Overnight big wall climbing is a valued opportunity to experience Yosemite's wilderness. Overnight big wall climbing includes climbs of length and technical complexity that require typical parties to take more than one day to complete. It was developed in Yosemite beginning in the 1950s and has risen in popularity since, expanding across areas within Yosemite and beyond. The 1984 California Wilderness Act designated Yosemite's big walls as Wilderness, requiring protection of the physical and experiential values inherent in wilderness stewardship.
In 2023, Yosemite National Park transitioned from the Wilderness Climbing Permit Pilot Program (in place in 2021 and 2022) to a long-term solution to address wilderness stewardship through management of overnight climbing on Yosemite’s big walls and other rock formations. The overarching goal is to protect the wilderness character and natural conditions of Yosemite’s big walls and other climbing areas while providing the public with continued opportunity and access to overnight climbs.
Cumulative effects of overnight big wall climbing have led to severe impacts to wilderness values. Issues include: proliferation of litter, human waste, abandoned property, improperly stored food, illegal fire rings and wind breaks, and preventable accidents. In response, the park increased education, outreach, and law enforcement efforts. Despite these efforts, the park fails to meet legal requirements for protection and enhancement of Wilderness character.
The purpose of this project is to accomplish the following:
Engaging with the public was an important part of this project and was essential when exploring management alternatives. Initial stakeholder meeetings and scoping began in April of 2022, with a management review of the permit pilot program taking place in summer of 2022. Park managers accepted and integrated feedback received from the public during the open comment period in fall 2022 as rangers worked to adapt the pilot overnight climbing permitting system into a long-term program for the stewardship of overnight climbs in vertical wilderness. The following options were available for the public to share their thoughts.
Public comments were analyzed during the winter of 2022 and a management decision and implementation strategy was developed in spring and announced in summer of 2023.
Management Decision and Permit Information
Climbers spending the night on big walls will be required to get a permit. The permits are free and no quotas are in place. Based on management review and feedback from the public during the pilot program, permits will be issued as follows:
Wilderness and Climbing Management will continue to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the permit program and make necessary changes.