Permit Deadlines and Reservations for Popular California Hiking Trails and Campsites in 2018

   Permit Deadlines and Reservations for Popular California Hiking Trails and Campsites  | Don't miss out on hiking or camping at some of Californias most popular sites because you missed the reservation deadlines. In this post I've outlined key deadlines to mark your calendars with and reservation tips for success so that you don't miss permit lotteries and reservation dates for Californias most iconic locations. |  shedreamsofalpine.com

It's that time of year again. That time of year we starting thinking about our goals, trails we want to hike, 14ers we want to climb, and places we want to see. It's always a good idea to start thinking ahead about where you want to go because a lot of trails and campsites in California (particularly the more popular ones) require reservations and permits. I know when I moved to California I felt lost about when to apply for permits and where to get the reservations from. It seems like each park or forest has a different system. Hopefully in this post I can help demystify this permit and reservation process for you for popular hiking trails and campsites in California. 


Summary of Important Permitting Deadlines

Before we jump into the meat of the article, I thought I'd provide a quick list for permit applications deadlines that are coming up in order  from beginning of the year to the end of the year. 

  1. Inyo National Forest Permits - Most trails can be reserved up to 6 months in advance. So for reservations in the summer months (July through October) you will be looking to make reservations starting in January to April

  2. John Muir Trail - 24 weeks in advance of your entry dates, so for the summer months (July through September) start looking to submit your applications around January 13th through March 23rd

  3. Yosemite and Tuolumne Campsites - Available year-round. If looking to go during the summer months (May through September) start looking to make reservations around January 15 through April 15th
  4. Mount Whitney Lottery - Permit application lottery starts February 1

  5. Half Dome Cables Hike - Permit application lottery starts March 1

  6. Death Valley Furnace Creek Campground - Reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance. Since the prime time to visit is October through April, start looking to apply for reservations around April through October

  7. Joshua Tree Campgrounds - Reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance. Since the prime time to visit is October through May, start looking to apply for reservations around April through November
  8. Trans-Catalina Trail - Permits are available roughly a year in advance, and campsites must be booked ahead of time. Trail permits are free.
  9. Sequoia National Park Campsites - Details vary based on campsite.
  10. California's Coastal Campgrounds - Many are only available at a first come first serve basis, but campsites that have reservations are available year-round and are often available up to a year in advance. 

And after you're all set with your hiking permits, don't forget to download my essential hiking gear checklist so that you hit the trails with everything you need!

Essential Hiking Gear Packing List

Screen shot 2018 01 14 at 9.18.46 am

Download the essential hiking gear packing list for easy reference next time you pack for a hike.

Powered by ConvertKit

half dome cables hike

   Permit Deadlines and Reservations for Popular California Hiking Trails and Campsites in 2018    | Don't miss out on hiking or camping at some of Californias most popular sites because you missed the reservation deadlines. In this post I've outlined key deadlines to mark your calendars with and reservation tips for success so that you don't miss permit lotteries and reservation dates for Californias most iconic locations. |  shedreamsofalpine.com

About the Hike:

  • Half Dome is probably one of Yosemites most popular hikes and also one of it's most demanding and strenuous hikes as well. The Dome rises to 8,842 feet high and the trail is around 14 miles with 4,200 feet of total elevation gain. Many choose to do this trail in one day (which takes most people 10-14 hours), but you can also opt to backpack this trail over 2-3 days. 
  • There are two main trails that converge at the top of Nevada Falls that you can take on your way to the summit. Those two trails come together and continue on the main trail up toward Half Dome. You can take the Mist Trail, which is steeper but shorter in length and more scenic, or you can take the John Muir Trail which is 1.5 miles longer each way, but less steep. When I went on this hike we took Mist Trail on our way up and John Muir Trail on our way down because it was easier on our knees.
  • If you want to break up your mileage and opt to backpack the trail, consider staying at Little Yosemite Valley, which is only a mile past the top of Nevada Falls. This is a backpackers only campground and a great way to break up the hike. 
  • If you want to hike to the top of Half Dome, permits are required. Without a permit, you can only hike to the base of the subdome. If you want to camp along the hike, permits are required for that too. A maximum of 300 total hikers are allowed per day (225 hikers and 75 backpackers)

When to Go:

  • You can go to Yosemite, see a view of Half Dome, and hike a portion of the Mist Trail almost year round (conditions dependent), but if you want to go to the summit of Half Dome the cables are only open from the Friday before Memorial Day (Late May, conditions permitting) and come down after Columbus Day (early October)

When to Apply:

  • Pre-season lottery applications begin March 1 and run until March 31. You will be notified about the status of your application by mid-April
  • During the hiking season, roughly 50 permits (depending on known cancelations) per day are available in a daily lottery system. You must apply for these 2 days (from midnight to 1PM) before the day you want to hike. You will be notified later that night whether or not you got permits.

