Wilderness Permits Frequently Asked Questions

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Wilderness Permits

How do I get a wilderness permit in winter?

Wilderness permits are available by self-registration at the nearest permit issuing station for all trailheads.

How do I get a wilderness permit for summer?

The process for making a wilderness permit reservation has changed. Reservations are now available on Recreation.gov. You can find all the details on our wilderness permit page.

When can I get a wilderness permit reservation?

You can get a wilderness permit or reservation during three different periods:

Can I self-register for a permit if I arrive after hours?

During summer, no. We only issue permits during open hours, so we can give the latest conditions updates. Self-registration permits are available in winter (November to April) at the Big Oak Flat Information Station, Wawona Visitor Center, and Badger Pass Ranger Station. Self-registration permits at the Valley Visitor Center (in front of building) during winter.

Half Dome Permits

When and how do I apply for a permit to day-hike Half Dome?

Most Half Dome permits are available via a preseason lottery in March. If you do not obtain a permit through this preseason lottery, you can apply via the daily lottery two days before your intended hike while the cables are up (approximately late May to mid-October).

I have a day hiking permit for Half Dome and I want to camp part way up. How do I do that?

Little Yosemite Valley is a designated backpackers campground about 2,000 feet above Yosemite Valley's floor and just under four miles from the trailhead. You can get a wilderness permit that allows you to camp, but you must hike Half Dome on date specified on your Half Dome permit. This is the most popular wilderness trip in the park: permits are difficult to get, so plan accordingly.

Can I hike Half Dome on a wilderness backpacking trip?

Yes. Wilderness permits starting from specified trailheads are eligible for Half Dome permits. This is the most popular wilderness trip in the park: permits are difficult to get, so plan accordingly.

Can I hike to the top of Half Dome using a Pacific Crest Trail permit?

No. You must get a separate wilderness permit to deviate from the Pacific Crest Trail while in Yosemite. You can try for a combined wilderness and Half Dome permit from the Yosemite Valley or Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Centers beginning at 11 am the day before you plan to depart from Tuolumne Meadows.

Wilderness Permits for the John Muir Trail

How do I obtain a Donohue Pass permit if I plan to hike the John Muir Trail?

A wilderness permit is required for both through-hiking the John Muir Trail and walking over Donohue Pass. Donohue Pass permits may be attached by reservation only to wilderness permits for the Happy Isles Past LYV (Donohue Pass eligible) or Lyell Canyon (Donohue Pass eligible) trailheads.

Are John Muir Trail reservations managed as a lottery?

Yes. Due to extremely high demand, many John Muir Trail through-hike permit applications are denied. For a typical summer day, the park receives at least 300 to 500 reservation requests. Of those requests, approximately 80% to 90% are for the John Muir Trail while the other 10% to 20% are for all other routes in the park. Because of this, up to 90% of JMT requests are denied on popular days..

Wilderness in Winter

Do I need a wilderness permit in winter?

Yes. Wilderness permits are required year round in Yosemite.

How do I get a winter wilderness permit?

Wilderness permits, which are required for all overnight wilderness trips in Yosemite, are available at the Big Oak Flat Information Station (front porch), Yosemite Valley Visitor Center (located outside behind the building), Badger Pass Ranger Station (self-registration, unstaffed); approximately mid-December through March), Wawona Visitor Center (front porch), Hetch Hetchy Entrance Station, and Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Center (front porch). You must register at the station closest to your starting point.

Am I required to use a bear canister in the winter in Yosemite?

Bear canisters are required all year, but there is a limited exception in the winter. If you're skiing or snowshoeing above 7,200 feet or above 6,800 feet and within a ½ mile of a marked ski trail, between December 15 and March 30, you're not required to use a bear canister. During this time, it's still strongly recommended that you store your food in a bear canister, as some bears remain active all winter. Bear canisters are available for rent at the Valley Visitor Center. If you don't use a bear canister, you are required to hang your food at least 10 feet above the ground and 4 feet horizontally from a tree trunk.

Where can I rent a bear canister in winter?

Bear canisters are available for rent at the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center (open 9 am to 5 pm).

Where can I return my rented bear canister?

If you rent a bear canister from the Valley Visitor Center, we encourage you to return it there between 9 am and 5 pm. Otherwise, 24-hour drop bins are available at the Valley Wilderness Center (near the visitor center), Wawona Visitor Center, Big Oak Flat Information Station, and Hetch Hetchy Entrance Station.

Can I return bear canisters outside the park?

If you leave the park with a bear canister, mail it to Yosemite Conservancy, PO Box 545, Yosemite, CA 95389. You can place the mailing label directly on the side of the canister (not the top or bottom).

Do I have to put used toilet paper in the bear canister?

While you must pack out toilet paper, you do not have to store used toilet paper in a bear canister. However, if you have put used toilet paper in a bag that has once held food or contains food trash, then you must store it in a bear canister.

Are wilderness permit rules any different in winter?

Wilderness permit rules are the same throughout the year, with the limited exception of the food storage regulations noted above.

How do I stay at Ostrander Ski Hut?

The Ostrander Ski Hut is closed during the 2021–2022 winter season due to public health and operational concerns.

I have a reservation to stay at Ostrander Ski Hut and want to leave early in the morning. How do I get a permit if I arrive before the Badger Pass Ranger Station is open?

The Ostrander Ski Hut is closed during the 2021–2022 winter season due to public health and operational concerns.

What are the current snow and avalanche conditions?

Whenever you enter a wilderness area, you are responsible for your own safety and should be prepared and experienced for the conditions you will encounter. Yosemite does not provide avalanche conditions. For snowpack information, see the California Cooperative Snow Survey page. The Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center, operating out of Mammoth Lakes, can provide general avalanche risk for the area.

Where can I wilderness camp in winter?

In general, winter backpackers must camp at least one mile from a plowed road. Camping is not allowed within 1½ miles of the Yosemite Ski and Snowboard area (formerly Badger Pass Ski Area) boundary. Camping is also not allowed at Summit Meadow, Dewey Point, or Glacier Point (camping is permitted near both points, but not at the points themselves).

Camping is not allowed in the Tuolumne and Merced Groves. Camping is allowed in the Mariposa Grove from December 1 to April 15 when the Mariposa Grove Road is closed, and only above the Clothespin Tree. (A wilderness permit is required.)

What trails are closed in winter?

The Four Mile Trail, and sections of the John Muir and Mist Trails, are normally the only trails closed during winter (portions of the John Muir and Mist Trails remain open, so it's still possible to hike to the tops of Vernal and Nevada Falls and to Little Yosemite Valley, though these trails are often snowy or icy). Additionally, the Half Dome cables are down from approximately mid-October to late May.

Trails in Yosemite may be closed when there are hidden hazards or when they are impassable due to rock fall, snow, ice, or fire. Open trails aren't necessarily free of hazards--by entering the wilderness, you assume responsibility for your safety and must use good judgment.

Check for winter trail closures before your trip.

Last updated: June 2, 2022

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