Do I need a Wilderness Permit?
Permits are required for all overnight wilderness trips in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. During the parks' busy summer season, a quota and fee system is implemented to regulate the number of people allowed up each trail each day. You have the option to make a reservation to ensure that the quota for your preferred trail doesn’t fill before you arrive.
When are permits required? When are entry trail quotas in place?
Permits are required year-round for all overnight wilderness trips. Daily entry-trail quotas and fees are in place from the Friday before Memorial Day through late September. Outside the quota period, permits are self-issued at visitor centers or permit stations. Permits are not required for day hikes. Permits for the Lakes Trail (to Emerald and Pear Lakes) cannot be reserved, and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Are there limits on group sizes?
The maximum group size is 15 people,10 in Redwood Canyon, and 12 when traveling off maintained trails (In certain areas, the group-size limit is 8 when off maintained trails). Your group must use the entry trail on the entry date shown in the confirmation letter, and travel together throughout the trip. If your group is larger than 15, you must split into smaller groups that travel and camp at least ½-mile apart at all times.
Please be aware of changes to party size limits when traveling with stock. You can find more information in the Wilderness Trip Planner.
Getting Permits Inside the Quota Period
May 26, 2017 to September 23, 2017
During this time period, there is a $10 fee for each permit, plus a $5-per-person wilderness permit fee. Permits are issued on the day of your hike by trailhead rangers during normal operating hours. The rangers provide important information about trail conditions in the area. No night drops are permitted. You may, however, obtain permits the afternoon prior to your hike (after 1:00pm). Approximately three-quarters of the daily trail quota (see trail descriptions) may be reserved in advance. The remaining spaces are available on a first-come-first-served basis. The permit fee applies to both walk-up and reserved permits; and both walk-up and reserved permits must be picked up at the issuing station closest to your trailhead. The Lakes Trail/Pear Lake Trail is NOT reserveable. The following are the permit-issuing locations and operating hours for the 2017 season.
- Kings Canyon Visitor Center (in Grant Grove) 8:00am to 4:30pm daily
- Redwood Canyon, Belle Canyon, JO Pass, and Sugarloaf Valley
- Lodgepole Visitor Center 7am to 3:30pm daily
- Twin Lakes, Pear Lake (Walk-Ups only), Alta Peak, and the High Sierra Trail
- Road's End Permit Station 7:00am to 3:30pm daily
- Woods Creek, Bubbs Creek, Copper Creek, and Lewis Creek
- Mineral King Ranger Station 8:00am to 3:45pm daily
- Franklin Pass, Sawtooth Pass, Timber Gap, Farewell Gap, Eagle Lake, White Chief, Mosquito Lakes, Tar Gap, and Hockett Meadow
- Ash Mountain Wilderness Office (located below the Foothills Visitor Center) 8:00am to 4:00pm, Monday through Friday. Permits are available at the permit box outside of the Foothills Visitor Center on Saturdays and Sundays.
- Middle Fork Trail, Garfield Grove, and Ladybug
Wilderness Permit Reservations will be accepted via e-mail starting in 2017.
Reservation applications for trips taking place during the quota period can be submitted by e-mail or US mail no earlier than 12:01 am March 1st, and no later than two weeks prior to the trip. We will still accept faxed applications this year, but would prefer you submit via e-mail.
If you are applying for the Rae Lakes Loop going clockwise, your entry trail will be Woods Creek and the exit trail will be Bubbs Creek. If you would like to go counter-clockwise you can enter on Bubbs Creek and exit on Woods Creek.
Step 1: Fill out and e-mail the application form.
Use the Wilderness Trip Planner on our website to find trailhead names.Once you have chosen your starting and ending trailhead you are ready to fill out the permit reservation application. Download the wilderness permit application and fill out the form electronically. Providing alternate start dates and trailheads increases your chances of securing a permit. Please include a daytime phone number to avoid delays with your reservation.
Attach the completed form to an e-mail and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Only one application is needed per group. (Duplicate applications may result in duplicate, non-refundable charges.) To reserve more than one trip, fill out a separate application for each trip.
Step 2: Payment of the $10 per permit, plus $5 per person wilderness camping fee will be through Pay.Gov.
Upon completion of your booking we will e-mail you a link to our Pay.Gov payment form. In the e-mail you will be given a permit ID number that you will use to pay for your reservation. Payment can be made by credit or debit card, bank account (ACH), Amazon, or PayPal. The fee is not refundable, not transferable to other parties or future years, and not for re-sale. You will have 10 days from receipt of the link to complete payment or your reservation will be canceled. Technical issues with the Pay.Gov website should be directed to the Pay.gov helpdesk.
Step 3: Bring your Pay.Gov confirmation letter to pick up your wilderness permit at the start of your trip.
Your confirmation letter is not a wilderness permit and cannot be used for overnight travel. Your confirmation letter will include details of where to pick up your permit. Permits are issued during normal operating hours by trailhead rangers who provide important area information. There are no “night drops.” You can pick up your wilderness permit on the afternoon prior to your hike date (after 1:00 pm) or by 9:00 am on the morning of your entry date. If you need to pick up your permit later than 9:00 am on the morning of your entry date, notify the Wilderness Office at (559-565-3766) If you do not make arrangements for a late pickup, your reservation will be canceled at 9:00 am and your spot(s) may be given to people waiting for walk-up permits.
Can I make changes to my trip after my application is processed?
Changes to the entry date or trail and increases in group size must be made at least one week before your entry date. Additional people will incur an additional $5/person fee if quota space is available. Any additional changes result in a $10 processing fee. Changes to reduce group size can be made at any time with no additional cost. Once processed, the fee is not refundable.
Trailhead Availability and Trail Descriptions
When planning your trip, check to see which trailhead start dates are already booked. You can find out more about our parks trails on the trail descriptions page.
If you will be entering Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks but starting your trip outside of the parks (i.e. surrounding Forest Service lands) you can obtain your permit for your entire itinerary from the agency where your trip begins. To hike Mount Whitney from the east side of the Sierra Nevada, visit Inyo National Forest's website or call them at (760) 873-2483.
Getting Permits Outside the Quota Period
September 24, 2016 to May 26, 2017
Wilderness permits are free, self-issued, and are not limited to daily entry quotas during this time period. The information you provide on your self-issued permit may be helpful in a search and rescue incident.Self-issue permit stations are available 24 hours a day at the following locations: (permit box is located outside)
- Kings Canyon Visitor Center (in Grant Grove)
- Giant Forest Museum
- Road's End Permit Station In the winter, Highway 180 is closed to vehicles approximately 15 miles from Road's End
- Mineral King Ranger Station and Atwell Mill In the winter the Mineral King road is gated 10 miles from Highway 198 at the park boundary. For access past the boundary gate, contact the Foothills Visitor Center. A second gate is located approximately 17 miles from Highway 198. There is no vehicle access past the second gate.
- South Fork Campground
- Foothills Visitor Center