How to Apply:

  • Permits for the Half Dome Day Hike: Permits for the Half Dome hike are on a lottery system.
    • You can apply for up to 6 people on the permit and for up to 7 different dates
    • You may only apply once during the lottery season as "trip leader", however other people in your group can also apply as "trip leaders" for up to 7 different dates
    • You can apply through Recreation.gov or by calling 877-444-6777 (7AM-9PM pacific time)
  • Backpacking Permits for Little Yosemite Valley: You will need a wilderness permit (but not a campground reservation) in order to camp at Little Yosemite Valley if you opt to backpack the route up to Half Dome. The good news is, that if you decide to go this route, you can get the Half Dome permit at the same time that you are reserving wilderness permits.
    • You can apply for wilderness permits via fax, phone or mail. Fax is the preferred method.
    • You should fax in your reservation request to (209) 372-0739 on the 169th day before your trip or before 7:30 AM on the 168th day before your trip. Faxes are processed before phone calls. Permits are selected by lottery. I used an online service to do my faxing (because who has fax machines these days?!), here is the link: http://www.gotfreefax.com/
    • More details about wilderness permits can be found on nps.gov

How Much Does it Cost:

  • Expect to pay 2 separate fees. First is a non-refundable application fee (per application not per person) of $10. If you are lucky enough to receive a permit, you will then be charged an additional $10 per person. The permit fee per person is refundable should you choose to cancel your reservation.
  • Confirmed wilderness permits for the backpacking option are $5 plus $5 per person.

Other Useful Notes:

  • The trip leader must be present in order to use the permits on the day of the hike. Permits are not transferrable.
  • Bring some gloves with you for the cables on this hike! I'm always surprised by the number of people who don't, but it will help you feel much more safe going up and down the cables. Also, wear shoes that have good traction, this will just help you feel even more confident on the granite rock up to Half Dome summit.
  • Bring plenty of water and consider bringing a water filter to re-fill if you are doing this hike in one day.
  • Keep an eye out for the weather on this hike, it is not safe to hike the cable portion of the hike if it is raining or has rained recently. It makes the route very slippery and is not worth the risk.

Further Reading and Resources:


Mount Whitney trail

   Permit Deadlines and Reservations for Popular California Hiking Trails and Campsites   | Don't miss out on hiking or camping at some of Californias most popular sites because you missed the reservation deadlines. In this post I've outlined key deadlines to mark your calendars with and reservation tips for success so that you don't miss permit lotteries and reservation dates for Californias most iconic locations. |  shedreamsofalpine.com

About the Hike:

  • Another really popular hike in California is the Mount Whitney Trail hike. Mount Whitney is the tallest peak in the contiguous United States and thus makes it to the top of almost everyones list. 
  • The Mount Whitney trail is a very difficult hike. It is 22 miles in length and about 6,100 feet of total elevation gain. So unless you are in great physical shape, I'd opt to backpack this trail for a more enjoyable experience. Also, backpacking will help you acclimate to the higher altitude better.
  • You can opt to day hike this or backpack this trail, but both require permits. If you choose to backpack this trail you can camp at Trail Camp, Outpost Camp, Consultation Lake, or Lone Pine Lake.

When to Go:

  • Most people do this hike in the summer. Lottery applications can be made for May 1 through November 1, but keep in mind that depending on the snow year, the trail may not be clear of snow until July. It is probably best to aim to do this hike July through early October for best chances of a clear trail. Personally, I'd opt for September, because that will be the best temperatures.

