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 Stewardship Plan in order to protect wilderness character, reduce crowding, protect natural and cultural resources, and improve safety). The cables are normally up the Friday before the last Monday in May (Memorial Day) and come down the day after the second Monday in October (Columbus Day). These dates are subject to change based on conditions (check current status).
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 for day hikers are distributed by lottery via Recreation.gov, with one preseason lottery having an application period in March and and daily lotteries during the hiking season. Backpackers—including those who plan 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.
Half Dome permits for day hikers do not include any camping, lodging, or overnight accomodations of any kind. Half Dome permit holders and alternates should bring a photo ID and the email confirmation incidating that the permit has been paid.
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 from an June 5 through October 13, 2020, but these dates could change based on conditions.
On each preseason lottery application, an applicant can apply for up to six permits (six people) and for specific dates or a range of 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 permit holder\ and may specify the valid email address of an alternate permit holder. Applicants may be a permit holder or alternate only once on only one application during the preseason lottery. (That is, a person's name may appear on only one application, as either a permit holder or alternate). People applying multiple times as permit holder/alternate permit holder will have all their lottery applications canceled. Permits are only valid if the permit holder and/or alternate specified on the permits is part of the group using the permits. The permit holder or alternate must be present with the entire group at the base of the subdome, where rangers will check for permits. The names of the permit holder and alternate may not be changed once the application is submitted. Permits are not transferable.
Alternate permit holders must have or create a Recreation.gov account within the specified amount of time noted on the application. Alternates must accept this role within the specified amount of time as noted on the application or they will not be considered a valid member of the group. An applicant may apply as a permit holder or accept as an alternate permit holder only once per lottery.
If you have flexibility on which days to hike Half Dome, these graphs show how popular different days are.
The daily lottery will not initially take place when the cables go up on June 5, 2020, but may resume later in June. When it resumes, approximately 50 permits are available each day by lottery during the hiking season. These permits are 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 are also available online, or by phone the next morning.) The application period is from midnight to 1 pm Pacific time.
Daily lottery applications only allow a permit holder (no alternate).
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 2018 season, average success rate on weekdays was 47%, but only 24% on weekends.
Two separate fees are collected. The first fee, which is charged at the time you submit an application, is $10. 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 $10 per person and is charged only when you receive a permit. This fee pays for park rangers checking for Half Dome permits and providing Half Dome visitors with hiking and safety information. The $10 fee is fully refundable if you cancel your permit by 9 pm Pacific time the day before your hiking date or if the cables are not up on the date for which your permit is valid.
Still have questions? You can call us at 209/372-0826 (Monday-Friday, 9 am to noon and 1 pm to 4:30 pm, March through early October).
Last updated: June 3, 2020