Grand Canyon National Park Opens Lottery for Highly Sought-After Rafting Trips

VARIOUS Grand Canyon and Colorado River seen from Toroweap Point, Tuweep Area, North Rim, Arizona, USA 27 Apr 2009

If you’ve been looking to plan a new adventure, this is for you: The National Park Service is currently accepting applications for noncommercial river trip permits to raft the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park.

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The NPS announced last week that permits will be accepted from Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020 through Tuesday, Feb. 25 for launch dates in 2021. There will be 462 permits available for 12- to 25-day river trips next year and anyone who applies must fit this criteria:

  • Individuals must be 18 years or older to apply
  • Technical whitewater experience is mandatory on each trip
  • Noncommercial river trips must be self-guided
  • Individuals may participate on a maximum of one recreational river trip per year either commercial or noncommercial

If you’re eligible to apply, you can enter online as part of the weighted lottery from the NPS here. The lottery is held each year in February for trips the following calendar year. Previously, the NPS used a waitlist that extended for years before replacing it with a lottery in 2006. In 2019, the permit office received 7,280 applications for 463 permits to be used in 2020, according to NPS stats.

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In years past, getting a permit to raft the Grand Canyon was one of the hardest to get in the country. As Adventure Journal previously wrote: “At one point, the waiting list for river permits in the Grand Canyon was 27 years.” That referred to noncommercial trips—you can get around the permit system by going on a commercially guided trip, but where’s the fun in that?

Even if you don’t win a Grand Canyon National Park raft permit, or you just want to plan a different National Park trip, we’ve got you covered with travel guides and trip ideas:

Paddleboard Through the Canyons of the Colorado River (No Permit Required)

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Three Offbeat Trips to Ditch the Grand Canyon Crowds

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Dispatches Grand Canyon: A Journey Through the Bottom of the Earth

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5 of the Most Amazing Multi-Day River Trips

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For more information on the lottery and how to apply, check out the Grand Canyon National Park website here. To plan a commercial trip, you can find a list of companies compiled by the NPS here.

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