Wilderness Climbing Permits

As of May 2021, a wilderness permit is required for all overnight big wall climbs. During this pilot, wilderness permits for climbers are free and there are no quotas or limits on the number of permits available. The permit process provides an opportunity to educate climbers on leave no trace climbing ethics and park regulations, and help climbing rangers quantify use patterns on big walls. The pilot aims to 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. 

Yosemite Overnight Big Wall Climbing Wilderness Stewardship

In 2023, Yosemite National Park will transition from the Wilderness Climbing Permit Pilot Program (in place in 2021 and 2022) to a long-term solution to address wilderness stewardship through management of overnight climbing on Yosemite’s big walls and other rock formations.

Learn more about the Yosemite Overnight Big Wall Climbing Wilderness Stewardship Project.


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?

For climbs starting between May 20 and September 30, 2022, you can request a wilderness climbing permit reservation 15 to two days before your planned climb. Once in the park, you can pick up your permit in person at the issuing station in Yosemite Valley.

You must pick-up your permit:

  • From April 30 to June 30 and September 1 to October 30: At the wilderness big wall permit issuing station, adjacent to the Yosemite Museum (just west of the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center) from 7:30 am to 5 pm (closed for lunch).
  • July 1 to August 31 at the Valley Wilderness Center (8 am to 5 pm).
  • After October 31, permits will be available by self-registration again at the Valley Visitor Center.

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

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 five 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 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 2022, backpackers campground will have extremely limited due space due to the temporary closure of Tuolumne Meadows backpackers campground. Please make alternative plans when possible.

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 to climbing rangers to request the change.

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.

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 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.

Last updated: January 26, 2023

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