Unlock the Secrets of Yosemite National Park Hiking Permits: 5 Insider Tips

Yosemite National Park is a breathtaking natural wonder, renowned for its towering granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and serene wilderness areas. To protect the delicate ecosystem and ensure a quality experience for all visitors, the National Park Service requires hikers to obtain a wilderness permit for any overnight stay in the Yosemite Wilderness. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the process of obtaining a Yosemite National Park Hiking Permit, so you can plan your dream backcountry adventure.

Understanding the Yosemite National Park Hiking Permit System

Yosemite National Park’s wilderness permit system is designed to limit the number of people accessing the park’s undeveloped areas, ensuring a more solitary and sustainable experience for all. These permits are required for any overnight stay in the Yosemite Wilderness, which encompasses the majority of the park’s backcountry areas.

The permit system operates on a trailhead quota, with a limited number of permits issued for each trailhead per day. This helps to distribute hikers and backpackers across the park, reducing the impact on any one area.

Applying for a Yosemite National Park Wilderness Permit

Yosemite National Park Hiking Permits

The process for obtaining a Yosemite National Park Wilderness Permit is as follows:

  1. Reservation Requests: From April 26 to October 20, permit reservation requests can be made from 24 weeks to three days in advance of the start of a trip. Sixty percent of the quota is released 24 weeks in advance, and the remaining 40% is released seven days in advance.

  2. Permit Pickup: Wilderness permits must be picked up in person at a Yosemite Wilderness Permit Station the day before or the day of the permit entry date, during the station’s open hours. If backpackers are unable to begin the trip on the entry date and at the trailhead assigned on their permit, the permit is no longer valid.

  3. Permit Fees: The cost for a wilderness permit is $10, which is charged at the time of application and is non-refundable. An additional $10 per person fee is charged when a permit is issued. This fee is fully refundable if the permit is cancelled by 11:59 pm Pacific time the day before the hiking date or if the cables are not up on the date for which the permit is valid.

Navigating the Yosemite Wilderness with Your Permit

Once you have your Yosemite National Park Wilderness Permit, there are a few additional considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Crossing Yosemite Valley: If your backpacking trip involves crossing through Yosemite Valley, you will need an additional wilderness permit to re-enter the wilderness.

  2. Half Dome Permits: In addition to the wilderness permit, a separate permit is required for day hikers wishing to ascend the iconic Half Dome. A maximum of 300 hikers (225 day hikers and 75 backpackers) are allowed on the Half Dome Trail each day.

  3. Permit Validity: If you are unable to begin your trip on the entry date and at the trailhead assigned on your permit, the permit is no longer valid.

Tips for Securing a Yosemite National Park Wilderness Permit

Obtaining a Yosemite National Park Wilderness Permit can be a competitive process, especially during the peak summer months. Here are some tips to increase your chances of securing a permit:

  1. Plan Ahead: The earlier you can submit your permit reservation request, the better. The 60% of permits released 24 weeks in advance tend to go quickly.

  2. Be Flexible: Consider alternative trailheads or dates if your first choice is unavailable. The more flexible you can be, the better your chances of securing a permit.

  3. Check for Cancellations: Keep an eye on the permit reservation system for any last-minute cancellations, which can sometimes open up spots.

  4. Consider Shoulder Seasons: The spring and fall shoulder seasons can be excellent times to visit Yosemite, with fewer crowds and potentially more availability for permits.


Navigating the Yosemite National Park Hiking Permit system may seem daunting at first, but with a little planning and flexibility, you can unlock the park’s stunning wilderness areas and create unforgettable memories. By understanding the permit requirements and following the tips outlined in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to an incredible Yosemite backcountry adventure.


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