Which National Parks Allow ‘Ash’ Scattering?
As America celebrates both its reopening and its Independence Day, lots of us are getting outside to enjoy the land that we love. For many, it is time to pack up the car and hit the road for a camping trip and or cross country journey. And as we travel from “sea to shining sea,” our nation’s epic national parks loom large in today’s plans and tomorrow’s memories.
For some, the love of these iconic places could make them the perfect location for a final resting place for their cremation “ashes” or those of a loved one.
Scattering of “ashes” is regulated park by park. Many national parks allow the practice, but always check park websites for information about permit requirements, rules and suggested sites for scattering ashes. Most parks ask that you “leave nothing but footprints” (no markers, no piles, no identification tags) and that you avoid particular environmentally sensitive areas and choose undeveloped areas away from the public portions of the parks.
Make sure you know the laws in your state for cremation, as they vary.
Unlike the majority of national parks, national forest lands do not allow scattering.
If you’re considering scattering cremated remains at a national park, we’ve done some legwork for you, researching a few of our favorites. Ten allow scattering of ashes, but one does not.
Acadia National Park: A special use permit is required to scatter ashes at Acadia National Park in Maine. There is no charge.
Crater Lake National Park: Crater Lake National Park in Southern Oregon does allow ash scattering with a permit (application can be emailed). The site you choose cannot be inside the caldera at the park which includes Wizard Island, the shore or anywhere on the lake side of the road which travels along the rim.
Glacier National Park: At Glacier in Montana, you will need a special use permit to scatter ashes in an undeveloped area of the park. After sending in your application, you’ll receive a letter. At least one person will need to hold that letter or a copy of it during your event.
Grand Canyon National Park: The Grand Canyon no longer allows the scattering of cremated remains. According to the park website, the practice was stopped in consultation with 11 Native American tribes.
Grand Teton National Park: At the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, a permit is required to scatter ashes and the administrators ask for it two weeks in advance of the event. There is no fee. The park will evaluate each request based on the application.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park: All that the nation’s most popular park, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (in Tennessee and North Carolina), requires is that you download a letter of permission from its website and have it with you during the scattering. If fewer than 25 people will attend, no further contact is necessary, the park’s website states.
Joshua Tree National Park: There is one location the California park allows and though it is free to scatter, you’ll need a permit. The park will then send you a map. There is a $500 fine if you don’t get the required permit.
Olympic National Park: Olympic National Park in Washington State, like many of the others, does allow scattering but requires a permit. A special use permit is also required for ceremonies.
Rocky Mountain National Park: At the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, a permit is required at no charge, but there are rules to follow. The park offers suggested locations to scatter ashes on its website and advises that mornings will be less crowded and more private.
Yellowstone National Park: At Yellowstone, in Wyoming, a copy of the park’s webpage serves as a permit. Families are asked to notify the park and follow the rules on the website. Scattering ashes is not allowed in thermal areas.
Yosemite National Park: California’s Yosemite does allow scattering with a permit. The park has several rules about where to scatter ashes (out of sight of public areas, not in a dry or running creek bed and nothing left behind as a marker). The chapel keeps a Book of Memories with the names of the deceased.
Whichever park you choose, we hope the majesty of our nation’s national parks serves as a beautiful backdrop that pays special tribute to your loved one’s appreciation of nature and country.
Photo by Cedric Letsch