By Michael Lanza

So you just got the inspiring idea to backpack the Teton Crest Trail and discovered you’re months late to reserve a backcountry permit. You’ve probably also learned that it’s possible to get a walk-in backcountry permit for Grand Teton National Park—but competition for those is extraordinarily high, especially for the camping zones along the TCT.

So you’re wondering: Is it possible to backpack the Teton Crest Trail without a permit? In a word, the answer is: yes. It’s somewhat complicated and not easy, but this story explains how to do that.

The Teton Crest Trail deservedly sees sky-high demand for backcountry permits. It’s unquestionably one of the 10 best backpacking trips in America, incredibly scenic virtually every step from start to finish, featuring high passes with sweeping vistas, endless meadows bursting with wildflowers, beautiful lakes, creeks, and waterfalls, a good chance of seeing wildlife like elk and moose—and some of the best campsites you will ever pitch a tent in.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

Backpackers on the Teton Crest Trail on Death Canyon Shelf, Grand Teton National Park.
” data-medium-file=”https://i1.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Tet19-018-Backpackers-on-the-Teton-Crest-Trail-Death-Canyon-Shelf-Grand-Teton-N.P..jpg?fit=300%2C200&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i1.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Tet19-018-Backpackers-on-the-Teton-Crest-Trail-Death-Canyon-Shelf-Grand-Teton-N.P..jpg?fit=900%2C600&ssl=1″ width=”900″ height=”600″ src=”https://i1.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Tet19-018-Backpackers-on-the-Teton-Crest-Trail-Death-Canyon-Shelf-Grand-Teton-N.P..jpg?resize=900%2C600&ssl=1″ alt=”Backpackers on the Teton Crest Trail on Death Canyon Shelf, Grand Teton National Park.” class=”wp-image-38603″ srcset=”https://i1.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Tet19-018-Backpackers-on-the-Teton-Crest-Trail-Death-Canyon-Shelf-Grand-Teton-N.P..jpg?resize=1024%2C683&ssl=1 1024w, https://i1.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Tet19-018-Backpackers-on-the-Teton-Crest-Trail-Death-Canyon-Shelf-Grand-Teton-N.P..jpg?resize=300%2C200&ssl=1 300w, https://i1.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Tet19-018-Backpackers-on-the-Teton-Crest-Trail-Death-Canyon-Shelf-Grand-Teton-N.P..jpg?resize=768%2C512&ssl=1 768w, https://i1.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Tet19-018-Backpackers-on-the-Teton-Crest-Trail-Death-Canyon-Shelf-Grand-Teton-N.P..jpg?resize=1080%2C720&ssl=1 1080w, https://i1.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Tet19-018-Backpackers-on-the-Teton-Crest-Trail-Death-Canyon-Shelf-Grand-Teton-N.P..jpg?w=1200&ssl=1 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />Backpackers on the Teton Crest Trail on Death Canyon Shelf, Grand Teton National Park. Click photo for my e-guide to the Teton Crest Trail.

I’ve taken at least 20 trips in the Tetons and several on the Teton Crest Trail over the past three decades, including the 10 years I spent as Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine and even longer running this blog.

See my story about my most-recent TCT trip, “A Wonderful Obsession: Backpacking the Teton Crest

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