When to Apply:

  • The Mount Whitney lottery starts February 1 and ends March 15th. Lottery application results will be made available March 24th.
  • If you want multiple trips in the same year, you can apply when remaining spaces become available on April 1 this permit mini-sale opens up at 7AM
  • During the hiking season you can also check up to 2 days before a date you want to hike to see if there are any available permits from cancelations.

How to Apply:

  • You can apply for up to 15 people on the permit and for up to 15 different dates during the lottery
  • Your group may only submit 1 application for the same dates
  • You can apply for both day and overnight permits through recreation.gov
  • For more information, read here.

How Much Does it Cost:

  • Transaction fee for applying to lottery costs $10 per application
  • If you are lucky enough to receive a permit, you will then need to pay an additional $15 per person by April 30th. If you do not pay by this date, your permit will be canceled.

Other Useful Notes:

  • Everyone hiking or backpacking the Mount Whitney Trail is required to use a WAG bag for human waste. These are provided to you when you pick up your permits.
  • If you are backpacking this trail, you are required to take a bear canister.
  • The trip leader must be present in order to use the permits on the day of the hike. Permits are not transferrable.

Further Reading and Resources:


John muir trail

   Permit Deadlines and Reservations for Popular California Hiking Trails and Campsites  | Don't miss out on hiking or camping at some of Californias most popular sites because you missed the reservation deadlines. In this post I've outlined key deadlines to mark your calendars with and reservation tips for success so that you don't miss permit lotteries and reservation dates for Californias most iconic locations. |  shedreamsofalpine.com

About the Hike:

  • Permits on the John Muir Trail are so popular that according to the national park service, 97% of applications get denied. Even if you are only planning to hike a portion of this trail, you still have to compete with everyone that is on the John Muir Trail.
  • The John Muir Trail is 211 miles long running from Yosemite Valley to Whitney Portal. 
  • If you are hiking the John Muir Trail, you are required to carry a wilderness permit.

When to Go:

  • In order to avoid potential snow conditions in the Sierra, the best time to attempt the John Muir Trail is July through September.

When to Apply:

  • For those hiking southbound, Yosemite Wilderness Permits can be obtained up to 24 weeks (168 days) in advance. Check out this useful table on the national park service website for when to apply for your permits.

How to Apply:

  • If you are hiking the JMT starting from Yosemite, you need a Yosemite Wilderness Permit Reservation. The official trailhead is the Happy Isle Trailhead in Yosemite Valley.
    • You can apply for wilderness permits via fax, phone or mail. Fax is the preferred method.
    • You should fax in your reservation request to (209) 372-0739 on the 169th day before your trip or before 7:30 AM on the 168th day before your trip. Faxes are processed before phone calls. Permits are selected by lottery. I used an online service to do my faxing (because who has fax machines these days?!), here is the link: http://www.gotfreefax.com/
    • More details about wilderness permits can be found on nps.gov
  • You can also start at Whitney Portal (although it is more difficult to get permits) by using the Whitney Portal Lottery System described in the Mount Whitney Section above.

How Much Does it Cost:

  • Confirmed Yosemite Wilderness Permits cost $5 plus $5 per person (there's no charge for applying if you don't receive a reservation).

Other Useful Notes:

  • Hiking the John Muir Trail is slightly more involved and so I definitely recommend reading some more information about the trail and permitting reservation system if this is high on your hiking list goals.

Further Reading and Resources:


trans-catalina trail

   Permit Deadlines and Reservations for Popular California Hiking Trails and Campsites  | Don't miss out on hiking or camping at some of Californias most popular sites because you missed the reservation deadlines. In this post I've outlined key deadlines to mark your calendars with and reservation tips for success so that you don't miss permit lotteries and reservation dates for Californias most iconic locations. |  shedreamsofalpine.com

About the Hike: 

  • The Trans Catalina Trail hike is located on Catalina Island off the coast of California and is a 37 mile hike that crosses the entire island. Hiking Permits are free for this hike, but the tricky part of reservations for this hike is making sure you book campgrounds in advance.

When to Go:

  • This trail could likely be hiked year round due to the favorable weather on the California coast, although it is likely more popular to hike in spring, summer, and fall.

When to Apply:

  • As mentioned above, you primarily need to worry about booking campsites in advance. It will ultimately depend on how many days you are splitting your trip up into, but the main campsites are Hermit Gulch Campsite, Black Jack Campground, Little Harbor, Two Harbors, and Parson’s Landing. Permits can be made roughly a year in advance.

