit. If you need ideas for backpacking trips with less pressure on them, let us know. We can help.

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