Wilderness Climbing Permits

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Starting May 21, 2021, a wilderness permit will be required for all overnight big wall climbers. During this pilot, wilderness permits for climbers will be free and there will be no quotas or limits on the number of permits available. The pilot will help climbing rangers better understand use patterns on big walls. The pilot will also increase compliance with existing regulations (e.g., proper disposal of waste) and minimize impacts to wilderness character through improved education.

Yosemite’s big wall climbs occur almost entirely in designated Wilderness—the highest degree of protection available for public land. Both park management and park visitors have a special responsibility to protect designated Wilderness for this and future generations.

Frequently Asked Questions


Who needs a wilderness climbing permit?

Starting May 21, 2021 all climbers staying overnight on 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?

A reservation is required to drive into the park through September 30, 2021. If you don't already have a reservation to drive into the park, you will need and can request a reservation 15 to two days before your planned climb.

A wilderness overnight climbing permit can only be obtained in person, on the day of or day before the start date of your overnight climb.

You must pick-up your permit:

  • In front of the Yosemite Museum (just west of the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center) (7:30 am to noon through October 31) at the wilderness climbing permit issuing station. .
  • El Capitan Meadow (12:30 pm to 4:30 pm, May 15 to July 4 and September 1 to October 31) at the daily Ask A Climber program.
  • From July 4 to September 1, subject to climbing ranger availability, climbers can request an appointment by email to pick up their permit between 12:30 pm and 5 pm up to 24 hours in advance.
  • Starting October 31, wilderness climbing permits will be available by self-registration at the Valley Visitor Center.

How do I drive into the park for purpose of overnight big wall climbing, when a reservation is required to drive into the park?

If you have a valid reservation to drive into the park (campground or lodging reservation, wilderness or Half Dome permit, or a day-use reservation) or live in the park, you can pick up a wilderness climbing permit in person the day before or day of your climb at the times and places listed above.

If you don't already have a reservation to drive into the park, you will need and can request a reservation 15 to two days before your planned climb.

A climbing ranger will review your request for an entry reservation, and, if approved, will send a confirmation letter to you within 48 hours of receiving the request. Bring a printed or digital copy of your confirmation letter to present at the entrance station.

What entry trailhead should I select for my overnight climb?

Climbing rangers have established several new overnight climbing trailheads 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?

You can specify up to four people (including yourself) on a reservation request.

Does everyone in the climbing party have to be there to pick up the permit?

Only the trip leader needs to be present to pick up the permit. The trip leader is responsible for ensuring everyone in their party is aware of the terms and conditions of the permit.

What is the cost of the wilderness climbing permit?

Wilderness climbing permits and reservations are free during this pilot.

Is there a quota for wilderness climbing permit?

There are no quotas for wilderness climbing permits during the pilot. One goal of the pilot is to find out how many climbers are doing overnight climbs.

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 can not bivouac or camp on walls outside of designated wilderness such as the Rostrum or Elephant Rock.

Do I need a reservation to drive into Yosemite?

During 2021, wilderness permit reservations issued through this pilot will also provide entry into Yosemite without needing an additional reservation. You will still be required to pay the $35/car park entrance fee upon arrival (credit card only).

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 $6 per night (per person); reservations are not required. These only provide tent camping; sleeping in a vehicle is not allowed.

Can I change my climbing route objective after I reserve a permit?

If you decide to do a different overnight climb, you can request a change when you pick up your permit or you can send an email.

Is my permit valid if I leave the wilderness?

Exiting the wilderness at any time during a wilderness itinerary invalidates the wilderness permit. In order to continue climbing, you would need a new wilderness climbing permit. If you want to fix pitches prior to departing on your overnight climb, and then spend the night away from the climb, you will need to do this prior to the start date of your wilderness climbing permit.

After completing or retreating an overnight climb, can I obtain another wilderness climbing permit when I am already in the park?

If you complete or retreat from an overnight climb and wish to do another overnight climb, you can go to the wilderness climbing permit issuing station for a new permit.

Can I leave the park and return using my wilderness climbing permit?

From May 21 through September 30, a reservation is required to drive into the park. Your wilderness climbing permit reservation is a valid reservation to enter the park. Upon arrival, you will receive a vehicle permit valid for three days or the duration of your wilderness climbing permit, whichever is longer. However, once you leave the park, your vehicle permit is no longer valid even if it has not expired.

How will 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.

What monitoring or data collection will occur during this pilot?

During the pilot, climbing rangers will assess both day and overnight use on several popular wilderness climbs in Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows. Rangers will collect data on the number of climbers on each route on any given day, look for seasonal use patterns, and assess effectiveness of the Leave No Trace education climbers receive when they pick up their wilderness permits. This is the first time the park will have an accurate assessment of climbing use, which will be essential as climbing rangers consider any climbing management decisions after the pilot ends.

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

Several other national parks, including 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.

Last updated: June 29, 2021

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