How to Apply:

Permits can be booked online at Reserveamerica.com or by phone

  • Hermit Gulch Campsite - the only campground near Avalon, otherwise you cans stay at a hotel in Avalon
  • Black Jack Campground - this is a primitive campsite. 
  • Little Harbor - this is a beautiful campground located on a more secluded side of the Two Harbors area
  • Two Harbors - this campground offers tent and cabin camping and is located closer to the town of Two Harbors
  • Parson’s Landing.- this is a primitive campsite. Permits can be made roughly a year in advance either online at Reserveamerica.com or by phone

How Much Does it Cost:

  • Campground rates vary based on time of the year and range from $8 per night to $28 per night per campsite.

Further Reading and Resources:


yosemite and tuolumne campsites

   Permit Deadlines and Reservations for Popular California Hiking Trails and Campsites   | Don't miss out on hiking or camping at some of Californias most popular sites because you missed the reservation deadlines. In this post I've outlined key deadlines to mark your calendars with and reservation tips for success so that you don't miss permit lotteries and reservation dates for Californias most iconic locations. |  shedreamsofalpine.com

Getting reservation to campsites in Yosemite or Tuolumne can be next to impossible if you are planning last minute. It's best to plan ahead of time if you want to snag a coveted campsite. There are 13 total campgrounds at Yosemite and 7 of these require reservations year round including: Hodgdon Meadow, Crane Flat, Wawona, and half of Tuolumne Meadows.

When to Apply:

  • You can apply for campground reservations one month at a time and up to five months in advance. Reservations become available on the 15th of each month at 7 am Pacific time. These reservations can be super competitive, particularly for the summer months and sites can be fully booked within minutes of 7 am, so its important to plan ahead and be prepared for the application process.
    • January 15th at 7 am Pacific Time opens up reservations for May 15 through June 14
    • February 15th at 7 am Pacific Time opens up reservations for June 15 through July 14
    • March 15th at 7 am Pacific Time opens up reservations for July 15 through August 14
    • April 15th at 7 am Pacific Time opens up reservations for August 15 through September 14th
    • And so on...
  • There is a table on the national parks service that shows what dates to apply on for the reservation dates that you want.

How to Apply:

How Much Does it Cost:

  • Rates vary by campground and type of site, but can be found on Recreation.gov

Joshua Tree Campgrounds

   Permit Deadlines and Reservations for Popular California Hiking Trails and Campsites   | Don't miss out on hiking or camping at some of Californias most popular sites because you missed the reservation deadlines. In this post I've outlined key deadlines to mark your calendars with and reservation tips for success so that you don't miss permit lotteries and reservation dates for Californias most iconic locations. |  shedreamsofalpine.com

In the summer months, there are no reservations at Joshua Tree, but that is because the popular time to go is actually in the spring, fall and winter. There are however, only 2 campsites that can be reserved ahead of time: Black Rock and Indian Cove Campgrounds

When to Apply:

  • Reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance. Since the prime time to visit is October through May, start looking to apply for reservations around April (for October reservations) through November (for May reservations)

How to Apply:

  • Reservations can be made by calling 1-877-444-6777 or online at Recreation.gov.

How Much Does it Cost:

  • Sites at each of these campgrounds cost $20 per night

Further Reading and Resources:


Death valley Campgrounds

   Permit Deadlines and Reservations for Popular California Hiking Trails and Campsites   | Don't miss out on hiking or camping at some of Californias most popular sites because you missed the reservation deadlines. In this post I've outlined key deadlines to mark your calendars with and reservation tips for success so that you don't miss permit lotteries and reservation dates for Californias most iconic locations. |  shedreamsofalpine.com

There is only one campground at Death Valley that can be Reserved in advanced, the Furnace Creek Campground. Reservations can only be made for this campground for dates Oct 15 - April 15. All other campgrounds in Death Valley are a first come first serve basis. It's best to check the national park website for details on campground closures and details before planning your trip.

When to Apply:

  • Reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance. Since the prime time to visit is October through April, start looking to apply for reservations around April (for October reservations) through October (for April reservations)

How to Apply:

  • Reservations can be made by calling 1-877-444-6777 or online at Recreation.gov.

