You can get a wilderness permit or reservation during three different periods:
Sixty percent of reservations are available by reservation. Normally, forty percent of wilderness permits are available on a first-come, first-served basis at park wilderness centers. Instead, this portion of wilderness permit reservations are available online (see below).
The processing fee is $10 per application. If you receive a wilderness permit, an additional fee of $5 per person applies. These fees are non-refundable and non-transferable.
You can only apply once per weekly lottery. While there isn't an annual limit on the number of confirmed reservations you can have, you can only have six active (i.e., future) reservations at any given time.
Wilderness permits are required all year, but reservations are only available for trips May through October.
The Yosemite Conservancy Wilderness Office processes all permit reservation applications. Its hours are Monday through Friday, 9 am to 4 pm. The office is closed from the third week of October until mid-November, on federal holidays, and for lunch (noon to 1 pm).
How to Make a Reservation
Reservations are available from 24 weeks to seven days in advance on Recreation.gov. You must sign up for an account before making a reservation. Reservations are first available by lottery. After the lottery, all remaining reservations are available on a first-come, first-served basis until seven days in advance. Unused reservations are added to the 40% of permits available one week in advance (see below).
In order to have your best chance of success, apply for a wilderness permit is through the weekly lottery that runs 24 weeks in advance. The lottery application period is every Sunday through Saturday from November 14, 2021, through May 7, 2022.
During each weekly application period, you can apply for any start dates from the Saturday through the Friday of the open period (24 weeks in advance). All applicants receive results on the following Monday and those who were successful must accept and pay by Thursday. Failure to accept and pay by Thursday will result in the reservation being canceled without a refund.
Twelve days after the lottery application period begins for any given week (i.e., the Friday 22 weeks in advance), reservations for all trailheads that still have space become available (until seven days in advance) at 9 am PT. Any later cancellations become available immediately.
For the 2022 season, the remaining 40% of trailhead quotas will be released on a first-come, first-served basis on Recreation.gov seven days in advance at 7 am PDT. Popular trailheads will fill very quickly; be logged on and ready to reserve promptly at 7 am PDT seven days in advance of your desired start date. The latest you can make a reservation is three days before a trip (although, few reservations will be available at that point). For example, to start a trip on a Saturday, the earliest you could make a reservation would be the prior Saturday, and you would be able to make a reservation until Wednesday at 11:59 pm. The first on-sale date will be April 22, 2022 (for an April 29 start date) and the last will be October 16, 2022 (for an October 23 start date).
The trip leader or alternate must pick up the wilderness permit in person at a wilderness center one day in advance (8 am to 5 pm) or on the same day (8 am to 11 am, unless held on Recreation.gov for a late arrival up to 5 pm). A reservation confirmation letter is not a valid permit.
Any unreserved permits will be available in person at wilderness centers only on the start date of the trip. Few, if any, unused permits will be available on any given day. You must arrive at a wilderness center during business hours to get a permit. All wilderness centers operate from 8 am to 5 pm. After-hours permits will not be available. In order to get a same-day permit, you must be in the park either by reservation or by entering during non-peak hours.
In-person permits are only available for same-day starts due to reduced capacity in backpackers campgrounds (as a result of the Tuolumne Meadows Campground closure).
Overnight Big Wall Climbers
A wilderness permit is required for all overnight big wall climbers. During this pilot, wilderness permits for climbers are free and there are no quotas or limits on the number of permits available. The pilot is helping climbing rangers better understand use patterns on big walls. The pilot also increases compliance with existing regulations (e.g., proper disposal of waste) and minimize impacts to wilderness character through improved education.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does the reservation lottery work?
The lottery application period is seven days (Sunday through Saturday each week). You can specify up to eight options on each application, which can include any combination of dates (or valid date ranges), trailheads, and group sizes.
During the application period, you can apply any time from midnight Sunday to 11:59 pm Saturday Pacific time. When you apply during the application period has no effect on your chances of success.
Recreation.gov randomly selects applications and then run through each option in the order they were added until the application is successful or until it has determined space is not available for any options.Although the application process has changed, Yosemite Conservancy wilderness staff still reviews all permits to ensure the applicant is complying with wilderness regulations. Please pay close attention to your application status, as Yosemite Conservancy staff may contact you to fix errors on your application.
How many alternate trip leaders can I have?
You can include up to three alternate trip leaders when you make a reservation. If applying for a reservation through the lottery (24 weeks in advance), you must add your alternate trip leaders when you submit your lottery application. For all reservations, you must include your alternates before you make payment.
Reservations are non-transferable and it's not possible to add or change trip leader(s). The trip leader or one of the listed alternates must pick up the wilderness permit in person. Be sure to add other trip participants when you make the reservation in case the trip leader is not able to make the trip.
Can I be a trip leader and an alternate in the same lottery window?
No. Each trip may only have one applicant per group planning to travel together. Groups applying together will be pulled from the lottery.
Is there a limit to how many permit reservations I can make?
You are limited to one application per weekly lottery window and six future reservations at any time.
How does the Donohue Pass exit quota work?
An additional quota applies to backpackers exiting the park on the John Muir Trail over Donohue Pass. Permits with a Donohue Pass exit is only be available for those with a permit for Happy Isles past LYV (Donohue Pass eligible) or Lyell Canyon (Donohue Pass eligible). If you want to include Donohue Pass (or beyond) in your trip, your entry trailhead must be one of these two trailheads.
