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How to Get a Yosemite Wilderness Permit

Even though it is months away, I have been BUSY planning our upcoming summer road trip. And that’s because every single National Park has a unique system for awarding backpacking and wilderness permits, with different dates you can apply and particular criteria necessary for the application. And since we will be backpacking in 7 of our amazing National Parks throughout the summer, my head is spinning trying to keep it all organized! I just faxed in the second of our two wilderness permit applications for backpacking in Yosemite National Park, and I thought it might help to share with you how to get a Yosemite wilderness permit for your own adventures.

How to Get a Yosemite Wilderness Permit – Plan in advance

Yosemite National Park is famous for it’s breathtaking scenery and amazing wilderness and as such, is an extremely popular National Park to visit and sometimes darn near impossible to get a Yosemite wilderness permit. Which in my book is an awesome problem to have. I LOVE that so many people are out spending time in the outdoors. But I definitely still wanted to get our own Yosemite wilderness permits so I made sure to keep up with the first available day I could apply for each permit. The Yosemite National Park website is very helpful and offers tons of information about the process to get a Yosemite Wilderness Permit, so I suggest you start there. Most importantly, pay close attention to the first date you can apply. For Yosemite wilderness permits, that date is 24 weeks, or 168 days in advance and the Yosemite website has a super helpful chart to identify your application date. It is important to realize that the date listed in the chart is the deadline date for your application to get a Yosemite wilderness permit, the actual date you send in your permit is the day before the date listed. I almost missed that small print! If you aren’t able to plan so far in advance, a limited number of first come-first served permits are available each day at permit issuing stations in the park.

How to Get a Yosemite Wilderness Permit – Pick the Best Route

You can increase your chances to get a Yosemite wilderness permit by picking a route with less applicants or one with more available spots. The Yosemite website has a helpful chart which displays the number of reservable spots for each trailhead. Each application lets you put three choices of trailheads/routes for the wilderness permit you are applying for so your chances of approval are increased that at least one of your choices are available. It takes about 24 hours to hear whether your application was approved, so we haven’t heard back from the application we faxed today. But we did get approved for our second choice for the application we sent in a couple of days ago and we are super excited to hike the Glen Aulin trail to Waterwheel Falls during our visit this summer! Our first choice, the more popular Cathedral Lakes Trail, must have already been full by the time park rangers processed our application. No worries, I’m thrilled with our second choice!

How to Get a Yosemite Wilderness Permit to Hike Half Dome

For our second backpacking trip during our 8 day visit, we applied to three different trails which lead to Half Dome and we are crossing our fingers we get approved! If Half Dome is on your list of must do activities while visiting Yosemite, here are some things you need to know. To climb Half Dome either as a day hike or as part of your backpacking trip, you must have a permit and getting a permit is HARD! It is by far the most popular hike in Yosemite National Park, and to combat crowding, the park service limits the number of hikers each day to 300 people, 225 day hikers and 75 backpackers. Day hikers can apply through this process and backpackers apply as part of their wilderness application. There are also about 50 spots available each day as part of a daily lottery system. If you are flexible about which day of the week you can hike Half Dome, you greatly increase your chances of getting your permit approved with Saturday being far and away the most popular day to hike. An interesting chart showing Half Dome lottery statistics based date and on the day of the week is available here. Like I said, our fingers are crossed that our application is approved! I will keep you posted.

How to Get a Yosemite Wilderness Permit – Things You Need to Know to Apply

The most efficient method of applying to get a Yosemite wilderness permit is by faxing your application to 209-372-0739. Don’t forget, you can fax it in any time the day before the first day you can apply to get a Yosemite wilderness permit. Before filling out the application, you must know the number of people hiking with you, the date you want to hike, the trailhead you want to leave from and where you will camp the first night out. If Half Dome is part of your trip plan, you can check the appropriate box on the permit application. Wilderness permit fees are $5 per permit plus $5 per person hiking on the permit. To climb Half Dome, there is an additional $8 fee per person. Once you apply, you can plan on finding out if your application was approved sometime the next day. We got our acceptance email about 4 PM Eastern for our first hike.

So there you go! Now you know how to get a Yosemite wilderness permit to hike in some of the most amazing landscapes in the world. If you need help picking which hikes to apply for, check out Lonely Planet Yosemite, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks which I found very helpful. I am giddy with excitement and CAN NOT wait until our road trip this summer!

Have you been to Yosemite National Park? This summer will be out first visit! What activities are not to be missed in the park?

Happy Travels!


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