The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail stretches 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada along the mountainous crest of the Cascades and the Sierra Nevada and through the Mojave Desert.
Yosemite contains nearly 70 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. In Yosemite, the trail's highest point is 11,056 feet at Donohue Pass at the park's southern border, and the lowest spot is 7,560 feet near Benson Lake. When Pacific Crest Trail hikers reach Tuolumne Meadows, they are 942 miles from Mexico and 1,714 miles from Canada.
The 211-mile John Muir Trail is a world-famous trail stretching from Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States. Because the John Muir Trail overlaps the Pacific Crest Trail for most of its length, the Pacific Crest Trail Association also provides details about the John Muir Trail.
John Muir Trail
If you plan to hike the John Muir Trail (JMT) as a continuous hike, you only need one wilderness permit from Yosemite for the entire trip (you do not need a "Whitney stamp" or permits from other national forests or national parks). The only two trailheads that provide access to the full John Muir Trail beyond Yosemite are Happy Isles to Past LYV (Donohue Pass eligible) and Lyell Canyon (Donohue Pass eligible).
Demand for permits to hike the John Muir Trail (JMT) increased dramatically since 2000. From 2011 to 2015, the number of JMT permits requested doubled. The trail’s rising popularity strained the traditional methods that hikers use to access the JMT. The increased number of JMT hikers made it difficult for non-JMT hikers to get wilderness permits for other trails within Yosemite National Park. Also during this same time, natural and cultural resources in the Sunrise Creek and Lyell Canyon areas were degraded. Finally, some wilderness campsites along the JMT in Yosemite saw a sharp increase in overnight users, which made it more difficult to experience solitude.
To protect access for other hikers and preserve the quality of the JMT experience, Yosemite National Park implemented an exit quota in 2015. The exit quota helps the park address concerns about access and protection of natural and cultural resources. The quota limits the number of hikers exiting the Yosemite Wilderness over Donohue Pass to 45 per day.
Wilderness trailhead quotas were not reduced. The exit quota helps restore traditional wilderness use patterns, balance access for JMT hikers with non-JMT hikers in the Yosemite Wilderness, and reduce physical and social impacts. Additionally, the quota allows Yosemite National Park to collect visitor use and impact data along the JMT.
Yosemite National Park only issues wilderness permits valid for exiting Yosemite via the John Muir Trail over Donohue Pass for up to 45 people per day. Of these, 20 are available for the Happy Isles to Past LYV (Donohue Pass eligible) trailhead and 25 are available for permits using the Lyell Canyon (Donohue Pass eligible) trailhead. For those using the Happy Isles to Past LYV trailhead, please note that the first night's camp can not be in Little Yosemite Valley.
If you begin your JMT hike outside Yosemite and end in Yosemite, your wilderness permit will not be valid for hiking Half Dome.
Pacific Crest Trail
Pacific Crest Trail long-distance hikers with a valid interagency PCT long-distance permit issued by the Pacific Crest Trail Association do not need an additional wilderness permit in order to camp in the Yosemite Wilderness while along the Pacific Crest Trail. However, if you plan to hike elsewhere in Yosemite (off of the Pacific Crest Trail) and camp overnight, you will need to get a separate wilderness permit. PCT long-distance permits are also not valid to ascend the Half Dome cables or visit Yosemite Valley.
Long-term parking for the length of your trip is available in Yosemite for no additional fee. No reservations are necessary. Parking is available both in Yosemite Valley and in Tuolumne Meadows. Food lockers are available at all trailhead parking areas as well. Consider arriving to Yosemite via public transportation to avoid parking issues. Parking can be difficult to find in busier areas except in early morning or late afternoon.
There is no public transportation available between Whitney Portal and Yosemite, the southern and northern terminuses of the John Muir Trail. However, Eastern Sierra Transit provides bus service from Lone Pine (the nearest town to Mount Whitney) to Mammoth Lakes. The YARTS Highway 120 East bus provides service from Mammoth Lakes to Yosemite Valley.
Food Storage and Bear Canisters
Allowed bear canisters are required throughout Yosemite National Park. Hanging food is not permitted anywhere in Yosemite. There are no exceptions for Pacific Crest Trail through-hikers. Food lockers are available at Little Yosemite Valley, High Sierra Camps, and Tuolumne Meadows Backpackers' Campground, but not elsewhere. (Read more about food storage.)
You can rent a bear canister for the duration of your hike at any wilderness permit station.
Ranger stations do not accept food packages.
Post offices in Yosemite Valley (all year) and Tuolumne Meadows (approximately mid-June through mid-September) accept food packages mailed care of General Delivery. Mark packages with "hold for hiker until [date]." Packages not so marked will be held for 14 days. Packages containing food should be marked so that postal employees will store it properly. Please do not send perishables. Private delivery companies (e.g., UPS, FedEx) do not deliver to general delivery addresses.
To address a general delivery package, include the name of the recipient, c/o General Delivery, Yosemite, CA 95389 (for Yosemite Valley) or Tuolumne Meadows, CA 95389 (for Tuolumne Meadows).
You can purchase food and camping supplies in Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows.
Last updated: March 24, 2023