How to Get a Yosemite Wilderness Permit

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

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

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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12 replies on “How to Get a Yosemite Wilderness Permit”
  1. says: Veronique Shoemaker

    We are visiting Yosemite for the first time with five children in August! Actually, it will be our first time ever in the state of California. We are traveling down the California coast and visiting a lot of the national parks and many adventures along the way like Alcatraz, the missions, swimming the ocean, and visiting Chinatown in San Francisco! We of course picked up our national park pass last August which is still good through all of this August! We would love to hear what we should not miss in these parks! Thanks for sharing with us!

    1. says: Tricia

      We are doing this trip too this year. We will be heading up the coast in July. I will post updates and tips as we travel, so keep checking the blog. 🙂

  2. says: Felix

    Hi Tricia!
    I am planning my trip for Septembre. I would love to get a wilderness permit for the 9th of September as I am planning to stay in Clouds Rest overnight. From what I understand from the Yosemite Website, I can send my fax on the 24th of March (as indicated in the “first day to fax” column).
    Would I maximise my chances if I send my application on the 24th of March at 12:01AM? What time and date would you recommend?
    I am coming from France, so would really make sure to get this permit!

    1. says: Tricia

      Felix- According to everything I have read, permit requests are processed randomly on the day they are chosen, in your case March 25. So as long as you submit your application on the 24th, you have equal chance of getting your requested permit as everyone else who submitted. That being said, I applied for two Yosemite Wilderness permits for this summer. The first one I sent right at 12:01 and I got it. Yay! The second I sent on the morning of the day to submit, and I didn’t. Boo. Maybe that is just by chance, but I will be sending in at 12:01 from now on. Good luck getting your permit!

      1. says: Felix

        Hi Tricia,
        Thanks for the quick reply! Will definitely send it at 12:01 AM then. Anything to maximise my chances!
        All the best,


  3. says: Caroline

    I am crazy excited for our two week trip this summer. I can only imagine how excited you are for 10 weeks. That would be a dream. I’ll settle for living vicariously through your Instagram pictures. 🙂

  4. says: Caroline

    Yosemite is gorgeous! Seeing the sequoia trees is a must but if you are going to Sequoia NP then you can skip it here. Aside from the incredible hiking, which it sounds like you have covered, we rented bikes from the shop in Curry Village and spent the day riding around the valley floor. We stopped and did all the short hikes that are accessible that way. The valley floor is super crowded so biking is a very efficient way to get around. The Merced River is really calm and we rented a raft and spent an afternoon floating down the river. We stopped several times at beaches for the kids to play. My kids were much younger than yours are now but we absolutely loved this float trip. The views from the river are pretty spectacular. No matter what you do you will have an amazing time. You can’t really go wrong in Yosemite.

    1. says: Tricia

      Caroline- you’ve made me even more excited to visit Yosemite! I will definitely look into biking in the Valley. That is such a great idea! The anticipation is killing me. 😉

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