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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Plan now for summer recreation permits, reservations

Ian McKelvey of Athol rafts on the wilderness waters of Idaho’s Salmon River during a boy scout trip. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Ian McKelvey of Athol rafts on the wilderness waters of Idaho’s Salmon River during a boy scout trip. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Some of the most coveted summer outdoor adventures and camping opportunities across the USA and Canada need to be planned in the chill of winter.

The first wave of Pacific Crest Trail long-distance permits for hikes longer than 500 miles will be available starting Tuesday at pcta.org.

Applications for Idaho’s major wilderness river trip lotteries are due next week.

Reservations for cabins, campgrounds and many national park backcountry permits can be made six months in advance on the federal website recreation.gov. Hello! That means people already are applying for popular spots in places such as Yellowstone and Olympic national parks for July.

Lottery applications for permits to hike into the Enchantments area of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness near Leavenworth aren’t due until March 2.

However, Jan. 31 is the deadline to apply for river permits on the region’s world-class rafting streams – some of the most sought-after recreation reservations in the West.

As with some hiking permits, river runners sometimes can obtain no-show permits for the Selway, Salmon, Middle Fork Salmon and Hells Canyon Snake rivers. Also, a portion of available permits may be held back and issued daily at ranger stations.

But locking in a reservation is key to planning a major river trip .

Savvy trippers get a group of people to apply for dates to boost their chances in lottery drawings. Maximum group size on the rivers generally is roughly 30. Midweek launch dates tend to be easier to get than Friday-Sunday dates.

The toughest permit to bag is for the Selway, with odds of 1 in 64 last year, up from 1 in 52 a couple of years ago. The easiest permit is the Snake River in Hells Canyon, with odds of 1 in 8.

In recent years, the number of available permits has slightly declined, but the number of applications has steadily increased.

Details for online applications (no paper applications allowed) area available at 1.usa.gov/15VvY8k.

Montana’s Smith River, a classic 59-mile multi-day floating and fishing experience in Central Montana is accessible most of the year only by lottery. The deadline to apply is Feb. 16. Details: fwp.mt.gov.

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