How Much Does it Cost:

  • There is a $10 non-refundable reservation fee, and sites cost around $22 if reserved in advance.

Further Reading and Resources:


sequoia & Kings Canyon national park camping

   Permit Deadlines and Reservations for Popular California Hiking Trails and Campsites   | Don't miss out on hiking or camping at some of Californias most popular sites because you missed the reservation deadlines. In this post I've outlined key deadlines to mark your calendars with and reservation tips for success so that you don't miss permit lotteries and reservation dates for Californias most iconic locations. |  shedreamsofalpine.com

There are 14 total campgrounds (3 open year-round) at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park and 6 of these require reservations including: Potwisha, Buckeye Flat, Lodgepole, Dorst Creek, Sunset, and Sentinel campgrounds. During the summer months the first-come-first-serve campgrounds often fill up quickly on the weekends.

When to Apply:

  • Reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance.

How to Apply:

  • These details vary, and it is best to refer to Recreation.gov, which is also where you can make campsite reservations.

How Much Does it Cost:

  • Costs vary depending on campsite

inyo national forest permits

   Permit Deadlines and Reservations for Popular California Hiking Trails and Campsites   | Don't miss out on hiking or camping at some of Californias most popular sites because you missed the reservation deadlines. In this post I've outlined key deadlines to mark your calendars with and reservation tips for success so that you don't miss permit lotteries and reservation dates for Californias most iconic locations. |  shedreamsofalpine.com

Inyo National Forest Permits are probably the most comment permits that I apply for. For instance, if you want to backpack Mount Langley you will have to apply for this kind of Wilderness permit. Many hikes in the Sierra Nevada require Wilderness Permits such as the following:

  • Overnight trips in the Ansel Adams, John Muir, Hoover, or Golden Trout Wilderness.
  • Overnight trips that start in Inyo National Forest and that will travel into Yosemite, Sequoia or Kings Canyon Wilderness.
  • Day use and Overnight trips into the Mt Whitney Zone.

When to Go:

  • The best time to go hiking in the Sierra Nevada is during the summer months, usually early July to early October (conditions dependent).

When to Apply:

  • Most trails can be reserved up to 6 months in advance. So for reservations in the summer months (July through October) you will be looking to make reservations starting in January to April

How to Apply:

  • Different trails have different trail quotas, so it is best to check online to see how competitive the trails will be for getting permits.
  • Reservations can be made at Recreation.gov

How Much Does it Cost:

  • Transaction fee for reservations costs $10 per application plus an additional $5 per person unless you are entering the Mt. Whitney Zone which is $15 per person

Further Reading and Resources:


californias coastal campgrounds

   Permit Deadlines and Reservations for Popular California Hiking Trails and Campsites   | Don't miss out on hiking or camping at some of Californias most popular sites because you missed the reservation deadlines. In this post I've outlined key deadlines to mark your calendars with and reservation tips for success so that you don't miss permit lotteries and reservation dates for Californias most iconic locations. |  shedreamsofalpine.com

It was hard to mention permit deadlines and reservations without at least touching on all the great campsite options there are in California. Although it's not a one-size-fits-all system, I hope this can guide you a bit on your planning. 

When and How to Apply:

  • To start, many campgrounds in California are on a first-come-first-serve basis and are in high demand year round. If you want to go to one of those campgrounds, you will have better luck if grabbing a site on a weekday.
  • Campgrounds that are available for reservations can typically be made through Reserveamerica.com. These reservations are often available year-round and up to a year in advance.

Popular Coastal Campsite Recommendations:

Don't forget to download my essential hiking gear checklist for all the trails you'll be hiking this year with your new permits!

Essential Hiking Gear Packing List

Screen shot 2018 01 14 at 9.18.46 am

Download the essential hiking gear packing list for easy reference next time you pack for a hike.

Powered by ConvertKit

Hope this article was helpful, don't forget to mark your calendars for these important reservation deadlines!

Cheers,

Allison


Did you enjoy this post on Permit Deadlines and Reservations for Popular California Hiking Trails and Campsites in 2018? Please take a moment to share it on Pinterest or other social media!


IF YOU LIKED THIS POST, CHECK OUT THESE: