Special Use Permits for Activities in Yosemite National Park

Permit Application Process

To apply for all types of special use permits, submit an application.

For a special event, first amendment, or right-of-way permit, download the application [833 kb DOCX] and mail original application and payment to:

Attn: Office of Special Park Uses
Yosemite National Park, Land Resources and Special Park Uses
5083 Foresta Road (FedEx or UPS)
PO Box 700 (USPS)
El Portal, CA 95318

For questions regarding these permits contact our Office of Special Park Uses via email or phone 209/379-1434.

Permits cannot be processed until we receive your original application and any required payments.

Guidelines for Special Park Uses

Yosemite National Park's mission is that of the National Park Service (NPS) as written in the Organic Act of 1916, which states in part: “The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education and inspiration of this and future generations.” In Yosemite, opportunities for special park uses exist for visitor and organizational uses including personal, family, educational and program cultural uses, as well as filming and photography projects with Yosemite as the location. There are many cultural, scientific, and educational institutions that conduct research and programs by special park use permit.

Yosemite receives requests from individuals and groups seeking to use the park for various private uses. In order to manage the public’s requests for private use the Office of Special Park Uses was established. “It is the policy of the National Park Service (NPS) to allow special uses that are not in conflict with law or policy; will not result in derogation of the values and purposes for which the park was established; do not present a threat to public safety or property and do not unduly interfere with normal park operations, resource protection, or visitor use.”

Yosemite has the authority and responsibility to evaluate applicant requests, permit, manage, and/or deny all special uses within the park. Therefore, before any permit will be granted, consideration will be given to potential park resource impacts, as well as impacts to visitor use, access to park sites, or park administration. There are cost recovery fees associated with the administration and management of special use permits for costs incurred by the park. It states in the specia park use guidelines that “it is the policy of the NPS to charge permit fees for special uses. Permit fees should reflect the fair market value of a benefit provided the permittee. The fair market value of a special use is the value of the lands or facilities used and the NPS cost incurred in managing, facilitating, or supporting the use.”

A special park use is defined as an activity that takes place in a park area and that:

  • provides a benefit to an individual, group or organization rather than the public at large;

  • requires written authorization and some degree of management control from the National Park Service in order to protect park resources and the public interest;

  • is not prohibited by law or regulation;

  • is not initiated, sponsored, or conducted by the National Park Service (NPS); and

  • is not managed under a concession contract, a recreation activity for which the NPS charges a fee, or a lease;

  • is a short term activity.

The National Park Service may permit a special park use if the proposed activity will not:

  • cause injury, damage or impairments to park resources;

  • be contrary to the park’s purpose for which the park was established and the mission of the NPS;

  • unreasonably impair the atmosphere of peace and tranquility maintained in wilderness, natural, historic, or commemorative locations within the park; or

  • interfere with visitor use, access, and programs

  • interfere with park management or administration;

  • interfere with concession operations or other public facilities;

  • present a clear and present danger to public health and safety.

Requesting a Special Use Permit For a Special Event

Requests for special use permits for events should be made by submitting an application no more than six (6) months in advance and at least 30 days prior to the date of the planned event. There is a $100.00 non-refundable fee for processing your application for a special use permit. Please return the application form to request a permit as soon as possible. All questions should be answered as accurately and completely as possible. This will assist the park in determining the appropriateness of the planned activities and help to estimate NPS costs that may be incurred in managing, facilitating, or supporting the use. Submission of the application form and fee payment does not imply permission for any special use or event.

Special park uses include a wide range of activities.

Special Events

Special events are activities, such as organizational special events, religious gatherings, ceremonies, large group activity camps or rendezvous, and encampments.

Regulations authorize the conducting of special events provided:

  • There is a meaningful association between park and the event;

  • The observance contributes to visitor understanding of the significance of the park; and

  • A permit has been issued by the superintendent.

The NPS will not permit the public staging of special events that are conducted primarily for the material or financial benefit of the organizers or participants, or which involve commercialization of in-park advertising or publicity.

