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Half Dome Permits: March 1 is Your First Day to Reserve One for May or June Climbs

Want to hike to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite in May or June? Tuesday (March 1) is the first day to apply for a permit, which is required 7 days a week in 2011.

Here's what we've learned by digging around on the reservation site at

When does the process begin? At 10 a.m. Eastern (7 a.m. Pacific) on March 1.

Where do I obtain a permit? By visiting the Half Dome page of

What hiking dates are available? Dates in May and June only. Dates in other months will be available later in the year. Permits for dates in July, for example, will be available April 1. For August, reservations begin May 1—always 3 months of lead time.

What do permits cost? A nonrefundable $1.50 processing fee. None of the fee goes to Yosemite.

How many people can be included on a permit? Four. To include more people, you will need to apply for an additional permit.

What is the first day Half Dome's cables will be up? May 27 is the first date in 2011 permits are being offered. However, there is no guarantee the cables will be up by that date. A park official tells me the cables did not go up in 2010 until mid-June. On the other hand, I visited in 2008 and the cables were up that year in mid-May. If you reserve a permit for May 27 (or any other early-season date) and the cables are not in place, you will not receive a replacement permit and your processing fee will not be refunded. So yes, reserving an early-season permit is a gamble.

How many permits are available each day? 400 total: 300 for day hikers, 100 for backpackers. Backpackers must request a Half Dome permit when securing their wilderness permit for a backcountry trip.

Are any last-second options available? People may cancel their permits. (The park encourages permit-holders who cannot make the trip on the day they have reserved their permits to cancel, which will make their spaces available again.) People can seek a permit until midnight of the day before they want to make the hike at

Must I carry a physical permit? Our park official tells us it's preferred that people carry a printout of their permit. But since reservations can be made up to midnight the day before, that won't always be possible. That leaves 2 options:

1. Visit the Wilderness Center in Yosemite Valley and rangers, "if not busy, may be able to print a permit for them," our Yosemite official says.

2. The park plans to have a ranger stationed each day at the base of Half Dome, known as the subdome. The ranger will be equipped with a BlackBerry (prretty amazing, huh?), and a list of permit-holders will be downloaded to that device each morning. If anyone arrives at the bottom of the cables without a physical permit, the ranger can search the names of the permit-holders for that day.

What if I just want to walk to the base of Half Dome and go no farther? "There is no need to have a permit while on the trail up to Half Dome because anyone can walk to the base of the subdome without a permit," our park official says. "It's when you pass the subdome that you will be asked for a permit."

What if I don't have internet access? Permits can be reserved by phone by calling 877-444-6777. "We do suggest that people use the internet to make a reservation however," says our official. "It has proven to be much quicker and the chances of getting a permit online versus over the phone are higher."

Got any tips for increasing the odds of obtaining a permit? "The best way to make a reservation is by doing so on the website, rather than trying to call in," the park official says. "We suggest to people that they make themselves familiar with the website prior to the day of sale. Also, they should make a profile in advance to making a reservation. When the time comes to purchase the permit, then they can simply push the 'reserve' button rather than having to fill out their information before reserving the permit."

When is the last day the cables are up? Traditionally, Columbus Day, which in 2011 is Oct. 10.

Why have permits at all? Crowding on the cables. Yosemite says an average of 800 people used the cables on weekends in past years, creating people-jams along the steep route to the summit that were unnerving to some visitors. Park officials say the permit system is an interim solution and long-term options for managing the route are under review. 


Posted on at 1:59 PM

Tagged: Half Dome,, Yosemite and permits

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Every single permit for the entire month was gone in the first 30 minutes...

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My friends got our permits this morning for June 24! So excited... and intimidated =)


I was lucky enough to get a permit for myself for June 5th. Yeah! And, as expected, folks on Craigslist are already selling them.

T.D. Wood Staff Member

Wow, a month's worth of permits gone in 30 minutes. So set your sties on permits for July, which will be available on April 1at 10 a.m. ET (7 a.m. PT). Take note of the tips the park official shared with me for landing a permit: 1) Get familiar with the reservation site before April 1, and 2) fill out all the required personal data in advance to save time; you'll just need to click "reserve" when the reservation window opens. Good luck to everyone.


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