Wilderness Permits

A wilderness permit is required year-round for backpacking, overnight climbing, or any other overnight stay in the Yosemite Wilderness. A wilderness permit is not required for day hikes (unless hiking to Half Dome) or for staying in lodging facilities and frontcountry campgrounds.

Wilderness permits are only issued to a limited number people for each trailhead in order to provide outstanding opportunities for solitude, as required by the Wilderness Act. Since many trails are very popular, reservations are recommended. Of each daily quota for a trailhead, 60 percent can be reserved ahead of time. The remaining 40 percent are available on a first-come, first-served basis no earlier than 11 am the day before your hike begins as long as permits are available.

Trip Planning Resources

Please consult our trail descriptions to help you decide where you want to hike. Once you know where you want to start your hike and your direction of travel, use the trailheads map [1.5 MB PDF] to determine which trailhead to aply for. The trailhead information page has additional information, including quotas for each trailhead, parking information, and other details.

Wilderness Permit Reservations

The process for getting a wilderness permit reservation has changed!

Wilderness permit reservations become available by lottery 24 weeks in advance. Any remaining reservations become available on a first-come, first-served basis after the lottery process is complete for that week's reservations up until seven days in advance.

Walk-Up Wilderness Permits

May through October

From approximately May through October, unreserved permits are available on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 11 am on the day before the intended hiking date at permit issuing stations. All reservations (same day and next day) and same-day unreserved permits may still be picked up when the wilderness center opens for the day. Though popular trailheads may fill up, there is almost always space available on other trailheads in the park.

November through April

Most of Yosemite is covered in snow during winter. Before planning a wilderness trip during this time, please ensure you're prepared for winter conditions.

From November through April, wilderness permits are still required. You can get a wilderness permit the day before or day you intend to start your hike at the permit issuing station nearest the trailhead. While trailhead quotas are still in effect, most trailheads don't fill up. Bear canisters are only available for rental at the Valley Visitor Center.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Where can I camp?

The trailhead quota system limits use based on where you begin your hike, and in some cases, on where you camp the first night of your trip. After the first night, you may camp wherever you can hike to within the wilderness.

Since there are only a few designated campgrounds, you can camp anywhere you like, provided you follow all wilderness regulations. The exceptions are near the five High Sierra Camps and in the Little Yosemite Valley area, where you must you camp at the designated campgrounds.

2. Can I camp in the frontcountry the night before or after my backpacking trip?

Wilderness permit holders may spend one night prior to, and one night after, a backpacking trip in a backpackers campground (summer only; year-round at Hetch Hetchy).

3. Do I need a wilderness permit during winter?

Wilderness permits are required in winter—but reservations aren't needed from November through April. You must pick up a wilderness permit at the permit station closest to your starting point (when these permit stations are closed for the season, permits are available on a self-registration basis). Trailhead quotas are in effect during winter.

Additionally, due to increased popularity of the Snow Creek Cabin, a quota (six people per night) is in effect. (The cabin is closed during the 2021–2022 winter season.) This limit on the number of people staying at the cabin provides for visitor safety and preserves natural, cultural, and wilderness values. You must go to the Valley Visitor Center to pick up a wilderness permit (if available) and current combination for the cabin's lock. Permits are available one day in advance of your trip. Reservations are not available. The cabin is generally open during the same time as the Badger Pass Ski Area, which is typically mid-December through March (if there is enough snow for skiing). The cabin is closed at other times of the year.

4. I already have a reservation. Can I add another person?

You can add another person to your wilderness permit reservation for an additional fee if space is still available for that trailhead. To do this, log on to your Recreation.gov account and modify your reservation.

5. I'm beginning my hike outside Yosemite, but will end my hike in Yosemite. How do I get a wilderness permit?

If you are starting a hike from a trailhead located outside of Yosemite National Park, obtain your permit from the trailhead's managing agency, even if camping in Yosemite. Only one permit is required. Even if you plan to spend every night of a Wilderness trip inside Yosemite but your entry trailhead is outside Yosemite, you do not get the permit from Yosemite. If you are starting at a trailhead in Yosemite and wish to camp outside of Yosemite during your Wilderness trip, you will only need to get a single wilderness permit from Yosemite.

If your starting trailhead is outside Yosemite National Park, get your permit from the land agency that manages that trailhead. Common examples:

6. I'm beginning my hike outside Yosemite, but plan to exit the park over Donohue Pass (John Muir Trail). How do I get a wilderness permit?

Wilderness permits issued by Yosemite National Park are the only wilderness permits valid to exit Yosemite via Donohue Pass. If you are starting your trip outside of Yosemite to exit Yosemite via Donohue Pass, you'll need an additional wilderness permit issued by Yosemite National Park. The only two trailheads that allow a Donohue Pass exit are Happy Isles pass-through (Donohue Pass eligible) and Lyell Canyon (Donohue Pass eligible).

7. Is my permit valid if I leave the wilderness?

Continuous travel is a condition of a wilderness itinerary in which the user travels from a Yosemite National Park entry trailhead to the exit trailhead during the dates specified in the permit. Exiting the wilderness at any time during a wilderness itinerary invalidates the wilderness permit. In order to continue backpacking, you would need a new wilderness permit. There are two exceptions:

  • Crossing a road by means of traditional wilderness travel (by foot or with stock) in continuation of a wilderness itinerary
  • A one-night stop in the Tuolumne Meadows Backpackers Campground as part of an ongoing and continuous long-distance hiking permit. Travel by vehicle or bus at any time during a wilderness itinerary invalidates the wilderness permit. There is no such exception for Yosemite Valley. Any travel through Yosemite Valley invalidates the permit.

8. How can I talk to a wilderness ranger?

Can't find your question here? We have more answers to frequently asked questions. You can also speak to a wilderness ranger by calling 209/372-0826 (Monday through Friday, 9 am to noon and 1 to 4:30 pm, typically from March through early October).

9. Can a wilderness ranger plan this trip for me?

The Yosemite Wilderness has over 750 miles of trail to explore with a great range of elevation, ecological zones, and solitude. This backpacking trip, be it your first or fortieth, is a uniquely protected opportunity to provide maximum freedom to roam in wilderness. So, in planning a trip, it is important to find the right experience for your interests, timeframe, and abilities. A good planning process will enhance your understanding of the park and your safety. Therefore, as part of the wilderness experience, park rangers can provide general guidance but will not plan a wilderness trip for you; you must plan your own trip. Use our trailhead descriptions and other resources you've found on this site, look at maps, and get planning!

Last updated: October 26, 2021

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