Yosemite wilderness permits have moved to Recreation.gov.
While the process of making reservations has changed, many parts of the system are the same or similar, including trailhead quotas, availability of walk-up permits, and reservation windows. Yosemite Conservancy Wilderness Reservation Staff are still dedicated to reviewing and processing your permit reservation requests.
To reach the Wilderness Reservation staff, you can preferably Contact Us at any time. You can also call us at 209-372-0740, Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Over 94% of Yosemite National Park’s almost 1200-square miles is designated Wilderness. This backpacking trip, be it your first or fortieth, is a unique opportunity to connect with yourself, your fellow hiker, and your natural environment through exploring your public lands. A good planning process will help you to find the right experience for your interests, timeframe, and abilities; stay safe; and ensure your Yosemite Wilderness experience is memorable for all the right reasons. It will also show you how to be a steward of the wilderness, to protect and preserve these wild places for generations to come.
The Yosemite Wilderness has over 750 miles of trail to explore from steep granite canyons to high alpine tundra and everything in between. The vastness of the Yosemite Wilderness means that it is not possible to see all the park in one backpacking trip. When thinking about where you want to go for your backpacking trip, you might want to pick one or two main objectives to focus on (for example, I want to camp close to an alpine lake or summit a mountain!) and go from there. These trail descriptions can help get you started. If you know where you want to go but are not sure which trailhead will get you there, the Wilderness Trailheads Map shows the location of each wilderness trailhead as well as the direction and minimum distance you are required to hike on your first day. Remember, often two trailheads begin at the same place and the difference between them will be which way you hike from that point. When you’re ready to start thinking about where you want to camp each night of your trip, the Itinerary Map highlights in red the areas where dispersed wilderness camping is not permitted and has the regions of the park labelled the same as you will find them when making your reservation in recreation.gov.
Another important consideration when planning your trip is how far you want to hike per day. It is important to remember that hiking 5 miles at 10,000ft in Tuolumne Meadows can feel a lot harder than hiking 5 miles at sea level, and whilst 3 miles might not sound like far, it can feel a lot further when you are also gaining over 3000 vertical feet to hike out of Yosemite Valley. If you’ve never hiked with a 30lb backpacking pack on your back, that is something else to think about! Caltopo is a virtual topographic map that you can use to measure distance and elevation profile of your proposed wilderness route to help determine if that route is right for you and your group before you hit the trail. GPS and virtual maps are useful when you’re on the trail too, however, it is important to remember that technology can fail. You should always carry a paper map of the area you are hiking in and know how to read it!
Now that you know where you are going, it’s time to think about when to go! For many people, work or other life commitments will make this decision for you. However, if you have the freedom to choose, it is important to consider the different seasons in Yosemite, and how these can impact your wilderness trip. If you are planning a trip in the high country, you might be surprised to find that trails can still be up to 80% snow covered well into June! If you’re visiting in September, many of Yosemite’s creeks and streams are ephemeral – many water sources, particularly at lower elevations, may be dry. During the summer months (April through October), you can check trail conditions for current information on water availability. Weather can change quickly and dramatically at any time of year, so it is important to check a reliable forecast. The weather in Tuolumne Meadows can be cool and rainy while Yosemite Valley is over 100 degrees and sunny so it is important to check the forecast specific to the area you are hiking in. Summer in California means wildfire season and winter can mean heavy rain and snow; be sure to check Current Conditions before leaving home for road or trail closures that may impact your trip.
A wilderness permit is required year-round for any overnight stay in the Yosemite Wilderness. A wilderness permit is not required for day hikes (unless hiking to Half Dome) or for staying in lodging facilities and frontcountry campgrounds. All wilderness permit reservations are made online through recreation.gov. From April 29 through October 23 , permit reservation requests can be made from 24 weeks to three days in advance of the start of a trip. Outside of these dates, a wilderness permit is still required and must be obtained through self-registration.
60% of the reservable quota of wilderness permits is first allotted through a weekly lottery on recreation.gov, 24 weeks in advance of the date you wish to start your hike. The Wilderness Reservation Window can help you work out what date to apply for a reservation based on the date you would like to start hiking. You may only submit one application to each lottery for your entire group. Multiple applications for the same lottery, even if submitted by other group members, are not allowed. You may submit up to eight preferred itineraries per application. The more flexible you are with your plans, the higher your chance of success. The lottery application period is from Sunday at 12:01am (PT) to Saturday at 11:59pm, with email notification of the outcome sent by the following Monday evening. If you are successful in obtaining a permit reservation through the lottery, you must confirm your reservation by Thursday at 11:59pm. Any remaining reservable quota for each lottery window will be released and available on a first-come, first-served basis each Friday at 9am.
