Mark your calendars — delayed due to some website difficulties, the annual Half Dome summit permit applications will begin on March 13th at 7:00 am PDT. Permits are required for all day hikers and backpackers wishing to climb up the Half Dome cables to the summit.
Permits to hike to the top of Half Dome are required seven days a week when the cables are up. The cables are normally up from Memorial Day weekend (late May) to Columbus Day (early October) — Yosemite rangers are currently planning on the Half Dome cables being up May 24, 2019 through October 15, 2019, but these dates could change based on conditions. A maximum of 300 hikers are allowed (about 225 day hikers and 75 backpackers) each day on the Half Dome Trail beyond the base of the subdome.
Permits for day hikers are distributed by lottery via Recreation.gov, with the preseason lottery having an application period from March 13th to March 31st this year, in addition to daily lotteries during the hiking season. Backpackers—including those who plan to spend the night in Little Yosemite Valley—should apply for Half Dome permits with their wilderness permit rather than using this lottery process.
During this preseason lottery, 225 permits are available for each day. Applicants will receive an email with lottery results in mid-April or can get results online or by calling Recreation.gov. On each preseason lottery application, an applicant can apply for up to six permits (six people) and for specific dates or a range of dates. Each applicant may apply as a permit holder or alternate only once per lottery (that is, a person’s name may appear on only one application, as either a permit holder or alternate). Be aware that anyone applying multiple times as a permit holder/alternate permit holder will have all their lottery applications canceled.
For those who live near enough to Yosemite to have some flexibility, these graphs show how popular different days are. In general, your chances of success are higher on weekdays (especially beginning at the end of August). For the entire 2018 season, average success rate on weekdays was 47%, but only 24% on weekends.
In addition to the preseason permits, approximately 50 permits are available each day by lottery during the hiking season. These permits are available based on the estimated rate of under-use and cancellation of permits (the exact number may change through the summer). The daily lotteries have an application period two days prior to the hiking date with a notification late that night. (So, to hike on Saturday, you would apply on Thursday and receive an email notification of results late on Thursday night. Results are also available online, or by phone the next morning.) The application period is from midnight to 1 pm Pacific time.
To apply for a permit, visit Recreation.gov or call 877/444-6777 (call center is open from 7 am to 9 pm Pacific time; online requests can be made any time during a lottery period). Two separate fees are collected. The first fee, which is charged at the time you submit an application, is $10. This non-refundable fee, which is per application (not per person), is charged by Recreation.gov for the costs of processing your permit application. The second fee is $10 per person and is charged only when you receive a permit.