Wilderness Permits Frequently Asked Questions

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Wilderness Permits in 2020

Will wilderness access be available when the park opens?

Yes. As of June 5, existing wilderness permit holders are able to travel overnight throughout the Yosemite Wilderness. There are significant changes for the 2020 wilderness permit season in accordance with CDC, and state and local public health guidance related to COVID-19. Please check current conditions for a list of accessible areas and available facilities and services.

Is my wilderness reservation still valid?

Yes. If you already have a reservation for 2020, you will receive an email two weeks in advance of your hiking start date with additional information. Please read all emails carefully.

Significant changes are in place regarding permit education. You will receive education about your wilderness permit with a ranger through an online service. Upon completion of the Leave No Trace and wilderness regulations information, you will be emailed the wilderness permit to carry with you for the duration of your wilderness trip. You must have a permit to enter the park. There will be NO on-site issuance of wilderness permits in Yosemite.

Can I get a wilderness permit when I'm in Yosemite?

No. You must obtain a wilderness permit before you arrive in Yosemite. All wilderness permits for Yosemite will be issued remotely.

If I don’t have a reservation, how do I get one now?

If you don't have a reservation and were planning on getting a permit using the first-come, first-served quota in Yosemite, you must apply using the "two-week lottery this season. The 40% of the trailhead quota normally allocated for first-come, first-served permits will be available by lottery two weeks in advance of the hiking start date. You can apply 15 days in advance of your desired start date, with the lottery running 14 days in advance. The last day to apply for a permit is nine days in advance of a trip. The first day to apply this season is June 11; the first lottery will run June 12 for hiking start date of June 26. Apply at https://yosemite.org/yosemite-wilderness-permit-request-form/.

Once a reservation is confirmed, you must receive your wilderness education from a ranger before printing the wilderness permit. You must have a wilderness permit in possession before you arrive at the park.

To learn more about wilderness quotas, trip planning, and wilderness regulations, visit the wilderness permits page.

Will wilderness quotas remain the same?

Yes. Wilderness trailhead quotas will remain the same. Wilderness management in general, and quotas specifically, help protect wilderness values including the opportunity for solitude. In addition to be a fundamental part of a wilderness experience, solitude is a great way to practice social distancing.

Can I rent an allowed bear-resistant food container in Yosemite?

Yes. However, all visitors are strongly encouraged to bring their own allowed containers to the park. If you are unable to get a bear-resistant food container prior to arrival, bear canisters are available for rental at wilderness centers in Yosemite Valley, Wawona, Big Oak Flat, and Tuolumne Meadows from 9 am to 1 pm. While these buildings will be closed to the public, wilderness rangers will be available outside for education and canister rentals with proper social distancing measures in place.

Will backpackers campgrounds be open?

Yes. If you have a valid wilderness permit, you can stay the night before and after your wilderness trip at Yosemite Valley, Hetch Hetchy, and (once Tioga Road opens) Tuolumne Meadows backpackers campgrounds. The camping fee is $6 per person. White Wolf backpackers campground will not open this season.

Yosemite Valley backpackers campground is in a temporary new location in the last loop (sites 187–240) of Upper Pines, with walk-in access only. Parking is available at the nearby trailhead parking lot.

Everyone staying in backpackers campgrounds are responsible for practicing social distancing. Please be courteous to your neighbors.

How can I get to and from my trailhead(s)?

YARTS is operating, however with limited capacity on all runs, and with 22 of 30 seats available by reservation. We strongly recommend a reservation. In-park shuttles and tours are not operating.

Several point-to-point transportation services are authorized to operate in Yosemite.

Can I pick up or drop off a backpacker and/or a car?

You may enter the park to drop off a vehicle or a person at the start or end of a wilderness trip.

If you are dropping off a person or a car, the $35/vehicle entrance fee applies if a vehicle is being parked. No reservation (aside from the wilderness permit with an itinerary starting or ending in Yosemite) is required.

If you are picking up a person or a vehicle, there is no entrance fee, but the entry permit will only be valid for long enough to pick up the person or car.

