half dome glacier point

Project Half Dome: Permits Secured

By Heather

All the time we’ve been planning our Half Dome hike this summer, we’ve also known that it could be for nothing if we didn’t get the permits we needed.

Huzzah! It wasn’t for nothing! I returned to work after a week of vacation to find an email from Yosemite saying we’re all set! Nothing I’ve done to prepare makes it feel as real as this. We’re going!

Getting permits

Half Dome is a hugely, hugely popular hike, so Yosemite restricts the number of climbing permits every year. I knew we had a decent enough chance, since we had one preferred date and two alternates, all on weekdays.

The process for obtaining a permit when you’re backpacking in the wilderness is a little different from the cable lottery in a few respects:

  • The Half Dome permit attached to a wilderness permit is undated. You can go anytime when you’re out there on your wilderness permit. Cable lottery permits for day hikers are only for a specific date.
  • You request the wilderness permit and the Half Dome permit at the same time. There’s no risk here if the Half Dome permits aren’t available: You just check a box asking them not to process anything if that’s the case.

Tips for a successful application

If you’re planning the Half Dome trek, my suggestions to you would be:

  • Do your hike on a weekday, if possible. Your chances of getting a permit on Friday through Sunday are not great.
  • Request your wilderness permits or the Half Dome cable permits (if you’re day hiking) the very second reservations open.
  • Pay attention to the dates that things open! The process for wilderness permits opens sooner than Half Dome lottery permits, for example, so know when you need to pounce. Not everything opens up at the same time. I set up calendar alerts for this process with links contained in the details section so I didn’t lose time looking for information or forms.
  • If there are any people in your party who may or may not climb, don’t make them the trip leader on your application. For permits to be valid, the trip leader has to be there, so make it someone who is reliable and definitely will be climbing.
  • If you’re planning to stay in Yosemite beyond just climbing Half Dome, make your lodging reservations the day they open, which is usually one year and one day in advance. Although the park suggests calling for the most up to date inventory, I made a reservation at Housekeeping Camp (our favorite!) online and had zero problems.
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