The quota for Donohue Pass exits is 45 people:
These are the only two trailheads that provide access to the full John Muir Trail beyond Yosemite.
How do Half Dome permits for backpackers work?
If you want to hike to the top of Half Dome as part of your overnight wilderness trip, you can add Half Dome permits for all or some members of your group if your trip begins from the following trailheads:
You do not need to reserve this in advance; you can simply add it upon request when you pick up your wilderness permit if your permit is for one of these entry trailheads. The cost is an additional $10 per person (paid when you pick up your permits). These Half Dome permits are only available for overnight backpackers and are not valid for day hikers.
What if I want to hike Half Dome as part of a wilderness trip that doesn’t include one of the Half Dome-eligible trailheads?
You can apply for Half Dome permits using the lottery for day hikers. You may use a Half Dome permit for day hiking with any wilderness permit.
How do I maximize my chances of getting a reservation?
Reservations for many trailheads have typically been full the first day they have become available due to extremely high—and increasing—demand. If possible, consider midweek start dates and less popular trailheads. Be sure to prioritize your application with the dates or trailheads that can work for you. If you are unsuccessful the first week, you can apply to the next lottery window.
If you are planning to hike the John Muir Trail, consider including both trailheads that allow for a Donohue Pass exit and all seven date options on your lottery application.
Can I get a reservation after the lottery has run?
Yes, possibly. Any dates and trailheads that were not reserved in the lottery are available on Recreation.gov starting 12 days (Friday) after the lottery application period starts and until seven days before the start date. The remaining 40% of trailhead quotas are released on a first-come, first-served basis on Recreation.gov seven days in advance at 7 am PDT.
What information is collected when applying for a reservation?
We collect trip leader information and entry trailhead information when you apply for the lottery. If you are awarded a reservation, we will then ask for your exit trailheads and dates and your intended camp locations for each night. You are not limited to these camp locations (except for those trailheads that have a required first-night camp location). You can view a map showing each of the itinerary locations to help you fill out the application.
What are the fees for wilderness permit reservations?
The reservation fee is $10 per application. If you receive a wilderness permit, an additional fee of $5 per person applies. These fees are non-refundable.
How have first-come, first-served walk-up permits changed?
During 2022, 40% of trailhead quotas will be released on a first-come, first-served basis on Recreation.gov seven days in advance at 7 am PDT. The fee is $10 per group (permit) and $5 per person during the reservation season..
From approximately November through April each year, wilderness permits will be available as usual, without reservations or fees, at designated self-registration or issuing stations.
Why does Yosemite have a permit review process?
The Yosemite wilderness permit system is complex. We are committed to providing excellent service, with Yosemite Conservancy continuing to review all reservations for accuracy and appropriateness and answering emails and phone calls. If staff finds a discrepancy on your application, you will receive a call or email so that you have an opportunity to clarify your plans or edit your application. The review period is brief, so it’s important that you carefully research and plan a realistic trip before submitting your application. If you have trip ideas and want to clarify which trailheads to use on your application, you can contact the reservation help desk at yosemite.org/wildcontact. (Please allow two days for a reply.)
Why was my reservation cancelled after I accepted?
Yosemite Conservancy reviewed your reservation, found issues with your itinerary, and attempted to contact you. Yosemite Conservancy was unable to reach you before the deadline or you didn’t correct the issues, so your reservation was canceled. Application and reservation fees are non-refundable.
Once I’ve made a reservation can I change the trip leader?
No. Once you have submitted your lottery application or made your reservation, you may not change the trip leader or alternates. You can only add as an alternate during the application process. Before submitting your application or making a reservation, please give careful consideration about whether you and your alternate trip leader(s) can commit to your trip. We strongly encourage you to list at least one alternate if you are hiking with someone else.
Once I’ve made a reservation, can I change it?
Once your reservation is confirmed, you can change your exit date or exit trailhead (you can also change these when you pick up your permit). On a confirmed permit, you can change the group size or starting trailhead if space is available. You may not change the entry date or trip leader. If you need to change trip leader or alternate or your start date, you will need to create a new reservation if space is available. All fees are non-refundable.
Can I get a refund?
No. Both application and reservation fees for wilderness permits are non-refundable.
I have a reservation! Now what?
Once you have accepted and paid for your reservation, you don’t need to do anything else other than pick up your wilderness permit in person at a wilderness center in Yosemite the day of or the day before your start date. If you will arrive later than 11 am on your start date, you must hold your permit for late arrival, or your reservation will be cancelled. To do this, log into your Recreation.gov account (not more than one week ahead), open the reservation, choose the option to modify the reservation, and select “Yes” for late arrival. (This option is not available until one week before the start date.) Then, you must pick up your permit in person during open hours at any Yosemite permit issuing station and begin hiking on the start date indicated on the permit.
Do I need to apply for permits in winter?
No. While trailhead quotas are in place all year, reservations are not required from approximately November through April. Permits are still be available for free by self-registration.
Are wilderness climbing permits a part of this system?
No. Wilderness climbing permits are a pilot program and not part of this system.
Last updated: January 20, 2023