Anyone entering the park for these purposes needs a copy of the driver license of the person who holds the wilderness permit and a copy of the wilderness permit.

Will other agency wilderness permits be valid in Yosemite?

All wilderness regulations apply in 2020, including the validity of permits with a through-hiking itinerary in Yosemite.

Are there any changes to Wilderness regulations?

Not at this time. Seasonal restrictions are updated regularly. Check this page for updates and tune into your wilderness permit talk with a ranger for seasonal information.

Can I get more information?

If you have questions about your reservation, please email the wilderness reservation office.

If you have general questions about your route or Yosemite Wilderness in general, please call 209/372-0826 (Monday to Friday, 9 am to noon and 1 pm to 4:30 pm).


Half Dome Permits

When and how do I apply for a permit to day-hike Half Dome?

Most Half Dome permits are available via a preseason lottery in March. Typically, if you do not obtain a permit through this preseason lottery, you can apply via the daily lottery two days before your intended hike while the cables are up (approximately late May to mid-October). However, 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 will be available each day by lottery during the hiking season.

I have a day hiking permit for Half Dome and I want to camp part way up. How do I do that?

Little Yosemite Valley is a designated backpackers' campground about 2,000 feet above Yosemite Valley's floor and just under four miles from the trailhead. You can get a wilderness permit that allows you to camp, but you must hike Half Dome on date specified on your Half Dome permit. This is the most popular wilderness trip in the park: permits are difficult to get, so plan accordingly.

Can I hike Half Dome on a wilderness backpacking trip?

Yes. A limited number of Half Dome permits are available on the same quota system as wilderness permits. This is the most popular wilderness trip in the park: permits are difficult to get, so plan accordingly.

Can I climb Half Dome using a Pacific Crest Trail permit?

No. You must get a separate wilderness permit to deviate from the Pacific Crest Trail while in Yosemite. You can try for a combined wilderness and Half Dome permit. This year, 40% of permits that would normally be available first-come, first-served are instead available by lottery two weeks in advance. Beginning June 11, you can submit a reservation request 15 days in advance of a hike, with the lottery running 14 days in advance. Unreserved permits remain available up to nine days in advance. It is not possible to obtain a wilderness permit reservation fewer than nine days in advance.

Wilderness Permits for the John Muir Trail

How do I obtain a Donohue Pass permit if I plan to hike the John Muir Trail?

A wilderness permit is required for both through-hiking the John Muir Trail and walking over Donohue Pass. Donohue Pass permits may be attached by reservation only to wilderness permits for hikes beginning at Happy Isles (Yosemite Valley), Glacier Point, and Sunrise Lakes (Tenaya Lake). Lyell Canyon permits are also available by reservation.

Are John Muir Trail reservations managed as a lottery?

Yes. Due to extremely high demand, many John Muir Trail through-hike permit applications are denied. For a typical summer day, the park receives at least 300 to 500 reservation requests. Of those requests, approximately 80% to 90% are for the John Muir Trail while the other 10% to 20% are for all other routes in the park. Because of this, up to 90% of JMT requests are denied on popular days..

Wilderness in Winter

Do I need a wilderness permit in winter?

Yes. Wilderness permits are required year round in Yosemite.

How do I get a winter wilderness permit?

Wilderness permits, which are required for all overnight wilderness trips in Yosemite, are available at the Big Oak Flat Information Station (front porch), Yosemite Valley Visitor Center (open 9 am to 5 pm), Badger Pass Ranger Station (open approximately mid-December through March), Wawona Visitor Center (front porch), Hetch Hetchy Entrance Station, and Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Center (front porch). You must register at the station closest to your starting point.

Am I required to use a bear canister in the winter in Yosemite?

Bear canisters are required all year, but there is a limited exception in the winter. If you're skiing or snowshoeing above 7,200 feet or above 6,800 feet and within a ½ mile of a marked ski trail, between December 15 and March 30, you're not required to use a bear canister but are required to hang your food to protect it from wildlife.