The remaining 40% is released on a first-come, first-served basis on recreation.gov seven days in advance of your start date at 7am (PT). Popular trailheads fill very quickly so we recommend that you are logged on and ready to reserve promptly at 7am (PT) seven days in advance of your desired start date. The latest you can make a reservation is three days before your trip, subject to remaining availability.
Yosemite National Park is home to hundreds of American black bears. Yosemite’s black bears can consume up to 20,000 calories per day and they can smell food from over a mile away! Obtaining human food can result in a bear becoming aggressive and sometimes they will have to be killed as a result. By storing your food properly, you can help to keep our bears wild and prevent a bear’s unnecessary death. Bear resistant food containers (“bear canisters”) are required for overnight hikers throughout the Yosemite Wilderness. Counterbalance food hangs are ineffective and not permitted. In Yosemite and the southern Sierra, bear canisters are the only effective and proven method of preventing bears from getting human food. Anything that goes on your body or in your body needs to go in your bear canister; this includes all your food and trash as well as your toiletries, sunscreen, medications, baby wipes and any other scented items (even if marketed as unscented). If you don’t have your own, you can rent a bear canister at any Wilderness Permit Station for only $5 per week when you pick up your permit.
To best protect the Yosemite Wilderness, it is important that you are familiar with the Yosemite Wilderness regulations, where you should and should not camp, if and where you can have a campfire, and other ways to minimize your impact on the wilderness during your backpacking trip.
Backpackers campgrounds are available for wilderness permit holders to spend one night before and one night after a wilderness trip. You may only stay in the backpacker’s campgrounds when they are open. No reservation is required. The fee is $8 per person, and you must pay in exact change using the envelopes at the campground. You must park at the designated overnight parking areas and walk to the backpacker’s campground.
Wondering where to park to start your hike? Check the Trailhead Information page! Trailhead restrooms with flush toilets have drinking water available; those with vault toilets do not. All trailheads have food lockers available, except when noted otherwise. Please remember that there is no overnight parking on Tioga or Glacier Point Rd, or in any of the parking lots and pull outs accessed from either of these roads, beginning October 15. There is limited public transportation available to some trailheads during the summer months.
A permit is required to hike to the top of Half Dome seven days per week when the cables are up. The cables are normally up the Friday before the last Monday in May (Memorial Day) and the last day to use the cables is the day after the second Monday in October (Indigenous People’s Day/Columbus Day). However, these dates are subject to change based on conditions (check if the cables are currently up). You can choose to hike Half Dome in two ways: in a single day or as part of an overnight backpacking trip.
If you’re planning to hike to the top of Half Dome via the Cables as part of your wilderness itinerary, you must enter the wilderness from a Half Dome eligible trailhead. These entry trailheads are: Happy Isles->Little Yosemite Valley, Happy Isles->Past LYV (Donohue Pass Eligible), Glacier Point->Little Yosemite Valley (trailhead closed in 2022), Sunrise Lakes, Cathedral Lakes, Rafferty Creek->Vogelsang & Mono Meadow (trailhead closed in 2022). If you enter the wilderness from one of these trailheads, your entire group is eligible to go up the Half Dome Cables. The cost to add Half Dome to your wilderness permit is $10 per person. You will pay for the Half Dome portion of your permit when you pick up your wilderness permit in person at a Yosemite Wilderness Permit Station. If you already have a day-use Cables on Half Dome permit and you wish to camp in Little Yosemite Valley before or after your hike, you will need to make a wilderness permit reservation.
If you choose to hike Half Dome in a single day, you must obtain your permit through the Cables on Half Dome lottery on Recreation.gov. There is one preseason lottery that runs throughout March and daily lotteries during the hiking season that run two days in advance of the date you wish to hike. Both lotteries are run through recreation.gov and are not managed by Yosemite Conservancy. If you still have questions about hiking Half Dome in a single day, please contact the Wilderness Public Information Office on 209-372-0826
The John Muir Trail is 211 miles long stretching from Yosemite Valley to the summit of Mt Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States. If you want to start your hike in Yosemite (often referred to as a Southbound JMT), you will need a Yosemite Wilderness Permit. Due to the popularity of the John Muir Trail, a quota is in place for John Muir Trail hikers exiting Yosemite National Park over Donohue Pass. To exit Yosemite National Park over Donohue Pass, you will need to select one of the two Donohue Pass Eligible trailheads as your Wilderness Permit entry point: Happy Isles->Past LYV (Donohue Pass Eligible) or Lyell Canyon (Donohue Pass Eligible). If you have a Yosemite Wilderness Permit for one of these two entry trailheads, you do not need a “Whitney stamp” or permits from other national forests or national parks.
Need help planning your John Muir Trail adventure? The Pacific Crest Trail Association has all the information you need on planning your resupplies, transportation, and more to have a safe and successful thru-hike.