Wilderness Climbing Permits

 
 

A wilderness climbing permit is required for all overnight big wall climbs. Permits for climbers are available by self-registration, are free, and there are no quotas or limits on the number of permits available. The permit system helps climbing rangers better understand use patterns on big walls. It will also increase compliance with existing regulations (e.g., proper disposal of waste) and minimize impacts to wilderness character through improved education.

  • Permits are available by self-registration (24 hours per day/7 days per week) in front of the Valley Welcome Center (south end of the Village Store complex). Permits are also available near El Capitan Bridge (look for a kiosk near the food lockers). Pick up your permit the day before or day of the start of your overnight climb.

  • During the busy season, climbing rangers will frequently be available at the Climbing Management Office for more in-depth big wall leave no trace and climbing technique advice, safety tips, and route condition information. Office hours and program times will be posted on the self registration board.

When eastern Yosemite Valley is closed due to flooding, self-registration climbing permits are available at Arch Rock Entrance for climbs in western Yosemite Valley (El Capitan, Leaning Tower, Gold Wall, Cathedrals (and obscurities). Climbs in eastern Yosemite Valley are not accessible (e.g., Washington Column, Half Dome, Falls Wall, Lost Arrow).

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Who needs a wilderness climbing permit?

All climbers staying overnight on big wall climbs in Yosemite must have a wilderness climbing permit.

If you are doing a day climb, you don’t need a wilderness climbing permit.

How do I get a wilderness climbing permit?

Permits are available by self-registration (24 hours per day/7 days per week) in front of the Valley Welcome Center (south end of the Village Store complex). Permits are also available near El Capitan Bridge (look for a kiosk near the food lockers).

Pick up your permit the day before or day of the start of your overnight climb.

What entry formation/route should I select for my overnight climb?

Climbing rangers have established several overnight climbing formations/routes including:

  • Half Dome Regular North West Face
  • Leaning Tower
  • Washington Column
  • El Capitan-Nose
  • El Capitan-Salathe Wall/Freerider
  • El Capitan-All Other Walls
  • El Capitan-Lurking Fear
  • El Capitan-Zodiac
  • Mt. Watkins/Tenaya Canyon Walls
  • Washington Column-South Face/Skull Queen
  • Lost Arrow Spire/Falls Wall
  • Gold Wall-Ribbon Fall
  • Hetch Hetchy Walls
  • Unspecified Valley Walls.

Select the most appropriate trailhead for your climb.

How many people can be on a wilderness climbing permit?

Up to eight people can be on a wilderness climbing permit. If you plan on having more than four people, please contact a climbing ranger to discuss logistics and the appropriateness of large climbing parties.

What is the cost of the wilderness climbing permit?

Wilderness climbing permits are free.

Is there a quota for wilderness climbing permit?

There are no quotas for wilderness climbing permits.

Where can I bivouac or camp with a wilderness climbing permit?

Climbers can bivouac on any vertical cliff, face, or wall in Yosemite provided that they are at least one pitch off the ground on a route that is Grade V or higher, following all other Yosemite regulations, and are not in a closed area. Climbers cannot bivouac or camp on walls outside of designated wilderness such as the Rostrum or Elephant Rock.

With a wilderness climbing permit, can I camp in the frontcountry the night before or after my overnight climb?

Climbers with a wilderness climbing permit may spend one night prior to, and one night after, an overnight climb in an open backpackers campground. The cost is $8 per night (per person); reservations are not required. These only provide tent camping; sleeping in a vehicle is not allowed. In 2023, backpackers campground will have extremely limited due space due to the temporary closure of Tuolumne Meadows backpackers campground. Please make alternative plans when possible.

How does this permit system improve compliance with park regulations and better protect the wilderness?

Many visitors who violate park regulations don’t realize the regulation exists or don’t realize they’re violating it. Sometimes visitors don’t abide by a regulation because they don’t understand why it exists. Just as overnight hikers receive brief person-to-person wilderness education when receiving wilderness permits, overnight climbers will experience a similar approach. Improved compliance with regulations will reduce wilderness impacts and improve climbers’ experiences by reducing trash, human waste, and abandoned equipment caches.

How does this compare with other parks with big wall climbs?

Several other national parks, including Denali, Mount Rainier, Grand Teton, Zion, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, and Rocky Mountain already require permits for overnight climbs.

How can I contact a climbing ranger?

Climbing rangers are available to respond to questions about by email. You can also leave a message at 209/354-2025.

 

Terms and Conditions of Wilderness Climbing Permits

  1. A wilderness permit is required for all overnight wilderness use including climbing. This permit is valid only for the trip leader, formation/route, dates and maximum number of people specified on the permit.

  2. Except for the base of Half Dome, camping at the base of any Yosemite Valley wall is prohibited. Camping on top of Half Dome is also prohibited. You must be at least one topo pitch above ground level before you can bivouac on the wall.

  3. When camping, in legal areas, at the base or summit of walls, select previously impacted sites or durable surfaces. Trampling vegetation is prohibited.

  4. Fires are prohibited at the summit and base areas of all Yosemite Valley Walls (Half Dome, El Capitan, Washington Column, etc.)

  5. Packing out your solid human waste from the wall is required. You must have an adequate container to carry your human waste from walls. Once you have finished you cannot leave your human waste (or container) unattended—dispose of waste properly in dumpsters (wagbags etc.) or pit toilets (paper/waste only). Consider packing out urine from popular routes/bivy sites as well.

  6. Carry out all trash. Water bottle are considered trash if left behind.

  7. Proper food storage is mandatory. All food must be hung on the wall at least 50 feet above the base of the route in 5th class terrain (or Aid). Do not leave food unattended while shuttling loads for your climb. On the summit of walls you can either: 1) Store your food in a bear resistant canister or 2.) Hang food at least 50 feet over the edge. Do not hang your food in trees. Report any bear incidents to the nearest ranger or by calling 209.372.0322.

  8. You are not permitted to leave ropes unattended for over 24 hours . If you are “working” a route remove ropes after you are finished for the day. Be considerate of other climbers, and refrain from fixing lines on popular routes. All fixed ropes and caches must be labeled with name, date, contact information, and will be removed if left unlabeled or abandoned.

  9. The use or possession of a motorized drill is prohibited.

Last updated: December 13, 2023

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