Half Dome Permits for Day Hikers
Permits to hike to the top of Half Dome are required seven days per week when the cables are up (as called for in the Half Dome Plan in order to protect wilderness character, reduce crowding, protect natural and cultural resources, and improve safety).
A maximum of 300 hikers are allowed (about 225 day hikers and 75 backpackers) each day on the Half Dome Trail beyond the base of the subdome.
Permits are distributed by lottery via Recreation.gov, with one preseason lottery with an application period in March and and daily lotteries during the hiking season. Backpackers—including those who want to spend the night in Little Yosemite Valley—should apply for Half Dome permits with their wilderness permit rather than using the process described below.
On each preseason lottery application, people can apply for up to six permits (six people) and for up to seven dates. Applications will only be successful if the number of permits requested is available on at least one of the requested dates. If enough permits are available for more than one of the requested dates, permits will be automatically awarded to the highest priority date, as entered by the applicant.
The applicant must specify the name of the trip leader and may specify the name of an alternate. Each person may apply as a trip leader only once per lottery. People applying multiple times as trip leader will have all their lottery applications canceled. Permits will only be valid if the trip leader and/or alternate specified on the permit is part of the group using the permits. The group with trip leader or alternate must be present together at the base of the subdome, where rangers will check for permits. The names of the trip leader and alternate may not be changed once the application is submitted, and their permits are not transferable.
During the preseason lottery, 225 permits are available for each day. The application period for this lottery is from March 1 through March 31 (eastern time). Applicants will receive an email with lottery results in mid-April (or can get results online or by calling Recreation.gov). We are planning on the Half Dome cables being up May 22, 2015 through October 13, 2015, but these dates could change based on conditions. Update: The Half Dome cables will be installed and available for use beginning on May 2. All 225 day hiking permits will be available via the daily lottery, as described below.
If you have flexibility on which days to hike Half Dome, these graphs show how popular different days are.
Approximately 50 permits will be available each day by lottery during the hiking season. These permits will be available based on the estimated rate of under-use and cancellation of permits (the exact number may change through the summer). The daily lotteries have an application period two days prior to the hiking date with a notification late that night. (So, to hike on Saturday, you would apply on Thursday and receive an email notification of results late on Thursday night. Results will also be available online, or by phone the next morning.) The application period is from midnight to 1 pm Pacific time.
If you have flexibility on which days to hike Half Dome, these graphs show how popular different days are. In general, your chances of success are higher on weekdays (especially beginning at the end of August). For the entire season (2013), average success rate on weekdays is 56%, but only 31% on weekends.
Two separate fees are collected. The first fee, which is charged at the time you submit an application, is $4.50 (online) or $6.50 (by phone). This non-refundable fee, which is per application (not per person), is charged by Recreation.gov for the costs of processing your permit application.
The second fee is $8 per person and is charged only when you receive a permit. (This fee also applies to wilderness permit holders.) This fee pays for park rangers checking for Half Dome permits and providing Half Dome visitors with hiking and safety information. The $8 fee is fully refundable if you cancel your permit or if the cables are not up on the date for which your permit is valid.