A special use permit often requires general commercial liability insurance. The insurance and the permittee indemnify the park from liability, injury, or damages resulting from the actions or inaction of the permittee. General liability insurance must be carried by the permittee showing the U. S. Government as additionally insured. Certificates of Insurance must show coverage on "occurrence" basis. If required by the park, the minimum amount of commercial liability insurance is $1,000,000 per occurrence, and $2,000,000 aggregate. Additional amounts may be required for high-risk activities and events. The park will often waive insurance for low-risk activities such as a commemorative ceremony. The United States of America, Department of Interior will be listed as "additional-insured" or "certificate holder" on the Certificate of Liability Insurance.

Prior approval is required if alcoholic beverages are to be served during the course of a special use permit, and an additional insurance endorsement in the form of liquor liability or host liability will be required. The park sets the insurance amount based on the activity size and local conditions. Liability insurance should be issued in the name of the group, not the applicant.

First Amendment Activities

Freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly are rights protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, and in accordance with the Code of Federal Regulation. People may exercise these rights in national parks, but the National Park Service still retains its responsibility to protect park resources and prevent impacts to park visitors. A first amendment permit is not required for groups of 25 individuals, or less, conducting first amendment activities in the park’s designated first amendment areas. There are several different first amendment areas designated in the park. These sites are in Yosemite Valley just north of the shuttle stop (toward the visitor center), next to the Wawona Store, and by the day-use parking adjacent to O'Shaughnessy Dam. Additionally, these activities are allowed between 8 am and 5 pm when not in use for scheduled public or administrative purposes outside of the Yosemite Chapel, at Lower Pines Amphitheater, at Lower River Amphitheater, and outside the Valley Visitor Center Theater.

Groups of 25, or more, or groups desiring to reserve designated areas in advance, require a permit. A first amendment permit will not be issued for more than 14 days. Applicants will be required to reapply for additional permits. Unless permitted, the designated areas are first-come, first-served. Types of activities not considered first amendment include, but are not limited to:

  • church picnic or social gathering,

  • wedding ceremonies or receptions,

  • political fund raiser or other invitation-only political activity or event,

  • solicitation of donations,

  • community parades, athletics, or sporting events, or

  • sale of message bearing clothing, arts and crafts, or similar merchandise.

Right-of-Way for Utilities and Roads

The right-of-way is a special park use allowing a utility to pass over, under, or through National Park Service (NPS) property. The following general rules govern issuance and renewal of right-of-way permits:

  • A right-of-way permit is issued at the discretion of the NPS is revocable, and does not grant any interest in the land.

  • A right-of-way permit is not required when property ownership, such as a previously recorded deeded easement, is involved.

  • NPS policy is that right-of-way permits are issued for terms not to exceed 10 years. Permits with terms of longer than 10 years must be signed by the NPS Regional Director.

  • Initial permits must be approved by the NPS Regional Director. Subsequent renewals and/or amendments may be approved by the Park Superintendent.

  • The right-of-way permit shall include appropriate terms and conditions to protect park resources and values.

  • Permit terms and conditions shall include NPS monitoring of construction, maintenance, restoration, and repair for the duration of the permit, and require the permittee reimburse the park for all costs incurred.

  • Permits must contain a condition for removal of the facility and restoration of the right-of-way at the end of the permit.

  • NPS-owned utilities do not require a right-of-way permit.

Telecommunications Sites

A wireless telecommunication facility is authorized using a right-of-way permit. Statutory authority to issue a permit authorizing a wireless telecommunication facility is found at 16 USC 5. When considering a request for a telecommunication facility, the Superintendent will consider the entire footprint of the facility including, but not limited to, the tower, any equipment buildings, power and telephone lines, and means of access. The federal form SF 299 is the application form used for telecommunication sites.

Important Reminders

  • Permittees who enter the park for recreational purposes are subject to the same entrance fees as the general public.

  • The NPS will recover costs incurred in administering permits and monitoring the activities it authorizes.

  • Allow at least 30 days for the permit process. The Lower River Amphitheater is often reserved months in advance especially during the busy summer season. Plan ahead.

Cost Recovery

Fees charged for administering a permit may include the following:

  • Personnel (staffing) costs

  • Materials and supplies

  • Official travel

  • Utilities and overhead

  • Compliance requirements

  • Vehicle and equipment use

  • Training


All permit activities must meet National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements and go through an environmental screening process.

Last updated: December 19, 2023

Park footer

Contact Info



Contact Us