Where can I rent a bear canister in winter?

Bear canisters are available for rent at Valley Visitor Center (open 9 am to 5 pm) and the Hetch Hetchy entrance station, which is open 8 am to 5 pm.

Where can I return my rented bear canister?

If you rent a bear canister from the Valley Visitor Center, we encourage you to return it there between 9 am and 5 pm. Otherwise, 24-hour drop bins are available at the Valley Wilderness Center (near the visitor center), Wawona Visitor Center, Big Oak Flat Information Station, and Hetch Hetchy Entrance Station.

Can I return bear canisters outside the park?

If you leave the park with a bear canister, mail it to Yosemite Conservancy, PO Box 545, Yosemite, CA 95389. You can place the mailing label directly on the side of the canister (not the top or bottom).

Do I have to put used toilet paper in the bear canister?

While you must pack out toilet paper, you do not have to store used toilet paper in a bear canister. However, if you have put used toilet paper in a bag that has once held food or contains food trash, then you must store it in a bear canister.

Are wilderness permit rules any different in winter?

Wilderness permit rules are the same throughout the year, with the limited exception of the food storage regulations noted above.

How do I stay at Ostrander Ski Hut?

The Ostrander Ski Hut is operated by Yosemite Conservancy and is limited to 25 people per night. Reservations are required and fees range from $35 to $55 per person per night. Ostrander Ski Hut is not recommended for novice skiers.

I have a reservation to stay at Ostrander Ski Hut and want to leave early in the morning. How do I get a permit if I arrive before the Badger Pass Ranger Station is open?

You can self-register for a permit on the front porch of the ranger station at any time.

What are the current snow and avalanche conditions?

Whenever you enter a wilderness area, you are responsible for your own safety and should be prepared and experienced for the conditions you will encounter. Yosemite does not provide avalanche conditions. For snowpack information, see the California Cooperative Snow Survey page. The Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center, operating out of Mammoth Lakes, can provide general avalanche risk for the area.

Where can I wilderness camp in winter?

In general, winter backpackers must camp at least one mile from a plowed road. Camping is not allowed within 1½ miles of the Yosemite Ski and Snowboard area (formerly Badger Pass Ski Area) boundary. Camping is also not allowed at Summit Meadow, Dewey Point, or Glacier Point (camping is permitted near both points, but not at the points themselves).

Camping is not allowed in the Tuolumne and Merced Groves. Camping is allowed in the Mariposa Grove from December 1 to April 15 when the Mariposa Grove Road is closed, and only above the Clothespin Tree. (A wilderness permit is required.)

What trails are closed in winter?

The Four Mile Trail, and sections of the John Muir and Mist Trails, are normally the only trails closed during winter (portions of the John Muir and Mist Trails remain open, so it's still possible to hike to the tops of Vernal and Nevada Falls and to Little Yosemite Valley, though these trails are often snowy or icy). Additionally, the Half Dome cables are down from approximately mid-October to late May.

Trails in Yosemite may be closed when there are hidden hazards or when they are impassable due to rock fall, snow, ice, or fire. Open trails aren't necessarily free of hazards--by entering the wilderness, you assume responsibility for your safety and must use good judgment.

Check for winter trail closures before your trip.

Wilderness Permits

When can I submit a wilderness reservation application?

The reservation office usually opens in mid- to late November (accepting reservations for May through September). If you'll be backpacking from October through April, wilderness permit reservations are not necessary or available.

How early can I get a walk-up permit?

First-come, first-served wilderness permits are not available in Yosemite in 2020. Forty percent of permits are available by lottery two weeks in advance.

Is there a line for walk-up permits?

First-come, first-served wilderness permits are not available in Yosemite in 2020. Forty percent of permits are available by lottery two weeks in advance.

Can I self-register for a permit if I arrive after hours?

You must have your wilderness permit before you arrive at Yosemite. If you have a reservation, you will receive an email with instructions about how to get your permit.

Last updated: July 15, 2020

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PO Box 577
Yosemite National Park, CA 95389


(209) 372-0200

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