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Do I Need a Permit?

Nearly 95 percent of Yosemite National Park is designated Wilderness. Wilderness is a special distinction granted by Congress protecting land from further development. The best way to experience the 1,100 square miles of the Yosemite Wilderness is to explore it first hand.

A wilderness permit is required to camp in the backcountry of Yosemite National Park.

Free wilderness permits are required year-round for any overnight stay in the Yosemite Wilderness. Permits are not required for day hikes, except for Half Dome.

Trailhead Quota System

Yosemite National Park has a trailhead quota system limiting the number of people entering a particular trailhead on a given day. This system is designed to reduce impacts and to avoid overcrowding, in keeping with the Wilderness Act’s mandate of providing “outstanding opportunities for solitude.” Of each daily quota for a trailhead, 60 percent can be reserved ahead of time while the remaining 40 percent is available on a first-come, first-served basis one day prior to, or the same day as, the beginning of your hike. Reservations are highly recommended. 

The quota system is 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 hike to another section of the Wilderness without restriction. For this reason, even if you have a permit lasting for several days, you may not begin your trip on any day except the first day your permit is valid. 

View a list of quotas for each trailhead.

How to Make a Wilderness Permit Reservation

Applications for wilderness permit reservations are processed by lottery 24 weeks (168 days) in advance of your desired hiking date mid-November through October. For the best change of getting your desired dates, submit your application as early as possible. You can apply later than 24 weeks prior to your desired hiking date, but all reservations for popular trailheads are often issued by the lottery. 

The cost for each confirmed reservation is $5 plus $5 per person. This fee is non-refundable and non-transferable.

Make sure to thoroughly plan your itinerary before you make a reservation. It is your responsibility to research trails and trail conditions to decide which trip is right for you and your group. Park rangers will not plan your trip for you.

If you are applying less than 24 weeks in advance, before making a reservation, check availability. If the date or trailhead isn’t listed, space is available for at least one person (but not necessarily for your entire group).

Even with a reservation, you, or another member of your hiking group, must pick up the wilderness permit at any permit station during business hours the day of, or the day before, your hike.

Reserved permits are held until 10 a.m. on the day of your trip, If they are not picked up by 10 a.m., or a request for a late pick up is not called in, your permit reservation will be canceled.

To make a reservation have the name the permit will be under, mailing address, daytime telephone number, number of people, number of stock (horses, mules, llamas), start and end dates, beginning and ending trailheads, principal destination (to help clarify trailhead) and method of payment ($5 plus $5/person) at the ready. 

The best way to make a wilderness permit reservation is to fill out the Yosemite Wilderness Permit Request Form online. 

Half Dome Permits

Hiking Half Dome as part of an overnight or day hiking trip requires a special Half Dome Permit. For backpacking trips, this can be applied for as part of your wilderness permit application. For day hikes, see our Half Dome Survival Guide

John Muir Trail

If you’re planning to hike the John Muir Trail out of Yosemite, you’ll need to apply for the Donohue Pass exit quota on your wilderness permit application. 

Reservation Changes

If space is available within the same season, you can request a change to your existing reservation’s date or trailhead for a $5 processing fee by calling (209)-372-0740.

First-Come, First-Served Permits

Permits are also available at any permit issuing station starting at 11 a.m. the day before your desired hiking date. Priority for permits for a particular trailhead is given to the closest permit issuing station, though it is possible to obtain a permit for any trailhead at any permit issuing station. This mainly affects the most popular trailheads that fill up quickly each morning, such as Little Yosemite Valley trailheads, Lyell Canyon and Cathedral Lakes.

From November through April, permits are available without a reservation.

You can find current wilderness center hours on the wilderness conditions update.

Backpackers’ Campgrounds

Wilderness permit holders may spend one night prior to, and one night after, a backpacking trip in designated backpackers’ campgrounds in Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows with no reservation needed. Camping fees are $6 per person. 

See complete Permit-Related information for Yosemite National Park.