FLAGSTAFF – Getting one of the roughly 11,500 permits granted each year to backpack overnight in the Grand Canyon has become so competitive and “unfair” that managers at the national park have decided to change the system.
Those who want the coveted permits have had to either show up in person or try their luck with mail or fax machines on the day the permits become available.
Those who went in person lined up at the backcountry office starting early in the morning. Those who tried to fax often were in for hours of constantly redialing because of the demand.
The agency is proposing to end the current system in February, making everyone in the world compete for advanced reservations by fax and mail only, the Arizona Daily Sun reported Nov. 22. Eventually the park also plans to move to an online reservation system.
October and May are the most popular months for those seeking permits to camp most places below the rim, with nearly one of every two people denied.
National Park Service administrators at the Grand Canyon have decided the system is unfair because it favors those who live near the massive gorge or have the time and resources to fly there just to get a permit.
Also, the Park Service is not allowing any more individuals to establish commercial backpacking businesses until the agency sorts out a larger plan for the backcountry.
“We’re trying to provide better equity between locals and international visitors,” said Barclay Trimble, a deputy superintendent.