How to Visit National Parks without a Permit

Vancraft Southwest 91 Low Res
Last updated
May 13, 2024

A Guide for Arches, Glacier, Rocky Mountain, Yosemite, and Zion National Parks NOTE: THIS BLOG…

A Guide for Arches, Glacier, Rocky Mountain, Yosemite, and Zion National Parks


Several national parks are adding a permit system to enter in the summer of 2022 and these permits are highly coveted. Currently they are offered in two ways: Registering in advance, where each park has a different time when their tickets become available, or an additional permit drop the evening before. Below I have listed the permit details for each of the national parks. Since a high volume of people are trying to get permits limited availability, you will be glad to hear there is another way to get into a national park if you don’t have a permit.

Permit entry is only in effect during peak hours. For most parks that starts at 6am, so one solution is to enter the park before then. Once you are inside the park you do not need to leave once permit hours start even if you do not have a permit, but be advised that if you do exit you won’t be able to enter until after peak hours have past. Our campervans make it easy to camp just outside the national park then drive inside before they require permits. If you are a slow riser, like me, you can even wake up just in time to drive inside then make breakfast after you have arrived at your trail head. For each of the national parks I have listed some nearby free camping sites. Fun fact: for those who can stealth camp in a campervan, some of the parks have places you can park just outside the gates. I would also like to add that camping in a national park is restricted to designated camping areas only and you can get fined for trying to camp in their parking lots.

Arches National Park Permit System

Entry tickets are required from April 1, 2024 – October 31, 2022, from 7am-4pm.

The tickets are released three months ahead of your desired reservation date and are released in one-month blocks. Just like Glacier, there is a secondary booking window for tickets that drop one day in advance of your desired visit date.

Arches National Park Nearby Camping

Gemini Bridges Campsites 2 miles
Campsites 1-5 are clustered together in a beautiful red rock canyon, but they well spaced out with lots of junipers between them.
BLM land 6 miles
Good BLM spot next to canyonlands national park, with beautiful sky. Big space for big rigs. about 6 RV or more can fit on this place.
City of Moab 2 miles
If you are in a camper van and like to stealth camp the city of Moab is next to arches with plenty of parking lots you could pull into.

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Glacier National Park Permit System

Entry tickets are required May 24, 2024 – September 8, 2024, from 6am – 3pm.

Initial release occurs 120 days in advance of your reservation start date at 8am MT. If you miss the initial release, there is a secondary booking window for day-in-advanced tickets that opens at 7pm MT.

Glacier National Park Nearby Camping

Flathead National Forest-Ryan Road 3 miles
Dispersed Camping near West Glacier. Several pull-offs on Ryan Road in the Flathead National Forest. There are no amenities but you are really close to West Glacier, with full access to Glacier National Park.

On east side of West Glacier.Highway 2 3 miles
Big pull off. Can kind of hide behind the trees. Good for one night. Traffic during the day, much quieter at night.

West Glacier 3 miles
The town of West Glacier offers stealth camping options to people in a campervan.

Rocky Mountain National Park Permit System

Entry tickets are required from May 24, 2024 – Mid October 2024. Bear Lake Road requires permits from 5am – 6pm May 20 through October 20. The rest of the park requires permits to enter from 9am – 2pm.

There are two entry ticket options: park access with Bear Lake and park access without Bear Lake. Reservations are available on May 2 at 10am MDT. There will be a second drop for last-minute guests; they will be released one day prior to your desired visit at 5pm MDT.


Rocky Mountain National Park Nearby Camping

Dispersed Camping on Hell Canyon Rd 10 miles
Disperse camping on the East side of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Stillwater Pass Dispersed 6 miles
Free Dispersed camping in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest’s Sulphur Ranger District. Located on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Estes Park 4 miles
The town of Estes park has plenty of parking lots if you have a campervan suited to stealth camping.

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Yosemite National Park Permit System

A reservation will be required to drive into Yosemite National Park on some days from April 13, 2024 through October 17, 2024 for those driving into the park between 6 am and 4 pm.

  • April 13 – June 30, 2024: Reservation is required between 5am and 4pm on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.
  • July 1 – August 16, 2024: Reservation is required from 5am to 4pm every day.
  • August 17 – October 27, 2024: Reservation is required from 5am to 4pm on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.

Thirty percent of permits will be available seven days in advance of the permit dates and the rest will become available the day of at 8am.

If you have questions, you can follow updates on their websites here.

Yosemite National Park Nearby Camping

FS 5s09 15 miles
A campsite in the National Forest just outside the south entrance of Yosemite National Park. Very quiet. Easy one lane road.

Sierra National Forest outside of West Yosemite 10 miles

A pullout in the Sierra National Forest just outside of West Yosemite. From Wawona Road you keep following the Henness Ridge Road/Drive through Yosemite West and enter the National Forest on a gravel road.

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Zion National Park Permit System

Zion is now using a permit lottery for their most popular hike, Angels Landing Trail. If you are planning to hike Angels Landing at any time, you’ll need a permit.

Permits are issued using a lottery format. Apply for a permit, or learn more about how the permit lottery for Angels Landing works here.

Zion National Park Nearby Camping

Kolab BLM Campground 15 miles
Free BLM campground just outside of Virgin, UT. Nearby creek is a great place to rinse off after a day in Zion.
Eagle Craig Trailhead area 5 miles
Beautiful views of the surrounding area and cliffs of Zion National Park to the north. Dark red sand and a few kinds of cacti make this a gorgeous site to camp.
Springfield 0 miles
The town of Springfield boarders Zion National Park. There are several parking lots you could stealth camp with a campervan.

How to get into Zion National Park without a Permit

Zion’s permit system is different from other national parks since it is a permit for the buses in the park, not just driving. With the exception of low traffic months (January and February) visitors cannot drive down Zion Canyon road unless they are staying at the lodge. Visitors park at the Visitor Center by the West entrance and take a bus to access the park. Don’t fret if you cannot get a bus permit, there is still a way to access the park.

Bicycles are still allowed on Zion Canyon road and there are places for you to lock up your bike at each trail head. You can park where Zion Park Blvd meets Zion Canyon road and bike the rest of the park. Our camper vans have room in the garage to fit multiple bikes or you can add a bike rack to the trailer hitch. I recommend e-bikes for this if you plan to do any strenuous hiking in the park. You can rent some in town before you enter the park.

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More Resources

If you want to look for more camping options check out iOverlander. iOverlander has thousands of free camping locations. Make sure to scroll through the campsite descriptions and read the user reviews to pick a good spot.

The Leave No Trace Seven Principles

  1. Plan ahead and prepare.
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  3. Dispose of waste properly.
  4. Leave what you find.
  5. Minimize campfire impacts (be careful with fire).
  6. Respect wildlife.
  7. Be considerate of other visitors.
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