Wilderness Regulations

Wilderness Permit Conditions

For 2021, some changes to wilderness permits are in effect. All wilderness regulations and quotas are still in effect. Existing wilderness permit reservations for trips originating in Yosemite, are still valid.

Beginning April 30, wilderness permits will not be available in the park. Normally, 40% of wilderness permits are available on a first-come, first-served basis at park wilderness centers. Instead, this portion of wilderness permit reservations will be available online using a two-week lottery. Starting April 15, 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 four days before a trip.

A reservation is not a valid wilderness permit. If you have a wilderness permit reservation, you must go to any wilderness center during open hours one day in advance or the same day to pick up your wilderness permit.

The buildings are closed to the public and all education and interactions take place outside, with proper social distancing measures in place.

You must have a bear canister for food storage. Bear canisters are available for rent at the Valley Wilderness Center (and other wilderness centers once they open for the season) or you can bring your own allowed container. Rented bear canisters are sanitized between uses. 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.

The person issued the wilderness permit must have the permit in possession at all times. All trip participants are responsible for knowing and obeying the following conditions of the wilderness permit.

A wilderness permit is required for all overnight wilderness use and MUST be in your possession while in the Wilderness

  • The permit is only valid for the trip leader, trailheads, dates, and number of people specified on the permit.
  • There is a 30-night camping limit within Yosemite National Park in a calendar year; however, from May 1 to September 15, the camping limit in Yosemite is 14 nights (this includes wilderness camping).
  • You must camp at least four trail miles from Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point, Hetch Hetchy, and Wawona, and at least one air mile from any road. Camping is prohibited along the Dana Fork of the Tuolumne River. The trailheads map (1.5 mb PDF) shows minimum legal camping distances for each trail (beyond the arrows).
  • Group size is limited to 15 people or fewer, eight people maximum for any cross country hiking more than one-quarter mile from any trail. Stock use is limited to 25 head.
  • Choose a previously impacted campsite at least 100 feet (30 meters/40 paces) from any water source or trail.
  • All human waste must be buried at least six inches deep and at least 100 feet from water sources, camp areas, and trails.
  • Do all washing at least 100 feet from water. Do not put any soap in water (even biodegradable and natural soap pollutes).
  • Carry out all trash. Do not burn or bury toilet paper or trash.
  • Wood fires are allowed in existing fire rings only, and prohibited above 9,600 feet in elevation. Fires are also not allowed at Lower Cathedral Lake and within 1/4 mile of the shoreline of Kibbie Lake. Use dead and down wood only. Check for any additional seasonal wilderness fire restrictions.
  • Proper food storage is mandatory. Allowed bear-resistant food canisters are required in all areas of Yosemite. Hanging or guarding your food items is not permissible. Cleanup of food and debris if a bear gets your food is your responsibility. Report any bear incidents and sightings to the nearest ranger. You can also report bear sightings by calling the Save-a-Bear Hotline at 209/372-0322.

Additional Wilderness Regulations

  • All pets are prohibited.
  • Bicycles, strollers, and any mechanized transport are prohibited.
  • Fishing is permitted with a valid California fishing license. All pertinent California state fishing regulations apply.
  • Fires are permitted with a wilderness permit in wilderness areas, unless otherwise noted. No additional fire permit is needed. However, fires are only allowed in existing fire rings, and prohibited above 9,600 feet in elevation (gas stoves are ok). Use dead and down wood only. Do not burn any trash, including toilet paper.
  • Motorized equipment is prohibited.

No Camping Zones

Camping in the Half Dome and Little Yosemite Valley area is permitted only in the Little Yosemite Valley Campground. Camping is not permitted between Yosemite Valley and Little Yosemite Valley. If you would like to camp in a dispersed Wilderness setting, you must be at least two miles beyond the Little Yosemite Valley campground (at or beyond Moraine Dome or beyond the Half Dome/John Muir Trail junction). Camping is not permitted on top of Half Dome or at Lost Lake.

Camping is permitted at backpackers' campgrounds near Glen Aulin, May Lake, Sunrise, Merced Lake, and Vogelsang High Sierra Camps. Each campground contains food lockers and group fire rings (fires are not permitted at Vogelsang). When the High Sierra Camps are open, composting toilets and potable water are also available. All other camping should be away from each HSC.

You must camp at least four trail miles from Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point, Hetch Hetchy, and Wawona, and at least one air mile from any road. The trailheads map (1.5 mb PDF) shows minimum legal camping distances for each trail (beyond the arrows).

Camping is also not permitted in the:

  • Parker Pass Creek watershed
  • Dana Fork of the Tuolumne River watershed
  • Gaylor Creek watershed
  • Lukens Lake
  • Budd Creek watershed
  • The top of Half Dome
  • Within 100 feet of a trail, flowing stream, river or any body of water, unless designated,and as follows: Camping is permitted within 100 feet of a stream, trail or body of water provided that a well established campsite exists and terrain permits no other options. In no case will camping be permitted within 25 feet of a stream, trail or body of water.
  • Below the high water line at both Lake Eleanor and Hetch Hetchy

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do I have to camp in designated campsites?
    No, in the vast majority of the park. Only at the five High Sierra Camps and in the Little Yosemite Valley area must you camp at a designated site. Otherwise you may camp anywhere you like, provided you follow all the regulations listed above.
  • Can I use a Sierra stove above 9,600 feet?
    No, you may not use a Sierra stove (stick stove) above 9,600 feet in elevation. The small twigs used to fuel Sierra stoves are just as valuable a part of the ecosystem as is the larger wood used in traditional campfires. Regrowth at higher elevations is extremely slow and the soil is low in nutrients. Removing this wood from the system further slows growth.
  • Can I change my first night's camp location?
    Yes, usually. This information is only needed to process the wilderness permit reservation request. Some trailheads specify a required first night camping location (e.g., Happy Isles to Little Yosemite Valley) or that you camp before or beyond a certain point. As long as you abide by these restrictions, you can camp anywhere your first night as long as you're starting from the same trailhead and camping the minimum distance from development and roads.

Send us an email if you have suggestions for additional questions.

Last updated: May 11, 2021

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